Last season, as with pretty much every season over the past decade, the Miami Dolphins offensive line has rarely - if ever - rated as more than ‘adequate’ in the minds of most observers. No matter how much some fans may deride the play on the offensive side of the ball, one thing that is universally accepted in Dolphins Land is that the offensive line perpetually underperforms from year to year.
It is this writer’s opinion that as much as talent plays into a player’s success, coaching (or lack thereof) and cohesiveness play equally if not more important roles.
As the Miami Herald’s Armando Salguero alludes in a recent article regarding possible future plans for center Mike Pouncey as the team officially begins its 2018 offseason, one contributing factor to this less-than-stellar play could be the lack of cohesiveness along the offensive line.
And he’s right.
Mike Pouncey has dealt with a chronic hip issue for several years, costing him games or in-game snaps in almost every season that he’s been with the team. The Dolphins managed Pouncey’s practice time last season in hopes of keeping him on the field. That plan worked in the sense that Pouncey did start all 16 games in 2017.
But that plan may have also been a large part of the reason that the Dolphins revamped offensive line still underperformed throughout the season.
No one is discounting the negative impact that having an offensive line coach on crack can’t have helped the Dolphins, and former coach Chris Foerster paid dearly for that.
But of all the pieces and parts of an NFL team that need to move in synchronicity, none are as crucial as the offensive line. And that cohesion comes from tireless practice time together, as players learn and adapt to the strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies of their fellow linemates.
And when the core player of that unit, the guy calling out blocking assignments and making the decisions of which players are going where, who is blocking whom, and setting up the first line of attack on every play, the center is crucial to the offensive line’s success.
This could well explain why, at times when Pouncey did miss some time during games this past season, and backup Jake Brendel took over, that the team seems to perform better: Brendel practiced all week, while Pouncey rested up those bad hips on the sideline.
All of this leads Salguero to speculate that Pouncey could be a candidate for seeing his salary adjusted, or possibly even be cut this offseason. And while both options are possibilities, Salguaro also adds (along with other points that add to the complexity of Pouncey’s situation, that the team can’t afford more holes on the roster, and as of now, Pouncey is still very much a part of this team.
But Pouncey does need to practice. Offensive line cohesiveness and continuity will be crucial to the team’s success, and this writer firmly believes that talent-wise the offensive line isn’t far away from being very, very good. The missing component is stability, and Pouncey’s health will go a long ways towards determining how good this unit will be in 2018.
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
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