Originally posted on The Sports Headquarters  |  Last updated 8/3/12

The Dolphins have one of the hardest roads to get back to the playoffs in the NFL.  They have to surpass 3 teams that are all a bit better than they are.  Miami has arguably the worst receiving corps in the entire league, their QB situation is unresolved and wide open, their secondary is horrendous and they are weak at the Offensive Line position.  In order for the Dolphins to return to days of yore, they must address many issues.  Members of the Offensive Line who are going to try to protect the sub-par Quarterbacking crew are LT Jake Long, LG Richie Incognito, C Mike Pouncey, RG Artis Hicks and RT Jonathan Martin.

Left Tackle Jake Long was drafted in the 1t round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Dolphins.  When he is healthy he is a dominant force.  He is excellent in both run blocking and pass protection but oddly struggled at times in 2011.  Nobody can question his drive but he must return to his multiple Pro Bowl form this year.


Left Guard Richie Incognito was selected in the 3rd round of the 2005 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams.  Incognito will never be the best blocker but he uses his girth to hold the line.  He only allowed 1.5 sacks in 2011.  He had previous stops in St. Louis and Buffalo before becoming a mainstay in Miami.


Center Mike Pouncey was a 1st round Draft Choice of the Dolphins in 2011.  Still a bit raw, if he continues to improve his technique he should be a perennial Pro Bowler.  He is athletic and strong but plays under control which was indicated by the fact he only incurred 4 penalties as well as 2 sacks in 2011.


Right Guard Artis Hicks was picked up by the Eagles as an undrafted Free Agent in 2002.  He has played for Philly, Minnesota, Washington and Cleveland before joining the Fins.  He can play both Guard and Tackle so he is versatile.  He is a big road grader who should help create running lanes for Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas.  However, he has another big boy behind him (John Jerry) who will step in if Hicks falters.


Right Tackle Jonathan Martin is a 2nd round Draft Choice of the Dolphins from this year.  He is light on his feet for such a big man.  He may be prone to being shoved back on bull rushes so he will have to work on his strength.  Miami thinks quite highly of Martin and believes he could be a part of a dominant set of bookends.


Now to analyze the numbers…..


The Dolphins ranked 17th in Total Run Blocking in 2011 allowing Bush and Thomas to ramble for 4.28 yards per carry which was just below the NFL average of 4.31.  The RB’s were stopped at/or behind the line 18% of their rushing attempts which was slightly better than the NFL average of 19%.  They achieved first downs on 3rd/4th down runs only 46% of the time which was far and away the worst percentage in the NFL (62%).  The Dolphins ran the ball 415 times in 2011 and I would expect that number to be about the same unless 1st round Draft Choice Ryan Tannehill is at QB in which case I expect the rushing attempts to rise.  The Dolphins experienced their least success running outside of departed Right Tackle Marc Columbo to the tune of 1.92 yards per carry which was 2nd last in the league.  They had much more success running behind Jake Long as they scampered for 4.63 yards per carry.  These numbers should be better this year due to the fact that the right side of the O-Line was the weakest link last year but the Dolphins addressed that in the offseason, signing Hicks and drafting Martin while saying goodbye to Guard Vernon Carey and Columbo.  From a Fantasy perspective, Reggie Bush should continue to fill the Darren Sproles role if he can stay healthy, but I would also pick up Daniel Thomas as his handcuff.  Thomas only averaged 3.5 yards per carry in 2011 so he must improve or 3rd RB Lamar Miller may usurp that role.


Miami ranked 30th in the NFL in Pass Protection allowing Chad Henne and Matt Moore to be sacked on 9.6% of their dropbacks which was considerably worse than the NFL average of 6.7%.  I would place the majority of the blame on the inability of the receivers to get open but the right side of the O-Line was also partly to blame.  Miami gave up 52 sacks in 2011 and this number must improve.  From a Fantasy perspective Chad Johnson, Brian Hartline and Davone Bess are late, late round picks or potential waiver wire pickups.  Anthony Fasano should be either a bye week replacement in deep leagues or a waiver wire replacement.  Backup TE Michael Egnew may be a person to watch throughout the year, he has lots of speed and can stretch the field.  Stay completely away from the Miami QB’s.


Thanks to www.footballoutsiders.com for the stats.


Next team will be the Minnesota Vikings


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