With the offensive line easily being the weakest link on the team last year, General Manager Dennis Hickey and the Miami Dolphins’ front office had to completely rebuild the offensive line this off-season. They did that by signing left tackle Branden Albert, guard Shelley Smith, tackle Jason Fox, and guard Daryn Colledge, and drafting right tackle Ja’Wuan James and guard Billy Turner. The new problems now become developing chemistry and deciding whether the two rookies are ready to start or if they need to start one of the three veterans that were signed.
Branden Albert Left Tackle 6’5″ 316 lbs.
With Branden Albert signing a five year, 46 million dollar contract, the Dolphins are now set at left tackle for the next five years barring any surprises. That comes as a great pleasure to Ryan Tannehill considering he was sacked a league high 58 times last year. Branden Albert will anchor a newly rebuild offensive line that should be much improved from last year. Albert is a great pass protector, compiling a +23.0 PFF pass blocking rating the past two years and helped lead the way in Jamaal Charles accumulating over 1,200 yards rushing and 12 rushing touchdowns last season. He will be the one on an island on almost every passing down and will most likely excel in that role. Albert will be the best offensive lineman on the team this coming season.
Billy Turner Left Guard 6’4″ 315 lbs.
Drafted in the third round of this year’s draft, Turner will be fighting for a starting guard spot this summer. A left tackle in college, Turner will have to make the transition to NFL left guard if he is to make an impact in the league. Turner was the consensus pick as the most physical offensive lineman in the draft and he hopes that, combined with his above average athleticism and nasty demeanor in finishing blocks will get him the starting job. Turner has all the physical tools to become a very good NFL starter, but he is very raw and will need good coaching to develop the way the Dolphins think and want him to. Turner should get the edge for the starting spot because of his great work ethic, nasty playing demeanor, and if he can digest and quickly learn the playbook.
Mike Pouncey Center 6’5″ 303 lbs.
Even though Pouncey is out until at least the fourth week of the season, he will quickly regain his starting spot as soon as he is healthy enough to play. Pouncey is an exceptional run blocking center that is very athletic and can get off the line-of-scrimmage and get to the second level easily. He is serviceable in pass blocking, which is really all you need out of a center. Combine that with his ability to see line protections and make calls, and Pouncey is a top five center in the league. Once Pouncey comes back, the Dolphins offensive line should run a lot smoother than it might be when he is gone.
Shelley Smith Right Guard 6’3″ 300 lbs.
The Dolphins signed Smith because of his familiarity with current offensive line coach John Benton. Smith and Benton were together a couple of years ago when they were both in Houston. With Benton and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor installing a zone blocking scheme in Miami, Smith fits right in, being that he played in that system in Houston. Smith amassed a +13.2 PFF run blocking rating last year for St. Louis in only ten games played. Smith is a solid run blocker and should help greatly improve that area of the offense. The Dolphins were ranked 29th in rush offense last year, and with the addition of Smith and this new offense, that should be on the rise.
Ja’Wuan James Right Tackle 6’6″ 318 lbs.
Even though Ja’Wuan James was not the most popular pick among NFL fans and around the league in general, James will be a solid starter from day one. James, picked with the 19th overall pick in this year’s draft, is a solid tackle. He has good feet, longs arms, and is very smart. He hardly ever makes the same mistake twice. Coming out of the University if Tennessee, James will be a very good pass protector and solid enough run blocker to sure the right side of the line, which is something that Tyson Clabo struggled doing last year. James paired with Albert on the other side will provide very good bookends to the offensive line and should help keep Tannehill upright much more often than last year.
Nate Garner Tackle/Guard/Center 6’7″ 325 lbs.
Benjamin Franklin’s saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none,” fits Nate Garner quite well. When given the opportunities to start, Garner has not quite been able to take advantage of them. When given the opportunity to play because of injury, Garner has played well and has been given consideration for a starting role. Garner is a very valuable piece of the Dolphins offensive line because of his immense versatility. Garner can and has played every position on the line and that is why he has stayed on this team for so long. His versatility will come into play once again this training camp as he will be fighting with Sam Brenner to replace Mike Pouncey in the starting lineup while he is out with his hip injury.
Sam Brenner Center/Guard 6’2″ 310 lbs.
When filling in for Richie Incognito last year, Sam Brenner did a serviceable job for the Dolphins, rotating with Nate Garner at the left guard spot. Brenner is a pretty good run blocker, but struggles with pass protection. As a undrafted free-agent rookie out of Utah State last year, Brenner earned a spot on the squad because of his hard work, injuries, and suspension of Incognito and Jonathan Martin. Brenner has a chance to show he can start at center for the Dolphins this year, but for the most part, Brenner will be used mainly as a valuable backup.
Dallas Thomas Guard 6’5″ 306 lbs.
Drafted in the third round last year, Dallas Thomas had a rough training camp, and was moved around to several different positions, never really gaining traction at any of them. Looking really uncomfortable last year, Thomas struggled with picking up the playbook and his technique, which led to him seeing very limited playing time last year. This year, playing solely in the guard spot, Thomas looks to be in a very close battle with rookie Billy Turner for the left guard spot. If Thomas can show that he can grasp the new offense, excel in the run game, and be able to pick up the pass protections, then he has a very good chance of winning the starting spot. But if Thomas and Turner are neck-and-neck in the the competition for the starting spot, look for Turner to get the edge because of his athleticism and nasty blocking demeanor.
Daryn Colledge Guard 6’4″ 308 lbs.
With the signing of Daryn Colledge, the Dolphins gain a valuable experienced guard than provides experience, leadership, and depth to the offensive line. He could push for a starting spot, but in all likelihood should be good depth. Colledge is a good pass protector, but struggles with run blocking.
Jason Fox Tackle 6’6″ 314 lbs.
Miami native Jason Fox comes home to play for the Dolphins after he signed a one year contract this off-season. Fox is a solid pass protector but also struggles with run blocking. He is also a valuable backup for the Dolphins, and should fill in well enough should the Dolphins need him this year.
It seems as if the Dolphins overall scheme for the offensive line is to have good pass proctors on the edge in Albert and James and to have a good run blocking interior that can create a push and get to the second level with ease. It remains to be seen if that plan really can work out, but on paper, it looks as if they have come up with a pretty decent game plan for solving their problems from last year.
The Dolphins offensive line should be much improved from last year but it might take a little time for them to jell together. Keep in mind that even though they should be much improved, they probably will not be a top ten offensive line. Look for them to be ranked anywhere from 20th to 13th or 12th this year, depending on how well they are able to work together and communicate. With all that being said, Tannehill should have a lot more time to throw the ball this year and the running game should have more holes to run through, which should lead to a much more productive and explosive offense for the Dolphins.