The No. 1 position group that needed to be improved for the Miami Dolphins this offseason has passed important milestones, but there is still work to be done on the offensive line.
The headline-grabbing move was made by snagging top free agent tackle Terron Armstead. In the grand scheme of the offseason, he wasn’t eclipsed until the next day when the Dolphins landed the NFL’s fastest player in wide receiver Tyreek Hill, but offensive line consolidation was the top priority then. that the rebuilding of the roster was beginning under new coach Mike McDaniel.
Armstead, 30, will fill the left tackle position, as he did for three Pro Bowl seasons with the New Orleans Saints. It’s a certainty, as McDaniel noted recently in NFL meetings.
But even though former Dallas Cowboys guard Connor Williams has been added in free agency, how the rest of Miami’s revamped offensive line will line up isn’t set in stone. Although Williams primarily played left guard in Dallas and Dolphins right guard Robert Hunt was likely the only standout on the offensive line last year, McDaniel hasn’t committed to keeping them at these locations, especially as it implements a new out-of-zone system.
“We’re doing a new diagram that highlights different attributes of a player’s performance,” McDaniel said, “and it wouldn’t be fair to the process, or to the players, to say, ‘Okay, this guy is going to be here exactly at this point.’ Because it’s a different diet. We ask people to do different things.
Williams played tackle in college and could presumably play either guard. He also said he broke the ball, while Michael Deiter was the Dolphins’ only center on the roster in early April. Hunt, in addition to excelling at right guard in 2021, had the right tackle position as a rookie in 2020. He’s a viable option to get kicked out there if needed after the Dolphins released veteran Jesse Davis, who struggled significantly at right tackle last season.
But if Hunt is kept on his toes, right tackle competition would more likely come down to the first draft picks the Dolphins have used at left tackle over the past two seasons, 2020 first-round selection Austin Jackson and second-round 2021 Liam Eichenberg.
Although maligned for their play early in their professional tenures, McDaniel sees the youngsters as blockers with potential that can be steered in the right direction. With his successful offensive lines as offensive coordinator and run-game coordinator during his previous stop with the 49ers, San Francisco was considering the same linemen, he said.
“I’m excited about all of these players, when really every draft pick we’ve had up front was guys who in a different city when I was working on a different team we saw as targets for ourselves. . ,” McDaniel noted.
A rocky start to the 2021 season moved Jackson to inside left guard in his second year as a professional. It also prompted Eichenberg to start at left tackle as a rookie after Jackson did the same in 2020. Eichenberg also started last year’s opener at the New England Patriots when Jackson was on the roster COVID.
The Dolphins would need at least one of these two players to become a formidable starting lineman in the NFL. Eichenberg allowed far too much pressure at left tackle in 2021. Jackson’s pass blocking on the edge was hidden from the guard, but was still often exposed due to lack of lateral movement and the line was often confused when opponents brought stunts and twists in their rush for the pass. .
An upgrade on Deiter is still a possibility with a center like former Browns JC Tretter still a free agent. Dolphins general manager Chris Grier also said he trusted Deiter, a former goaltender. We can probably expect Miami to add a lineman with one of their mid-round picks, late in the third and mid-fourth.
Further down the depth chart, 2020 fourth-round pick Solomon Kindley could offer a resurgence at guard after spending most of 2021 on the bench following his 13-start rookie campaign.
Robert Jones, an undrafted rookie last season known primarily as a guard, started the final at right tackle and held on.
The Dolphins acquired former second-round pick Greg Little in a preseason trade from the Carolina Panthers last year, but he never saw the field in the regular season. Miami also has 2021 seventh-round pick Larnel Coleman, who can fight for a spot on the roster with fellow tackles Adam Pankey and Kion Smith.
Dolphins give Tua Tagovailoa the tools to succeed ahead of Year 3
Dolphins’ new backfield should benefit from Mike McDaniel’s running game