To say the Miami Dolphins had a bad offensive line during the 2019 NFL season would be an understatement. They had a patchwork line throughout the year, with the likes of Julian Davenport, Michael Deiter, Daniel Kilgore, Deion Calhoun, and Jesse Davis as the starters. But now, with several additions along the line – including Austin Jackson, Ereck Flowers, Robert Hunt, and Ted Karras – they will look to improve in 2020.
Just how bad was the Dolphins offensive line in 2019?
No one could mistake the Dolphins offensive line with the one on the Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens, or Tennessee Titans. When it came to their performances, there could not be a more polar opposite in the NFL.
In fact, according to Football Outsiders, the Dolphins were the worst run blocking team in the NFL, only allowing their running back to rush for an average of 2.96 yards per carry. Further, the Dolphins running backs were tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage 26% of the time, the worst in the NFL. And those running behind the line had an average of 0.25 open field years per rush, the second worst in the NFL.
When it comes to pass blocking, the Dolphins were ranked 28th in the league, giving up 58 sacks, tied with Chicago for the most throughout the NFL. Starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had an average pocket time of 2.3 seconds (third worst in the NFL), was hurried 48 times, and was hit 66 times, the most in the NFL.
When you look at this and compare it to the rest of the teams, it is a miracle that quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick did not get injured and miss an extended length of time. And please do your best not to judge any running back performance for the Dolphins, including Patrick Laird, Myles Gaskin, and yes, Kalen Ballage. They had no chance.
Where does the Dolphins offensive line go from here?
Ted Karras, the new center for the Dolphins, was signed during the free agency period after leaving the New England Patriots. And if the Miami front office had it their way, he would have been joined by his Patriots teammate, Joe Thuney.
That’s because sources told PFN that the Dolphins planned to make a strong push for Thuney, and it appeared the sides would be able to work out a deal. While they would have faced stiff competition from the New York Jets, the Dolphins were prepared. However, just hours before free agency began, the Patriots placed the franchise tag on Thuney, which we are told surprised him and everyone else in his camp.
So, while that would have been another big addition on the Dolphins offensive line, the fact is that he is not on the team. Now, the Dolphins must figure out how to get their offensive line arrow trending up, which should not be too hard considering how they performed last season.
Ted Karras ready to establish himself as a leader on the line
One guy who will lead that charge is Karras as he is ready to tackle the challenge of playing center and being the guy who is responsible for making the calls.
“I’m (a) good leader, making calls, I’m a pretty decent size for a center. I like being in the mix. I like the fact that we’re kind of in there fighting in the A gaps. I’m just working hard every day. I learned center my rookie year in New England and then played it for four (seasons) and now get a chance to get another season under my belt. I’m very excited. I love anything on the o-line. Any opportunity and job in this league is precious and I’m very excited to continue to work with the guys and be the best player I can be so we can win as many ball games as we can.”
Karras also said that he understands the role of the center and knows that ultimately, he will be the one that everyone else looks to when they line up on game day. That’s why he’s already started getting everyone on the same page during their virtual meetings.
“The center has always had a leadership role. I take that very seriously and really enjoy the opportunity. The Zoom meetings, though, it’s basically just trying to speak the same language, everyone getting on the same page, making calls and kind of trying to see the game through one set of eyes; so it’s been very beneficial. We’re all getting on the same page, speaking the same terms and we’ve gotten a lot of good work in this spring already.”
It’s more than just talk, though. Karras has already met a few of his new teammates, and he noted that several of them have been coming over to his garage to lift. For him, it is part of the job of being a leader and using his experience to help the younger guys along the way.
“I think just being prepared every day, coming to work every day ready to work. I think that maybe sometimes – especially Zoom – I’m really not usually this serious all the time, like I come off pretty serious in meetings. Football time is serious time, and I think one thing that kind of stinks about this spring not being in the building is that now sometimes your teammates only see the serious side. You don’t get that hour in the locker room after to connect, but as guys are trickling down here, we’ve started to lift together a little bit, run together and just whoever can make it and it’s been nice to meet people and start developing a personal relationship because that’s one of my favorite parts of the game.”
What might the Dolphins offensive line look like in 2020?
Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores has consistently preached that the best man in practice will come away with the starting job. So, to predict starters on the 2020 Dolphins offensive line when the team has not met in person yet would not be a productive exercise.
That said, expect rookies Austin Howard and Robert Hunt to be given every opportunity to win the starting job for the tackle and guard spot, respectively. The Dolphins coaching staff are extremely high on both and feel they can add another element of toughness and tenacity, something that the 2019 line lacked often.
With training camp expected to begin on time in just over a month from now, we will soon have our answer.