Training Camp Preview Part 2
Last Year Ranks (Ranking out of 32 Teams per Football Outsiders DVOA)
Overall Ranking: 32nd
Run Blocking: 32nd
Pass Blocking: 32nd
Sacks Allowed 30th
In part 2 of our 4 part series, we take a look at the offensive line. To say this offensive line in 2019 was bad was an understatement. A ton of new faces and turnover along for this group, so lets jump right in:
Jesse Davis (58.9)
Julien Davenport (56.5)
Adam Pankey (63.1)
Jonathan Hubbard (R)
Robert Hunt (R)
Austin Jackson (R)
Nick Kaltmeyer (R)
O-U-C-H. No other way to describe this. The Dolphins have added youth along with this group with 4 rookies heading to camp. Let’s first start with the incumbents. Jesse Davis struggled again as a tackle. He was handed a contract extension prior to the 2019 season. This does not mean he is going to stay much longer. The Dolphins brought in 1st round pick Austin Jackson with the 18th overall selection in the 2020 draft. With the 39th overall pick, they brought in G/T Robert Hunt from Louisiana Tech. Both look to be the longer-term future in Miami. And it is clear why they liked both Jackson and Hunt. I am a big fan of Hunt, and it isn’t hard to like him.
Dolphins have also kept Julien Davenport, who has been disastrous in his career. Last season, he gave up 6 sacks in 534 snaps. Which doesn’t seem a lot, but think about how many times Fitzpatrick was running for his life. Adam Pankey was brought in as well, but he is more of a camp body it seems. He played 10 snaps in 2019 and 1 snap-in 2018. While he is young (26), I don’t see how he cracks this line-up.
You’re probably wondering as reading this, “Tom, get to the positives’! Well here it is:
The Dolphins drafting Austin Jackson and Robert Hunt could bring the bookend tackles the Dolphins need.
On Austin Jackson from the Draft Network’s Kyle Crabbs: “Austin Jackson is a promising OT prospect who has all of the physical tools to develop into a quality starter — but there’s significant improvement needed in his fundamentals before he’s ready to fill such a role.” Jackson is only 20 years old. He has a great back story and one that shows he has great character. While he does need development, Jackson is as athletic as they come.
Robert Hunt from the Draft Network: “Robert Hunt is a prospect who makes your face light up right away when talking about him. He has the tape that will make you grind your teeth and feel sorry for the defenders that he’s matched up against. That’s the type of play violence and strength that he brings to the table.”
While it is nice to have these guys in the fold, they also both need to develop at the next level. The expectation is both will start at some point, with the likelihood that Hunt starts immediately at tackle, or possibly at guard.
Both Jonathan Hubbard and Nick Kaltmeyer are rookie UDFA who have a chance to make the practice squad with good showings. Albeit a long shot.
Camp Battle: The battle at tackle is going to be on both sides of the line. Austin Jackson will be competing with Julien Davenport at LT. And Robert Hunt will be competing with incumbent Jesse Davis on the right side. Starting with LT, I can see this going to Jackson. With no preseason games, Jackson will need to impress with his agility and quickness. Davenport has struggled in his few seasons in the NFL, particularly with Miami last year as well. If Jackson can keep the QBs upright, this battle will end before the opening week, with the rookie possibly winning the battle. On the right side, the loser of this battle will kick into RG. Both Hunt and Davis have played at those positions. Hunt is ferocious and puts defenders on the turf. It would be a shame to see him on the bench, but having him at RT, which the Dolphins have him listed as on their team page, makes a ton of sense. The more reps, the better he will be in the long run. Remember, Laremy Tunsil was great as a guard his rookie season, and struggled when he kicked back outside in year 2. I hope Hunt can win this.
Ted Karras (66.5)
Donnell Stanley (R)
Keaton Sutherland (N/A)
Experience is running thin at the Center. After the release of Daniel Kilgore, the Dolphins went out and signed Ted Karras. Karras seemingly will have no major competition heading into camp, but could see some reps from Michael Dieter, who is listed as a guard, but could play center in a pinch and may compete with Karras in camp. Karras brings experience and some command to the middle of the line, which was needed these last few years. Both Donnell Stanley and Keaton Sutherland both will be fighting for a possible back up spot, with Sutherland having an early advantage.
Ereck Flowers (64.2)
Michael Dieter (42.5)
Shaq Calhoun (44.2)
Danny Isidora (53.7)
Solomon Kindley (R)
The Dolphins OL was bad last year. You can look to the inside for most of their troubles. To try and help, the Dolphins went out and signed former tackle and one-year guard Ereck Flowers. Flowers was awful as a tackle in the league in his first few years. After his release from the Giants, Flowers signed on with the Washington Football Team. After some early struggles, Flowers settled down and was very solid. The Dolphins awarded him with a 3 yr/ 30M dollar contract. His rise from forgotten tackle to useful guard was great, but now he needs to take the next step. He is virtually a lock at Left Guard when it is all said and done.
The Dolphins had a plethora of guards rotate in and out last season. Rookie, now second-year player Michael Dieter didn’t have much luck in year one. He struggled, but he also didn’t have a ton of help with the guys around him. While he gained some experience in year one, he will need to fight to earn one of the guard jobs. Shaq Calhoun came aboard last year as an undrafted rookie and won the RG job out of camp. He wasn’t very good when the lights came on, but he earned valuable experience as a rookie and should compete for a roster spot. Danny Isidora came over to the Dolphins in a trade from the Minnesota Vikings. He didn’t see the field much and was put on IR only a few weeks in Miami.
Last but not least, the Dolphins drafted Solomon Kindley, a massive guard from Georgia in the 4th round. Kindley comes in as a project, but he could be the future at RG if he can develop. He is powerful at the point of attack but can struggle with blitz pickups. He is a pure run-blocking guard.
Camp Battle: The battle is truly between the aforementioned tackle/guard Robert Hunt and Jesse Davis. The loser of that battle will end up starting at RG in my opinion. The real battle here is who will be backing up Flowers, Hunt or Davis. I give the edge to Dieter, who can play both guard and center. Calhoun could slide onto the practice squad with protection if the team likes him enough. The Dolphins didn’t get a great look at Danny Isidora so he will have an uphill battle. Kindley is a project but being he is a 4th round pick, I believe the Dolphins will keep him on the roster.
Special Teams: (Ranking out of 32 Teams per Football Outsiders DVOA)
Overall Rank: 22nd
Field Goal: 19th
Kickoff Return: 7th
Punt Return: 27th
Special Teams Unit:
K Jason Sanders (58.3)
P Matt Haack (60.6)
LS Blake Ferguson (R)
Dolphins seem content on having incumbents Jason Sanders and Matt Haack back with no competition being brought into camp. Both, as you know, were apart of the “Mountaineer Shot” against Philadelphia, which was voted the best play of 2019 season at the NFL awards.
In the 6th round of the 2020 draft, the Dolphins drafted Blake Ferguson out of LSU, which prompted the release of long snapper Taybor Pepper, who replaced John Denney in 2019.
Look for the team to also continue to use Jakeem Grant in the role as return specialists. Dolphins ranked 7th overall in kickoff return grade per Football Outsiders DVOA. While punt returns are generally tougher, Grant may serve in that role as well, as long as he stops the fumbilitis which has plagued him his entire career.
Thank you for reading part 2 of our 4 part series. Be sure to check out Part 3, Defense, coming out soon. Be sure to follow me on twitter @DolphinsTalkTom.