I haven’t written to Dolphins Nation in a while, but today I wanted to post my thoughts about the Miami Dolphins offensive line heading into the 2022 season.
And it’s not a bowlful of positivity.
The Dolphins have a lot of question marks at almost every position of their offensive line. That includes their prized possession of Terron Armstead.
Although Armstead is an elite left tackle when he is on the field, history has proven that the veteran hasn’t played a single entire season in his 9-year career and is going into his 10th season. Last year, Armstead only played eight games. This probably means he is guaranteed to miss some games this upcoming season.
The Dolphins paid Armstead, but his durability issues are why the Saints decided to move on from the player, despite his high-quality play and ability. The Dolphins are betting the left tackle can play more games than he misses and be a staple for the upcoming season.
Unfortunately, my jadedness as a Dolphins fan prepares me for the worse. Armstead may make it through training camp, but I doubt he will play every game. History tells us that the human body’s ability to heal doesn’t get quicker as a person ages. Armstead has now reached the dreaded 30-mark but will be 31 years of age by the start of the 2022 season.
The Dolphins also dealt with durability issues the last time they had a pair of quality tackles — Brandon Albert & JaWuan James. And Dolphins fans remember their absence’s impact when they disappeared from games during their tenure. So history, again, is not on their side when it comes to quality tackle play. And that was a handful of years ago.
Imagine that frustration coming ahead in 2022 because it probably will for a few games. And those few games could lead to losses. The Dolphins must avoid losses if they intend to compete with the AFC East and the rest of the supremely talented AFC Conference to make it into the playoffs.
If Armstead goes down, who is to replace him?
Austin Jackson? — We’ve seen him at left tackle. He may not even make it as this season’s right tackle. No, thank you.
Liam Eichenberg? He is intended to be the Dolphins’ starting left guard if newcomer Connor Williams moves from left guard to center. Eichenberg was sorely disappointing during his rookie year at the position— Which is why the Dolphins want to move him to be a guard.
There doesn’t seem to be a confident replacement should Jackson miss games. The Dolphins would be back to similar personnel to those they used last year, should that be the case, and that was a disaster throughout the 2021 season.
So far, we’ve touched on Armstead’s durability, Jackson’s inability to perform at left tackle (and by extension, Left guard — where he allowed an abundant amount of pressures  after his demotion from left tackle), and Liam Eichenberg’s disappointing play replacing Austin Jackson at the position.
Unlike Jackson, who is trending towards being a 1st-round bust after his two years of play (we’ll see if he can handle RT), Eichenberg still has hope after his rookie season.
What’s going positive for Eichenberg is that he has practiced at left guard during his rookie season in training camp. So there’s some familiarity there. Perhaps his technically sound yet lack-of-athletic attributes caused him to fail in his first year at the NFL tackle position. But Eichenberg is over 300 pounds and could fair better at the left guard position’s interior part of the line.
The position of Left guard was originally planned for free-agent acquisition Connor Williams (formerly from the Cowboys). Williams succeeded at left guard in Dallas, but the Dolphins have lost favor with center Michael Deiter (despite their original praise and vote of confidence following the conclusion of the 2021 season and into the free agency period). The Dolphins are planning for Williams to make the transition to center, but there is only one problem.
Williams has never started a game at center. Not a single one. He has trained at the position during his days in Dallas as a contingency plan but was never tested in a regular-season game.
So the Dolphins signed a player that was good as a left guard, intended to be the new left guard, but could face a positional switch to a position he may fail in. If he does succeed at center— or is at least serviceable— who is to say that he wouldn’t play better at a position he was already proven in — left guard.
Playing players out of their element hasn’t worked favorably for the Dolphins in recent history. There are plenty of past examples of this.
— In 2010, former Cardinals LB Karlos Dansby was moved to ILB in a 3-4 when he had his most success as an OLB in a 4-3. After three seasons, Dansby was cut after an original signing of 5-year/$43M.
— In 2017, longtime former Steeler LB Lawrence Timmons was an ILB in a 3-4 defense. The Dolphins decided to make him an OLB in a 4-3 defense. That experiment failed. And after one season, Timmons was gone.
— During the days of the “offensive guru” Adam Gase, Mike Gesicki was used as a blocking TE, although most knew him best as a receiving asset. Blocking is not Gesicki’s strength, and we’ve seen him thrive as a receiver since.
— 2018 1st-round Free-safety draftee Minkah Fitzpatrick was used as a nickel corner and strong safety during the Adam Gase and Brian Flores tenures. Since being traded to the Steelers in 2019, Fitz was placed back at his natural position and is the now highest-paid safety in the NFL.
But it still leaves a question.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) July 9, 2022
The only position on the line that seems to be set in stone is Robert Hunt at right guard.
And that’s the only spot not up for debate.
Backup linemen Solomon Kindley and Michael Deiter are still in the conversation for guard and center but are on the outside facing in. Kindley was hardly in the plans for 2021, and Deiter only played eight games due to injury.
This offense is expected to be heavily devoted to the physicality and creativity of the run game. But these 2021 Dolphins are supposed to have a line that is expected to get the Mike McDaniel offense going. How is that likely to happen with a unit consisting of linemen whose metrics were relatively poor in the run blocking area?
— Among 83 tackles, PFF rated Liam Eichenberg 70th as a run blocker.
— Among 83 guards, PFF rated Robert Hunt 35th and Jackson 69th as run blockers.
— Among 40 centers, Michael Deiter was 28th.
Connor Williams was the best out of these names. PFF rated Williams 11th among 83 guards as a run blocker.
But now he makes the switch to center.
But they are saying this before training camp, before the pads come on.
They’ve also said similar things about Michael Deiter not too long ago and demonstrated their confidence in him by making Deiter the starting center of the previous 2021 season.
And now Deiter is a backup.
We are talking about a unit that has been an issue for over ten years, people!
Average at best — that’s my expectation.