Sentinel reporter Omar Kelly came across an interesting stat this week. When Mike Pouncey, Ja'Wuan James, and Branden Albert have all three started and completed games, Ryan Tannehill is 6 and 1. The guard position in Miami is constantly trashed by fans and the media, but reality tells a different story. It's the big guns, the first round draft picks who cannot stay on the field and are having the greatest effect on the win/loss record.
The constant search to find answers at the guard position never works because it’s the wrong problem. The issue is the same since Jeff Ireland became the GM in Miami. Injury prone players unable to get on the field or stay on the field. In two years the three first round picks, Albert, Pouncey and James have played a total of 7 complete games together!
In those games, the Miami Dolphins played elite football.
The lone Miami lost was a last minute defensive collapse to the Green Bay Packers. Dallas Thomas and the-guard-of-the-moment on the other side are continually asked to play out of position or line up next to second and third tier players. It needs to be announced in bold letters...
THE BIG 3 CAN'T STAY ON THE FIELD.
If the Dolphins are going to start winning football games, this needs to be addressed, now. Fix the dynamic causing losses instead of using scapegoats to disguise the inability to keep high priced talent on the field.
There are certainly other needs on this football team, a corner, a linebacker, a good RB but in the big picture, these are luxuries. GM’s make picks to check little boxes associated with a successful draft.
Starter Box - Check
Need Box – Check
BPA Box – Check
All to say they drafted well, but not fixing the problem. The truth is, the Dolphins brass either doesn’t understand the issue or is unwilling to come to terms with reality.
Pouncey had hip surgery again this off-season, Albert came off his umpteenth surgery last year and is ripe for another injury, and James is coming off a dislocated toe. These are all-pro caliber players, but they can't stay on the field.
(James gets a pass because every NFL player will get injured at some point.)
All this draft talk about CB, LB, RB & DE is missing the reality that Miami needs to finally make the right moves to fix this OL. The problem is not at the guard position. As outlandish as it sounds, trading both Mike Pouncey and Branden Albert right now when they have 1st or 2nd round value may be the best move the Miami Dolphins could make to fix this team.
Offensive lineman in the NFL must be powerful players who can handle the grind of being pounded for sixteen games. This is the downfall of the zone blocking scheme, it requires athleticism and exposes the legs of large men to defensive linemen trying to hurt them. This was the Philbin scheme and it does not work as well as many, including this author, had thought.
The very first step in solving any problem is a clear understanding of what the problem is. The NFL has a curious dynamic, it repeatedly awards players like Pouncey with pro-bowl selections when the team he plays on underperforms at the very position he is being rewarded for. For this reason, no one is certain whether Ryan Tannehill is a franchise QB. Tannehill is 6-1 with his starting OL intact, this is not the fuzzy logic of pro-bowl selections, these wins and losses are real.
Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” It’s time to stop the insanity and wash away the stench of Jeff Ireland from the Miami Dolphins. The place to start is on the offensive line, stop believing Albert and Pouncey will somehow overcome the injury bug.
Sadly, if this is not cured we may never know what Ryan Tannehill could have become and the Dolphins will remain an NFL also-ran.
Approaching the draft with a willingness to trade these two players and selecting their replacements sends the clear message, the Dolphins finally understand the true issue and are committed to fixing it. Acknowledge the simple axiom, availability is an ability and on an NFL offensive line, it may be the most important ability. Move this trait way up on the reasoning scale when selecting linemen and get a group that can grow together and stay together.
Save the EZ’s and the VH3’s for teams that can afford luxuries…
Bring in the big fella’s and stop the insanity!