Dolphins have holes to fill on offensive line
FEB 05, 2014 9:30a ET
It's hard to imagine another NFL position group having a more difficult 2013 season than the Miami Dolphins offensive line.
The unit endured injuries, a suspension and a player leaving the team.
The on-field results included a league-high 58 sacks allowed and blocking for the 27th ranked rushing offense with 90 yards per game.
The bullying scandal involving tackle Jonathan Martin and guard Richie Incognito not only brought unwanted attention to the Dolphins, it resulted in two starters being absent for a significant part of the season.
Offensive line coach Jim Turner appears to have survived the controversy, though the team recently hired former Houston Texans line coach John Benton to assistant.
With several of its members free agents following a collectively poor season, the Dolphins line faces an overhaul for 2014.
Tyson Clabo, RT -- A stand-up guy in the locker room throughout the season, Clabo was benched after struggling in the first six games. He played better upon returning to the lineup after Jonathan Martin left the team. Still, the former Pro Bowler is 32 and a free agent. He probably will not return.
John Jerry, RG -- Although bothered by a knee injury in training camp, he has started 33 straight games for Miami. Jerry's a free agent but his age (27) and durability might earn him a return.
Mike Pouncey, C -- Despite missing two games with a gall bladder issue, Pouncey was named to the Pro Bowl. Once again an outstanding pass blocker, he struggled a bit with his run blocking. Then again, he didn't get much help from teammates.
Richie Incognito, LG -- He played fairly well during the first eight games, then missed the season's second half after being suspended for conduct detrimental to the team following Martin's bullying allegations. He's a free agent and will not return.
Jonathan Martin, LT -- You've probably heard of him -- at least as of the final week in October when he left the team. Martin began the season at left tackle, but struggled. When the team acquired Bryant McKinnie, he briefly replaced Clabo at right tackle. Although under contract, Martin likely won't play for Miami in '14. Even if the Dolphins' staff believes he can help on the field, Martin probably wants -- and needs -- a fresh start elsewhere.
Bryant McKinnie, LT -- The former Miami Hurricanes star was acquired in a trade with Baltimore on Oct. 21 and played well after being inserted into the lineup in place of a struggling Martin. At 34, he says he wants to end his career with the Dolphins. New general manager Dennis Hickey will have to decide if McKinnie's return is the way to protect Ryan Tannehill's blindside in '14.
Nate Garner, LG -- He has played all five positions on the line in four seasons with Miami. Garner started two games at center for Pouncey and four games at left guard. Versatility alone makes him valuable.
Sam Brenner, G -- The undrafted rookie moved from the practice squad to his NFL debut in Week 11 when he started at left guard. He started four of the final seven games and could get a long look during OTAs and training camp.
Dallas Thomas, G -- Last year's third-round pick from Tennessee, Thomas struggled most of the year as he adjusted to the speed and expectations of the NFL. He was active for six of the last seven games. He'll likely get chance to show he's ready for playing time in '14.
POSSIBLE FREE-AGENT TARGETS
The Dolphins very well might target line help in free agency. Tackle Brandon Albert, whom Miami tried to acquire from Kansas City before last season, can play guard or tackle. Baltimore probably will have to choose between tackles Michael Oher and Eugene Monroe as a keeper, with the other leaving via free agency. Oakland's Jared Veldheer and St. Louis' Roger Saffold also could be available.
BEST DRAFT OPTIONS
The Dolphins own the 19th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, and it wouldn't be a surprise if they used it on an offensive tackle. They'd probably have to move up if they want Texas A&M's Jake Matthews, Auburn's Greg Robinson or Michigan's Taylor Lewan, but Notre Dame's Zack Martin, Alabama's Cyrus Kouandjio and Virginia's Morgan Moses could be in the mix.
Putting together a quality offensive line should be Hickey's top priority this offseason. A running game and Ryan Tannehill's growth depend on it.