Offensive lineman Jason Fox was jettison before the start of last season however a few players on the same line grading near Fox had stayed on only to cost the Miami Dolphins a game as well as their jobs when they had to start.
Coach Adam Gase fired Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner after the Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins – October 9th, 2016 game. The line gave up six sacks and the penalty yards were twice that of the Titans as well as having a 13 minute time of possession deficit which works out to a total of 44 total game snaps for the offense to 77 on defense. They lost 23-8.
The early warning signs were there, Pro Football Focus had graded Thomas and Turner at or near the bottom of the league for the whole season prior to the one they got axed thanks in part to Laremy Tunsil slipping in the shower.
Those same early warning signs are here again from Pro Football Focus grades on the season with Jermon Bushrod being dead last in the league and Branden Albert also grading very poorly for the Dolphins. These two are both 32 years of age and are seasoned veterans. Albert had injuries holding him back and Bushrod had played out of his natural position guard/tackle.
Should the Dolphins heed this early warning?
If last season is any indication the answer should be yes. Looking at all the outliers the answer should still be yes. With the main one being availability in the case of Albert. While Bushrod did play every game he also graded the worse in the league playing out of position.
Weighing aged veteran experience versus youthful healthy availability is a bit of a conundrum. The Vet has been there and done that while the younger player is less likely to have their bodies break down as a season wears on hopefully into the playoffs.
Looking at this last playoff game Vs the Steelers is reminiscent of the Titans game with Thomas and Turner. The line allowed five sacks just one shy of that Titans game. There wasn’t much protection for Matt Moore in the pocket and he was hit a lot. Jay Ajayi had very little room to run with little to no push at the line of scrimmage.
So the deciding factor should be the play on the field from past performance which player analytics helps to point out.
There was a notion that guards are easy to plug and play (yes Albert is a tackle but Tunsil would move over). And by overlooking the position things will have a way of working out in the end. This is how it went for the Miami Dolphins going back some seasons now. It needs to be addressed in a better manner going ahead. When you build a fence you don’t leave out pickets. For a case study look to the Cowboys and how often they built upon their offensive line, then look toward this seasons Seahawks who neglected it.