DAVIE, Fla. — The best left tackle in Miami Dolphins history soon could meet the latest one.
Richmond Webb, who protected quarterback Dan Marino so well in the 1990s he might one day make the Hall of Fame, lives in Houston and will attend Saturday’s preseason game between the Dolphins and Texans. He hopes to have a sideline pass, and he just might run into Jonathan Martin.
Webb would like to greet the guy who mans his old position. Martin also hopes it will happen.
“That would be cool,” Martin said. “I know he was a heck of a player, and that’s something I definitely want to aspire to be in my career. That would be great to get any pointers you can from him about film work, field work and technique. I definitely want to hear what he might say to help improve my game.”
Webb, though, might not have a tremendous amount to say about Martin needing to improve. Webb offered a critique of Martin’s play in last Friday’s 27-3 Miami preseason win at Jacksonville, and he generally liked what he saw.
“For the most part, I thought he did a pretty good job,” said Webb, who played in seven Pro Bowls with the Dolphins from 1990-2000, before concluding his career with two years in Cincinnati. “He had quickness off the ball and he had good feet and he used his hands well. He shuffled his feet well and kept a good base. He was able to keep his hands inside and that decreases the chances you’re going to be called for holding.”
If he has a chance to offer Martin some advice, Webb didn’t hesitate when it came to what he would say first.
“Live in the film room,” Webb said. “He’s got all the attributes to be a great tackle but studying your opponent in the film room will give you that extra edge. Keep studying film and you’ll be fine.”
If Martin is indeed fine, that would be great news for the Dolphins. One of the biggest questions facing them entering the season is how Martin will do in replacing Jake Long, a four-time Pro Bowler who bolted as a free agent last spring to the St. Louis Rams.
The Dolphins didn’t want to match the four-year, $34 million deal Long received, mainly due to injuries that have plagued him in recent years. Webb realizes it was a controversial decision but knows the Dolphins had a good read on Martin, who started at right tackle last season as a rookie before moving to the left side when Long sat out the final four games due to a torn triceps.
“Naturally, when you lose a guy who’s been to the Pro Bowl and is proven, a lot of media and fans aren’t going to understand,” Webb said. “But the Dolphins have been scouting Martin and evaluating him since he’s been here. They felt that this is a guy who can play the left side.”
Martin played left tackle at Stanford, so the position is hardly new. Martin was an All-American for the Cardinal before the Dolphins made him a second round-pick in in 2012.
After Long left, the Dolphins didn’t expend much effort seeking to bring in a replacement from the outside. Martin got an immediate endorsement from offensive line coach Jim Turner.
“I got a call from coach,” Martin said. “He said, ‘Hey, I have a lot of confidence in you.’ I want to show them that they made a good choice.”
Left tackle is considered one of the most important positions in football. Even though many have questioned whether Martin is ready to protect the blind side of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, he claims to not listen to the critics.
“Not really,” said Martin, who protected star quarterback Andrew Luck’s blind side at Stanford. “There’s pressure at every position in the NFL. Maybe some more than others. Left tackle is an important position, and there’s always going to be pressure. I have to perform, so it’s nothing new for me.”
When it comes to pressure, not many left tackles have had more of it than Webb. For his first 10 seasons, he was the primary bodyguard for the legendary Marino.
Webb said having to protect Marino motivated him. He sees no reason why Martin shouldn’t have a similar mindset with Tannehill.
“The thing that I kept in the back of mind was I didn’t want to be that guy that was the reason Dan gets hurt,” Webb said of Marino, who was in his eighth season when Webb moved into the starting lineup as a rookie. “Dan was an icon when I got there. For me, protecting him was motivation enough.”
Now, Tannehill is expected to develop into Miami’s top quarterback since Marino retired after the 1999 season. Tannehill was sacked against the Jaguars on just the second play of the game when right guard Josh Samuda was beaten by Sen’Derrick Marks.
Samuda then was demoted from a starting role. At least Philbin feels a lot better about Martin.
“He’s played well in two games,” Philbin said. “He’s going against some very good guys on a daily basis, and he’s holding his own. He’s doing well.”
The 6-foot-5, 312-pound Martin hardly is a finished product. Larry Little, a Hall of Fame guard with the Dolphins from 1969-80, generally speaks well of Martin’s play but says he needs “to get stronger.”
Martin obviously still has much to prove as he strives to replace Long, the NFL’s No. 1 draft choice by Miami in 2008 who made the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons. But Webb believes Martin will come through.
“If he continues to progress, then I think that he will shut up a lot of the critics,” Webb said.
Martin doesn’t listen to the critics anyhow. But he would like to listen to Webb.