Dolphins aiming to fix league-worst sack total
DAVIE, Fla. -- Offensive linemen only have one statistic anybody really eyes. So you want it to look good.
Unfortunately for those on the Miami Dolphins, it's a sad stat of affairs.
The Dolphins are last in the NFL in having allowed 18 sacks for 113 lost yards. The latest shaky showing was giving up four in Monday night's 38-17 loss at New Orleans.
"It's a high number," Dolphins left tackle Jonathan Martin said of 18. "It's a lineman’s only stat, so it's something we got to work on and we got to improve. It’s tough to win ball games when you’re averaging 4 1/2 sacks a game."
Actually, the Dolphins (3-1) already have won games this season in which they've allowed six sacks (23-10 over Cleveland) and five (27-23 over Atlanta). But they don't want to make that a habit if they expect quarterback Ryan Tannehill to still be standing past midseason.
"That has to get fixed," said center Mike Pouncey. "That can't continue to happen, especially if we want to keep Tannehill as our starting quarterback. He can't get hit like that."
When Dolphins coaches met Tuesday, it was a point of emphasis to do a better job in protecting Tannehill. He was pressured plenty by the Saints although it must be said that all of Monday's sacks came in the second half after New Orleans took a 28-10 lead and was able tee off on him.
Still, the protection of Tannehill has been a problem all season. And it's not just the offensive linemen to blame even though some are willing to accept responsibility. After all, it is their stat.
"It's a unit-wide issue," said Dolphins coach Joe Philbin. "Without a question, it's every position that has been impacted. There have been times where the offensive line got beat. There have been times when the quarterback held the ball too long or hasn't moved swiftly enough in the pocket. There have been times when the running back has missed the pickup time, when the tight ends missed the pickup. So it's been widespread."
But the Dolphins are not yet at the stage of widespread panic.
After all, Miami gave up five sacks in the Sept. 22 win over Atlanta. But on a last-ditch touchdown drive for the winning points, Tannehill didn't go down once.
Perhaps, though, the sacks allowed in that game and against Cleveland did not fully register. That's because the Dolphins were able to win each time.
"I think winning kind of covers them up a little bit," Martin said. "It's something we need to work on."
Martin has taken heat at times for the job he has done trying to replace Jake Long, a four-time Pro Bowler who bolted as a free agent last spring to St. Louis. Martin has been up and down after moving from right tackle. So has Tyson Clabo, who has taken over at right tackle after having signed as a free agent.
But right guard John Jerry said the Dolphins "don’t point fingers around here." Indeed they don't.
Left guard Richie Incognito made the Pro Bowl last season. But he's taking as much responsibility as anyone.
"We've got to protect better I think as an offensive unit," Incognito said. "The most discouraging thing is at times it's one guy here and one guy there. At times it's a breakdown of the O-line. At times it's a breakdown of running backs. At times it's a breakdown of tight ends. To protect the quarterback, you really have to have all the guys in synch all the time. It's tough. Ryan has taken some shots."
While Incognito mentioned the running backs and tight ends, they at least have some flashy individual statistics they can put by their names. As for offensive linemen, they've pretty much got just one team number.
And so far it's been a sad sack of a stat.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson