Clabo Welcomes Leadership Role On O-Line

Posted Jul 24, 2013

Established veteran right tackle a key cog on young unit.

Respect is something that is earned, and new right tackle Tyson Clabo earned his coming into training camp based on his track record the previous seven seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. But the grizzled veteran does not come across as arrogant or demanding by any means.

Clabo, whose 91 consecutive starts rank fourth in the National Football League among active tackles, is well aware that he joins Pro Bowl left guard Richie Incognito as the senior members of Miami’s offensive line. He’s also aware that last year’s second-round pick, Jonathan Martin, is making a critical move to the left side and can use any help that he can get, but being new on the roster he wanted to make sure he didn’t step on any toes.

“I’m not a big believer in just showing up and being, ‘Hey, follow me,’” Clabo said. “Obviously, a leader is something that has to earn his respect on the team. If guys feel like that’s the situation they want to place me in, then I’ll accept that. I just have to come to work every practice. It’s about showing the guys that I’m not going to mail it in. I’m serious about my job and I’m serious about winning and being successful. If guys see that, then that’s how you earn that.”

Returning players and knowledgeable fans will have to get used to seeing Clabo’s No. 77 jersey on the right side of growing comfortable with former Dolphins left tackle Jake Long wearing the same number from 2008-12. At 6-foot-6 and 315 pounds, Clabo is very similar in height and build to Long and is able to make use of his long arms to gain leverage against opposing defensive linemen.

Head Coach Joe Philbin, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and offensive line coach Jim Turner knew once they made the commitment to move Martin to left tackle that they were going to need a solid player on the right side to properly balance the line. They also new that a fluid right guard situation with young John Jerry and Lance Louis required a strong and reliable presence at right tackle, and that’s what they already see in Clabo.

“He’s experienced. He’s very efficient as a player,” said Philbin, whose background is as an offensive line coach. “I think he’s played enough football that he knows what works for him and what doesn’t work, so he seems to be very consistent and very efficient.”

Martin learned a lot from Long last season as a rookie and plans to lean on Incognito quite a lot again since the two of them will be lining up next to each other on every snap. Incognito and center Mike Pouncey are the stabilizing forces up front being as they are at the same positions they were the last two seasons, and Jerry started all 16 games in 2012 at right guard but is in a tight competition with Louis.

Even though Martin is not next to Clabo at the line of scrimmage, he knows that in the huddle, on the sideline and in the meeting room is where he can truly pick the veteran’s brain. In fact, he’s already made it a point to do so.

“He’s a great help because he knows all the tricks,” Martin said. “I’ll try to get in his ears during practice to see what he does for certain moves and he’s been a great help to me so far.”

With quarterback Ryan Tannehill entering his second season and surrounded by new weapons in wide receivers Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson and tight end Dustin Keller, strong and consistent protection is critical. That means the trust level up front has to be there among the linemen and from Tannehill.

Incognito appreciates the fact that Clabo brings playoff experience to the unit having advanced deep in the postseason with Atlanta last year and making regular appearances in recent season. That’s an intangible that will come in handy early on as the unit tries to improve, but Clabo’s physical skills and technical expertise really stands out.

“He’s not going to do something in his pass set to beat himself,” Incognito said. “He’s confident in what he’s doing and he’s going to do the same thing every time. The young guys can learn from that because they take pass sets out here and they’re all over the place and then they see a guy like Clabo who takes the same pass set every single time and does the exact right thing every single time and they see it has success. So if you get to see someone do it right so many times it starts wearing off on them.”

In the end, chemistry up front comes with time together and it’s still early in training camp. Those changes up front, along with the new additions at the skill positions and on defense is one of the reasons Philbin pushed for the extra preseason game, so there would be more time to work out the kinks.

Clabo has been around long enough to know that training camp is especially important for the offensive line because timing is critical as is understanding each other’s tendencies.

“O-lines come together and jell in camp a lot,” he said. “I don’t think it’s unusual for some new pieces to be put in place and have them come together as a unit. If we just get the work together in practice and in the preseason games, I think we’ll be fine.”

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