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NOTEBOOK: O-Line Developing A Strong Bond; Other Notes

Posted Sep 24, 2012

Stability up front paying big dividends.

Familiarity with each other’s tendencies and strengths is so important for an NFL offensive line, which is why there has been steady progress up front for the Miami Dolphins.

So many times in recent seasons there has been the lack of consistency in that unit either due to injuries or simply caliber of play. Coming into this season, the left side of the line was set with Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long, left guard Richie Incognito and center Mike Pouncey. All that was left was to solidify the right side.

Rookie right tackle Jonathan Martin was taken in the second round of April’s NFL Draft for the sole purpose of shoring up that position for the foreseeable future, but the right guard position was an unknown. Injuries to veterans Artis Hicks and Eric Steinbach forced third-year player John Jerry into the starting role and he and Martin have answered the challenge thus far.

“We’ve had success running the ball and I think that gives them confidence with play calling and we’ve really come a long way as a unit playing together,” said Incognito after helping to anchor a run game that gained 185 yards against the Jets yesterday at Sun Life Stadium. “I think John and John over on the right side have been really playing at a high level and I think really the key to our success right now is them playing at a high level.” It’s no coincidence that the Dolphins are among the best in the league in running the ball and they did a solid job yesterday against the Jets in protecting rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He was never sacked in the game and was only hit two times.

Defenses these days have gone away from traditionally lining up their pass rusher over the left tackle and have been moving that player around, many times putting him over the right tackle. Martin has responded well and has gotten help from Jerry in all facets of the game.

“Usually with an offensive line if you don’t notice things they’re doing okay,” offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said. “They’re doing a nice job, particularly against that defense, which has a tendency because of its structure to create some sacks and hits on the quarterback. … We still have a lot of work to do and we left some yards on the field that we could have gotten that we didn’t get. As I told the guys today in our meeting, we shouldn’t have left it to a field goal kicker to win the game for us. We have our own responsibilities and it was on us to make sure that we didn’t put him (Dan Carpenter) in that position.”

Still, after establishing the run in each of the first three games, Incognito and the rest of the offensive line took some pride in being able to consistently give Tannehill a clean pocket out of which to throw from.

“That’s the big part about this job, you can’t just be one dimensional,” Incognito said. “You can’t just run block all day. You have to protect the passer and I think we’ve done a really good job of that. We’ve kept him clean and that’s nice to hang your hat on – keep the quarterback clean and run the football.”

And these improvements go back to Incognito’s original premise, which has to do with the stability of the offensive line.

“I think that’s the one issue we’ve had here throughout the years is just inconsistency along the offensive line and moving parts,” he added. “To really work those guys in (Jerry and Martin) and have them playing well and step up it’s night and day, and you see that in the rushing and the protection categories.”

COACH SPEAK

“I like what he’s done every single game. He’s been productive in every game. He’s played hard in every game. He’s been sound, so he’s done a very, very good job. All that being said, I don’t think it really changed the game a whole lot. I would argue that might be as deep a position as we have on the football team. I thought those other guys stepped in.” – Head Coach Joe Philbin on what running back Reggie Bush means to the offense

“I’m telling you I think the kid’s playing his tail off. You watch the tape he’s playing his tail off. He’s playing the run very well. He’s knocking the quarterback down a bunch. We’d love him to get more sacks and I’m sure he would. He is playing hard and playing fast and he’s giving exceptional effort. It’s hard pressed to find a guy on our film that’s playing as hard as he is.” – Philbin on the play of defensive end Cameron Wake

“I didn’t say anything to him. Again, as I’ve told our players before, if you’re suiting up on the 46, our staff believes you can contribute to the success of the ball club. He’s been in that situation before, I’m sure he’ll be in that situation again, and I’m confident he will come through for us. There’s not much to say. If the player goes out there and doesn’t have faith that the coach believes in him at that stage in the game, he’s probably not going to make it anyways. I don’t think you need to (talk to him). To me, less is more; let him concentrate on his job. I have nothing revolutionary to say at that stage in the game; you know kick it through the uprights (laughing). I’m not sure.” – Philbin on what if anything he said to kicker Dan Carpenter before the overtime kick

“Some of it was protection related. We try to get moving a little bit offensively in terms of the tempo. There are a couple different schools of thought – sometimes, you can change personnel every play and sometimes you can keep the same group in for a while and try to play faster. We’re more of the less substitution and play faster. We thought Daniel, pass protection wise, gives us a little bit more, bigger guy. Some of the matchups that we thought, that was really primarily the reason.” – Philbin on why Daniel Thomas was used more late in the game

LOCKER ROOM TALK

“The offensive line, they’ve just been doing a great job opening holes for the running backs so sometimes it’s just about being patient and letting the holes develop and then I just try to do what I do best.” – rookie running back Lamar Miller on what he’s seeing on the field that has allowed him to break off long runs

“You look at what the guy provide, he gives you the big play from first down to fourth down. Anytime this guy gets the ball in his hands he’s liable to go score a touchdown. It helps us. He’s one of the top five playmakers in the National Football League.” – linebacker Kevin Burnett on what running back Reggie Bush means to the team

“It’s not troubling at all because it’s our fault. We were right there and the yards they were getting were yards after the catch. We’ll miss a tackle and then it breaks for 60 or 70 yards, so that’s the thing. We’ve just got to tackle them when they get the ball and get them down on the ground.” – cornerback Richard Marshall on surrendering 300 passing yards in successive weeks
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