In light of Pro Bowl offensive tackle Jake Long
being placed on injured reserve, rookie Jonathan Martin
suddenly finds himself in the spotlight.
Yes, Martin moved over from right tackle to replace Long on the left side after Long was injured in the first half of Sunday’s game against New England, and he generally received positive reviews for his performance.
Now, Martin is in line to start at left tackle for the last four games of the regular season. For his very first test, Martin will spend a part of Sunday afternoon’s game at San Francisco lined up opposite Aldon Smith, who just so happens to lead the NFL with 17.5 sacks.
As Dolphins fans know, Martin has plenty of experience at left tackle, having played at that position during his time at Stanford University, where he protected Andrew Luck’s blind side.
Playing left tackle in the NFL, though, is a whole different ballgame. Seeing how Martin can handle his assignment will be one of the big story lines for the Dolphins down the stretch.
Martin has done a more than respectable job all season as the starter at right tackle, but his value could really get a boost with a strong finish.
There’s little question Martin has a bright future, but he’s only one of several rookies or first-year players who could become important players for the Dolphins in the years to come.
Of course, the one who stands out is quarterback Ryan Tannehill
, who has started every game this season. Then there’s starting fullback Jorvorskie Lane
, who’s a rookie only in name considering he’s three four removed from his last year of college football.
There are four others, four guys who have seen little action for the Dolphins this season or none at all.
• RB Lamar Miller
— The speedy fourth-round pick from the University of Miami has obvious running ability and he showed it early in the season when he got his most extensive playing time while Daniel Thomas
was nursing a head injury. But outside of the 19 carries he got against Oakland and in the first Jets game, Miller has only run the ball eight times. In his limited carries, Miller has a 5.4-yard average, the highest on the team.
• WR Rishard Matthews
— Matthews made the 53-man roster after beating rookie sixth-round pick B.J. Cunningham and several other young receivers, and what he’s shown in his limited playing time is the ability to make plays downfield. Matthews has only two catches on the season, but they were for 19 yards against Buffalo and for 28 yards on the Dolphins’ last drive against New England. Matthews looks like a fluid athlete with intriguing upside.
• T Will Yeatman
— Switched from tight end to offensive tackle this offseason, Yeatman is a player the Dolphins obviously like, given they’ve kept him on the roster all season while continuing to develop him. Coach Joe Philbin has expressed his satisfaction with Yeatman’s development on more than one occasion. Yeatman certainly has the physique to become a solid NFL offensive tackle and it will be interesting to see just how far along he has come in terms of his technique once he gets into a game.
• TE Michael Egnew
— This is the one player offensive coordinator Mike Sherman gets asked about on a regular basis, perhaps as often as any player on offense other than Tannehill. Egnew, of course, was one of the Dolphins’ two third-round picks this past April, but he’s been inactive for every game. Sherman has explained that Egnew fell behind early on and has been playing catch-up all season to the team’s other tight ends — Anthony Fasano
, Charles Clay
, Jeron Mastrud
and newly acquired Kyle Miller
. But the Dolphins drafted Egnew for his ability to get downfield while possessing ideal tight end size, and his athletic ability makes him an intriguing prospect.