Dolphins’ offensive line, viewed as suspect entering season, shows signs of improvement – The Denver Post

Dolphins’ offensive line, viewed as suspect entering season, shows signs of improvement – The Denver Post

Tua Tagovailoa has had two of the best games of his career in the last two weeks against Detroit and Chicago. And his best may be yet to come.

“It can always get better,” said Tagovailoa, the Dolphins’ third-year quarterback who leads the NFL in passer rating (115.9).

– It can always be better.

That’s a scary proposition for Dolphins opponents, especially if the Dolphins’ offensive line continues its recent ascent.

The communication is better for the offensive line, the technique is better, and the results are better for a group that has used five starting combinations in nine games.

“I think it’s a fixation and collaboration on fundamentals,” coach Mike McDaniel said of the offensive line’s improvement. “I think it’s important to start understanding week by week what is required of them, for the players. And then how to drive home the techniques in the right way from the coaching staff.

“But I think it’s been a collective mindset and we’re seeing the results week in, week out.”

Against the Bears, Tagovailoa was not sacked and had just two hits. Against the Lions, Tagovailoa was sacked twice, but those were the only hits he got.

Given time to throw, Tagovailoa can seemingly pick apart any defense.

Additionally, the running back posted a 107-yard effort against Detroit, the third 100-yard game in four weeks. The Dolphins, who are 29th in rushing at 86.9 yards per game, dipped to 77 yards rushing against Chicago.

But the offensive line, which broke in left guard Robert Jones as a first-time starter this season against the Bears, is moving forward as a whole.

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It all starts with left tackle Terron Armstead, a three-time Pro Bowl selection and team captain. But Jones, playing for Liam Eichenberg (knee injury), had a good effort against Chicago. And center Connor Williams, right guard Robert Hunt and right tackle Brandon Shell have combined to complete a solid group under the guidance of offensive line coach Matt Applebaum and offensive coordinator Frank Smith.

The offensive line’s performance is even more impressive when you consider that they entered the season as a perceived weakness, then endured injuries to starting right tackle Austin Jackson (ankle/calf), Armstead (toe) and most recently, Eichenberg, and the has managed to continue to improve as the season has gone on.

McDaniel said Jackson will practice this week and is considered day-to-day.

The offensive line was a concern early in the season when Tagovailoa was kicked hard against Buffalo and Cincinnati, the former sending alerts around the league and the latter resulting in a concussion. The offensive line didn’t help his reputation when quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and quarterback Skylar Thompson were knocked out of games, although it could be argued that neither was a direct result of poor offensive line play (Bridgewater was sacked by an unblocked cornerback and Thompson hit his thumb. on a pass rusher’s helmet).

But things are better now.

With the offensive line playing well, it’s no coincidence that the offense seems to be hitting its stride with back-to-back 30-point games in wins at Detroit (31-27) and Chicago (35-32).

The creativity of McDaniel, the offensive architect, combined with the talents of Tagovailoa, wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, and Tagovailoa having had time to throw, have given the Dolphins an offense that is a threat to score anytime from anywhere on the pitch. .

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In the last two games, Tagovailoa has been 50 of 66 for 684 yards, six touchdowns, no interceptions and a bunch of good decisions. He has also posted the two best passer ratings of his career at 138.7 (at Detroit) and 135.7 (at Chicago).

And Hill (1,104 yards receiving, three touchdowns) and Jaylen Waddle (812 yards, six touchdowns) are on a blistering, record-setting pace as a duo. Their combined 1,916 yards are the most by a duo through nine games in the Super Bowl era and the second most through nine games all-time, behind Houston’s Bill Groman and Charlie Henningan, who had 1,950 yards in 1961.

Throw in the potential of the back duo Jeff Wilson Jr. and Raheem Mostert and things are looking even better.

Challenging the offensive line this Sunday is Cleveland All Pro edge rusher Myles Garrett, who is fifth in the NFL with 7.5 sacks.

But they will not be confused. The Dolphins have already faced six of the top 13 in sacks when you include New England linebacker Matthew Judon (11.5 sacks), Minnesota linebacker Za’Darius Smith (8.5), Buffalo linebacker Von Miller (7.0), New York Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (7.0), Pittsburgh linebacker Alex Highsmith (6.5) and Baltimore linebacker Justin Houston (6.0).

And they’ve kept most of the league’s best pass rushers in check while giving Tagovailoa time to pass and occasionally opening holes for the run game. So things are promising for the Dolphins’ offensive line.

“That doesn’t mean we’re performing exactly how we envisioned the final product to be,” McDaniel said. “That will never be the case.

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“But we keep getting better every game and that’s what gives me confidence because I know that’s the formula for teams to be successful in this league, improvement over the course of the season and I think we all see that .”

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