Dolphins offensive line struggles take a toll on QB Ryan Tannehill

Jamil Douglas sat at his locker and cried.

Dolphins rookie Jamil Douglas sits dejected after his early snap leads to a Tannehill sack on Miami's final possession (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)
Dolphins rookie Jamil Douglas sits dejected after his early snap leads to a sack on Miami’s final possession (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

The rookie offensive lineman, who was playing out of position at center, snapped the ball early on the Dolphins final possession — a fourth-and-goal from Indianapolis’ 5-yard line.

The rest of Miami’s linemen weren’t ready for the snap and quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked — for the sixth time — to cement the 18-12 loss.

(Dolphins’ final rally falls short against Colts)

Several of Douglas’ teammates came to console him. Offensive line coach John Benton gave words of wisdom.

“My fault,” Douglas said. “I should have been locked in on that play. Bad play by me.”

Sure, Douglas will take the blame. But it really just speaks to Miami’s offensive line woes, a problem the Dolphins can’t shake.

Douglas shouldn’t have even been in that situation. He never played center in high school or college and was selected in the fourth round of this year’s draft as a guard.

He began the season as the starting right guard but was eventually benched for Billy Turner.

Douglas had his first extensive action at center when starter Mike Pouncey was injured in a Week 12 loss to the New York Jets, struggling with low snaps.

The Dolphins spent more than two seasons developing Sam Brenner, who was an adequate backup center. Yet when they finally needed him he was gone, signing with Denver after he spent weeks on and off Miami’s roster while the team tinkered with the bottom of the lineup.

With Pouncey out on Sunday because of a foot injury, Douglas started his first game at center. It’s a game he would love to forget.

“I feel for him,” Tannehill said. “I’ve been there. I’ve been that guy numerous times in my career.

“He’ll be a better player because of it.”

Pouncey, who made the Pro Bowl for the third consecutive season, wasn’t the only missing starter on Sunday.

The Dolphins have been without right tackle Ja’Wuan James since he suffered a toe injury in a Week 8 loss to New England.

No matter who’s in the lineup, the offensive line continues to be a major problem for the Dolphins.

Tannehill had been sacked 38 times heading in to Sunday’s game, tied for fourth-most in the league.

He climbed up the chart after he was sacked six times by the Colts — a team that entered the game with just 25 sacks this season, the fourth-fewest in the NFL.

Tannehill has been sacked 183 times in his four NFL seasons, the most in the league in that span.

Give him credit for never missing a start despite the constant hits. He’s barely missed a snap and he didn’t miss any on Sunday after several hard hits.

“I’ll be all right,” he said with the slightest of grins. It’s a question he’s been asked so many times before.

The Dolphins have spent years trying to rebuild the line, signing left tackle Branden Albert to a 5-year $47 million deal before the 2014 season and selecting James in the first round of the 2014 draft.

But there’s still uncertainty at guard where starters Dallas Thomas and Turner have struggled. And the depth is suspect — a problem when the starters are rarely healthy at the same time.

So it all comes back to the quarterback.

Tannehill will be entering his fifth season next year and his upside is still debated.

The best teams and the best quarterbacks — New England and Tom Brady being the prime example — excel despite constant turnover on the offensive line.

The Dolphins and Tannehill aren’t in that position, so it’s impossible to fully evaluate Tannehill when he’s treated like a rag doll.

“I could care less about getting hit if we’re winning,” Tannehill said.

But, he added, “it’s not easy to win when the quarterback is getting hit so that’s something we want to fix and move on.”

If only it were that easy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s