Pass protection for Ryan Tannehill has been an issue for so long that when the subject was brought up to left tackle Branden Albert, he immediately went into protection mode himself.
“What’s the problem?” Albert said.
There wasn’t any, which was why Albert was asked his assessment of a preseason game in which Tannehill was sacked just once.
In truth, Albert knew the point of the question was to gauge progress, not bash inadequacies, but decided to have a little fun playing grizzly bear with the media.
“OK,” he finally said, relenting. “I mean, we did better. “Everybody’s going to get better. He did a good job throwing the ball. We did a decent job protecting. It wasn’t perfect. But it was better. Everybody played a part into it.”
And this time, “everybody” included first-round pick Laremy Tunsil, who played left guard in his first start as a pro. Jermon Bushrod made his first start as a Dolphin, at right guard. They joined tackles Ja’Wuan James and Albert and center Mike Pouncey in what could be the Dolphins’ preferred quintet this season, once Pouncey’s hip injury heals.
“We actually got in a rhythm,” James said.
That’s saying something considering Bushrod is adjusting after being a left tackle his nine prior NFL seasons.
“I’m all in,” Bushrod said of the move. “It’s just about getting those reps, getting as many reps as I can. … It’s not going to be the easiest thing. It’s going to be a learning process.”
The line helped the Dolphins’ starters drive 75 yards twice against Dallas, both times ending in touchdown receptions by Kenny Stills.
“Once we get our rhythm — and you saw a little bit of it versus Dallas — that’s when it’s a good feeling we can keep rolling,” Tunsil said.
The only “problem,” as Albert might say, was run-blocking. The Dolphins finished with 120 rushing yards and a 4.1 average, but that was skewed by a 45-yard run by Isaiah Pead against Dallas’ backups. Aside from Pead’s run, the Dolphins managed just 2.7 yards on 28 carries.
“Everything is in the works right now,” James said. “We’re continuing to work and continuing to learn these new techniques. It’s different aiming points in the run game, also in the pass.”
Miami’s top two backs, Jay Ajayi and Arian Foster, combined for a 1.8 average against the Cowboys.
“We have to just get in rhythm with us, the backs, timing, everything,” James said. “It’s a whole new system. When we’re finally out there, we can actually cut guys and get guys on the ground now, so there’s a lot of different things going on, but I think it’s going to get better.”
The Dolphins are 1-1 after the 41-14 rout by Dallas, but Albert isn’t sweating it.
“Some teams go 4-0 in the preseason, then 2-and-whatever in the regular (season),” Albert said. “So I don’t know what you could tell when everybody starts flying and everybody’s playing for four quarters. And health. A lot of things play into it by the time the season starts.”