A GAMBLE THAT FAILED

The Dolphins had a few clear priorities this offseason, among them finding a capable backup quarterback, getting help at outside linebacker, finding a return man and getting some help along the offensive line. For the most part, they did a great job of filling their needs, but it's the one they didn't fill that is killing them right now.

This is not meant as a shot to rookie Wade Smith, who all things considered has done a tremendous job as the starting left tackle.

But teams with Super Bowl aspirations usually don't start rookies at left tackle unless those guys are can't-miss prospects picked high in the first round — somebody like Richmond Webb in 1990.

Smith looks like he has a tremendous future in the NFL, but he's not nearly as good now as he's going to be and he ideally shouldn't have been put in the position he finds himself in.

Coach Dave Wannstedt was asked on Monday after the failure to address the tackle position, a legitimate question considering the Dolphins supposedly wanted to move Mark Dixon back to guard in the first place, then were left with him and his well-chronicled injury problems at left tackle.

Yes, the price tag was ridiculous on some of the tackles available in the offseason, but this was a team that wasn't that far from Super Bowl contention.

It's easy to second-guess now after Smith was toasted by Dwight Freeney in the Colts game, but anyone would have told you this was a suspect area all along.

Of course, the left tackle problems wouldn't matter as much if the rest of the offensive line was playing, and that's not the Dolphins' fault.

It's not the Dolphins' fault Jamie Nails isn't playing nearly as well as he did last year, despite his claims on Monday that he's playing just fine.

It's not the Dolphins' fault no one on the offensive line is having a good season.

But it just seems the Dolphins could have, and should have, protected themselves a little more by biting the bullet and spending for a veteran tackle — even if that meant maybe not being able to get a Terrell Buckley or a Sammy Knight.

Of course, everyone will be singing a different tune if the offensive line suddenly turns things around. If it doesn't, though, you can bet the Dolphins' failure to land a veteran offensive tackle in the offseason will be brought up more and more often.


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