O-line slowly but surely making progress

Offensive line coach Tony Wise said before the season started his group would be a work in progress, very possibly through the entire regular season and it certainly has played out that way so far. Indeed, there has been some progress made since the opener against Tennessee, but the issue is how much progress has been made and how much more needs to be made.

Perhaps the biggest improvement has come in the area of concentration, evidenced by false start penalties.

The Dolphins had a whoppping 12 of those in the first five games, including a couple of tight ends Randy McMichael and Donald Lee. And who can forget the first offensive play against Cincinnati when the official announced that "everybody except the center" was guilty of a false start.

Well, in the last two games the Dolphins have not been flagged once for a false start.

The running game also has come to life a little bit the last two games. A lot of that has to be attributed to the play of Sammy Morris, who has run with more decisiveness and made better decisions than any of the other four backs to get carries this season — Travis Minor, Lamar Gordon, Leonard Henry and Brock Forsey.

But the blocking up front in the running game also has appeared to be better in the last two games, particularly up the middle.

Where the Dolphins offensive line still needs major work is in pass protection.

Left tackle Damion McIntosh was put into the starting lineup to replace an ineffective Wade Smith, but he hasn't been any better. McIntosh is getting beat well too frequently in pass protection, not to mention his four false-start penalties this season.

McIntosh is coming back from a severe ankle injury, but he says his ankle has not been a factor in his play. If that's the case, then the Dolphins will have to think about getting another left tackle soon because McIntosh's play just ain't cutting it.

Taylor Whitley hasn't been that much better at right guard. Coach Dave Wannstedt said this week Whitley has been playing well and just needs to get more playing time.

We'll translate that to mean Whitley really is struggling but we don't have much else behind him so we're hoping he starts improving.

The truth is Whitley could find himself out of the starting lineup soon enough if the Dolphins decide to insert waiver pick-up Jason Ball at center and move Seth McKinney to right guard.

The Dolphins might be hesitant to move McKinney, but they might come to the conclusion that the long-term health of the offensive line is better with McKinney-Ball than McKinney-Whitley.

The other two guys in the starting lineup, Jeno James and John St. Clair, are the two most established guys on the line. By all accounts, St. Clair has been solid all year, while James appears to be playing much better lately after a sluggish start.

The bottom line with this offensive line is that it won't be among the best in the league anytime soon — despite what James predicted early in the season — but before too long it might stop being among the worst.


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