Offensive line rebuilding project

There were many who expected a massive overhaul along the offensive line after last year's disaster, but it never happened. But that doesn't mean the Dolphins don't think there'll be tremendous improvement from that unit in 2005.

For one thing, the Dolphins are counting on better production from last year's holdover, including all five 2004 starters -- Damion McIntosh, Jeno James, Seth McKinney, Taylor Whitley and John St. Clair.

The biggest reason for optimism, however, is the addition of offensive line coach Hudson Houck, who performed miracles last year with a San Diego line that started two rookies and three other nondescript players.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, looked like a totally disorganized group under line coach Tony Wise, who was never short on enthusiasm but whose teaching techniques obviously left something to be desired.

"We do have a lot to prove," McKinney said. "We were looked down upon everywhere and we're going to turn that around. I can guarantee you we're going to turn that around."

Wow, those are some awfully big words for a guy who, like the rest of his line mates, struggled last season.

But that's just the kind of confidence Houck has been aspiring since arriving.

Let's be clear about one thing, the Dolphins paid big bucks to get him because he's considered one of the best in the business.

"He's a great coach," said former starting left tackle Wade Smith. "He's a great coach as far as teaching technique. That's something is different than what we had here in the past and I think a lot of guys are really buying into the system and I think you're going to see the improvement this year."

But who we'll see in the starting lineup remains totally up in the air at this point.

A lot was made early in the offseason of former first-round pick Vernon Carey switching from right to left tackle and of Smith moving from tackle to center, but both players have indicated that Houck wants everyone on the line to know every position and as a result players are practicing at different spots.

A best guess at this time would have the one prominent newcomer on the line, Stockar McDougle, starting at right tackle, but everything else is a guessing game.

Head coach Nick Saban has high hopes for Carey, but it's difficult to picture Carey at left tackle because he might not have the feet for the position.

Amid all the uncertainty, however, the players remain confident they'll turn things around on the offensive line in 2005.

"I think the fact that everybody's buying in, everybody has a new attitude about how we want to do things with the techniques that we're learning is showing up when we're out there practicing that they're working," Smith said. "So that gives the guys confidence and once you get that going, then sky's the limit."

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