Still a work in progress

You didn't actually think that the arrival of highly respected assistant coach Hudson Houck would make the Dolphins offensive line a force overnight, did you? Those who did were treated to a sobering dose of reality in Monday night's preseason opener against the Chicago Bears.

The truth is the Dolphins offensive line doesn't have to be good right away; it needs to be good when the regular season starts. OK, if not good, then a whole lot more competitive than it was last year.

But this is still a work in progress, as was painfully evident against the Bears.

As was the case for pretty much all of the 2004 season, the Dolphins simply couldn't open any holes up front in the running game, although Coach Nick Saban said that might have had something to do with Chicago stacking the line and daring the Dolphins to pass.

OK, but what about the problems picking up the blitz? Saban said part of the problem there was the Dolphins didn't do a lot of game-planning for the Bears and Chicago threw a couple of different looks at them.

Fine, but there also were individual battles that were lost -- and badly.

Left tackle Vernon Carey let Alex Brown get around him in a hurry, which forced A.J. Feeley to step up in the pocket, right into the arms of blitzing linebacker Brian Urlacher.

Former Dolphins defensive end Adewale Ogunleye easily beat Stockar McDougle with an outside-inside move and sacked Gus Frerotte.

Seth McKinney was badly beaten by a Bears defensive lineman on a running play and the result was a loss.

Newly signed guard Frank Middleton was flagged three times, twice for false starts and once for holding.

Returning guard Jeno James was flagged for a false start.

Despite all of that, the Dolphins still racked up close to 400 yards of total offense, so it wasn't a washout.

The Dolphins have been doing a lot of experimenting along the offensive line doing training camp, moving guys all over the place in an effort to find the best combination. So maybe all the juggling around has hurt the cohesiveness up front and contributed to the erratic performance against the Bears.

Let's hope that played a huge part in it.

From this vantage point, the Dolphins look to have the personnel to have a pretty solid line, with Stockar McDougle at right tackle, either John St. Clair or Middleton at right guard, Rex Hadnot or Seth McKinney at center, and Jeno James at left guard.

But we remain very concerned about the left tackle spot. Carey is first on the depth chart and he started against the Bears. We're still not convinced he has the footwork to play left tackle, and what happened against Alex Brown did nothing to alleviate those concerns.

The other option there is Damion McIntosh, who badly struggled last year but was playing under tough circumstances after undergoing offseason foot surgery.

During his days in San Diego, under Houck, McIntosh was at best a serviceable left tackle. It might just turn out that he's the best option here again this year.

One thing for sure, the Dolphins should think about devising a scheme to help out their left tackle.

It was just one game and the last thing we want to do is overreact to anything that happened. The bottom line is we still believe the offensive line will be better in 2005 than it was last season.

The two questions are: how much better and how soon.

Dolphins Report Top Stories