2005 Position Review: OL

With the Dolphins having completed their 2005 season, we break down the team by position with a look back at each player's performance as well as a look ahead to the offseason and next season. Today we take a look at the offensive linemen.

Who finished the season on the roster: Starters -- Damion McIntosh (LT), Jeno James (LG), Rex Hadnot (C), Alonzo Ephraim (RG), Vernon Carey (RT); backups -- Joe Berger (G), Stockar McDougle (T), Anthony Alabi (T), C.J. Brooks (G), Seth McKinney (C/IR), Wade Smith (C/IR), Eric Wilson (G/IR)

How they did: The arrival of Hudson Houck as offensive line coach made a big difference for this group, which performed much better with pretty much the same cast as in 2004. The Dolphins averaged an impressive 4.3 yards per carry and finished fourth in the league for fewest sacks allowed with 26. That said, not everything was perfect with the offensive line. For one thing, there were way too many false-start penalties, particularly early in the season. And even though the number of sacks allowed was relatively low, the pass protection was anything but flawless. On an individual basis, guard/center Rex Hadnot and guard Jeno James probably were the two most consistent guys on the unit, although Hadnot had problems with false starts. Tackles Vernon Carey and Damion McIntosh both played much better than in 2004, but they had their problems with speed rushers. Center Seth McKinney had a decent season before being injured, while late-season starter Alonzo Ephraim really struggled.

What's ahead: While the Dolphins got decent play out of the O-line in 2005, it's clear an upgrade is needed here. In fact, offensive tackle has to rank as one of the biggest needs heading into the offseason. Neither McIntosh nor Carey is anywhere near elite level and both could be replaced as starters. Seth McKinney is going to be an unrestricted free agent, and it's probably less than 50-50 he'll return. If he doesn't, then you can look for Hadnot to move to center permanently. He and Jeno James probably are the only two starters almost certain to be starters again next season. The Dolphins figure to draft at least one offensive lineman and probably will be shopping for one or more in free agency as well.

The bottom line: Like the Dolphins as a whole, the offensive line is on the upswing and it probably won't take much for it to reach the next level. But the Dolphins still need that stud tackle to anchor the line and finding one of those guys is a big priority in the offseason.

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