AFC East preview: Have the Dolphins fixed one of the league’s worst offensive lines?

·3 min read
Daniel A. Varela/dvarela@miamiherald.com

If the Dolphins want to change their fortunes in 2022, it will have to start in the division. The last time the team won the AFC East was the 2008 season when Tony Sparano was head coach and Chad Pennington was starting at quarterback. Since then, the Dolphins have made the playoffs just once and finished second in the division only four times.

The Dolphins, though, have assembled a talented and deep roster that is expected to have them in contention for a playoff spot after they have come one win short the last two seasons. In the third of an eight-part series, the Miami Herald will rank and preview different positions for each team in the AFC East, from strongest to weakest. Part 4 is offensive line, and next is defensive line.

1. New England Patriots

Projected depth chart: LT: Isaiah Wynn | LG: Cole Strange | C: David Andrews | RG: Michael Onwenu | RT: Trent Brown

Skinny: The Patriots return four full-time starters from last season, with their one change being the addition of Strange. The selection of Strange in the first round was viewed as somewhat of a reach, but he was one of the draft’s top interior offensive line prospects. In 2021, the Patriots’ offensive line ranked ninth in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards per carry metric, which attempts to separate the ability of the running back from the line by taking into account down, distance, situation, opponent and whether a team is in the shotgun. New England’s offensive line also ranked eighth in adjusted sack rate, a deeper measure of pass blocking that considers opponent quality, as well as down and distance.

2. Buffalo Bills

Projected depth chart: LT: Dion Dawkins | LG: Rodger Saffold | C: Mitch Morse | RG: Ryan Bates | RT: Spencer Brown

Skinny: Three of the Bills’ projected starters were full-time starters in 2021, and Bates took over a starting role in Week 16. Buffalo signed Saffold, 34, to a one-year deal this offseason. The Bills’ offensive line ranked 12th in adjusted line yards per carry and second in adjusted sack rate last season.

3. New York Jets

Projected depth chart: LT: Mekhi Becton | LG: Laken Tomlinson | C: Connor McGovern | RG: Alijah Vera-Tucker | RT: George Fant

Skinny: The Jets have a nice mix of ascending young players and reliable veterans along their offensive line. There are concerns regarding Becton, who played just one game last season because of a knee injury and has faced questions about his physical shape. But the No. 11 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft showed promise as a rookie. The addition of Tomlinson, a Pro Bowler last season, should help, too.

4. Miami Dolphins

Projected depth chart: LT: Terron Armstead | LG: Liam Eichenberg | C: Connor Williams | RG: Robert Hunt | RT: Austin Jackson

Skinny: The Dolphins had no choice but to upgrade an offensive line that was one of the league’s worst units last season. The team signed Armstead, who coaches said will start at left tackle. When healthy — Armstead has missed 24 games in the past five years — he is one of the best players in the NFL at his position. But outside of him and Hunt, who had a strong year at right guard, questions remain. Williams said he anticipates the Dolphins will play him at center, where he has never logged a snap in a regular-season game. And Eichenberg and Jackson, recent high draft picks, struggled mightily in 2021. Along with first-year head coach Mike McDaniel, new offensive line coach Matt Applebaum will be tasked with getting this group to play to a higher standard in 2022.

AFC EAST POSITION PREVIEWS

WR: Does Tyreek Hill give the Dolphins the division’s best pass-catchers?

RB: After adding trio of veterans, where do the Dolphins’ running backs rank?

QB: Josh Allen is an MVP favorite but is Tua the second-best QB in the division?

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