One yard. That’s all you needed from the Miami Dolphins’ starting offensive line. One stinkin’ yard against the Las Vegas Raiders junior varsity Saturday night to reinforce this constructed Summer of Love.
Second-and-1. Ball at the Raiders 24-yard line. You don’t ask for much in preseason. You don’t even ask for teams to show up anymore as the Raiders left half their team home. But is it too much to ask for one yard on three plays from much of this starting offense?
Running back Sony Michel went right on second down for no gain. He went over left guard on third down for no gain. This was behind four starters on this once-again-revamped offensive line — only tackle Terron Armstead sat out — and against Raiders second-teamers.
On fourth down, a false start from tackle Larnel Coleman meant the Dolphins settled for a field goal. Coleman was the one outlier on the line, the guy replacing Armstead — actually the guy replacing Greg Little who didn’t play in replacing Armstead. But come on.
Not to disrupt Camp Happy, where everything is new and better, but the yet-again-revamped line’s inability to get one yard on three plays brought ghosts this new-age regime has tamped down all offseason. Here’s the added context:
That’s the regular season’s first month’s schedule. It’s why August matters a little more for the Dolphins than most teams. A slow ramp-up to their game could be costly as they open with the NFL’s toughest schedule — three playoff teams last year and a fourth in Baltimore that nearly made the playoffs despite being the league’s most-injured team.
If the idea is Saturday’s preseason game means as much as a practice, then the Dolphins had an alarming practice. Tua Tagovailoa was fine in completing six of eight passes (with another dropped). But the starting defense minus cornerback Xavien Howard got pushed down the field 75 yards on the opening drive by a backup Raiders offense led by quarterback Jarrett Stidham.
Stidham isn’t starter Derek Carr, who isn’t Buffalo’s Josh Allen or Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow, who the Dolphins face in the opening month.
Is something still missing from this offensive line, too? The Dolphins moved three linemen to new positions in right tackle Austin Jackson, left guard Liam Eichenberg and center Connor Williams. Coach Mike McDaniel is a run-game specialist with his previous San Francisco run game considered the tops in the league by the likes of Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Johnson.
Saturday’s first play was a four-yard loss for starting running back Chase Edmonds. In the two drives Tagovailoa and the line played Saturday, there were five rushes for a total three yards. In the first half, they had four yards rushing on eight carries.
“That’s not very much,” McDaniel said. “It’s a fine line. I’m not overreacting to it. I’m not really one that is just black and white. All right, so you have a bunch of yards, and you can run the ball, and you don’t have any you can’t. Really rushing yards, if you have one explosive; it can be super misleading.
“What I do know is that the last two opponents, this one a little bit more so than the other one, our players were caught off guard with something they hadn’t seen on tape really. In the NFL you have to be able to do that. So, I’m happy that there’s no false sense of comfort level really.”
McDaniel has changed an uncertain narrative around Tua and this team into full-run optimism. That’s part of a smart coach’s job. And McDaniel is smart — he talks of “displacing” people rather than just “blocking” them.
No one’s asking for too much displacement this time of year against diluted competition.
Just one yard.
One stinkin’ yard.
This offense has better receivers, better coaching and a third-year Tagovailoa. But the fact the line can’t get a yard against a junior-varsity team rose the ugly memories of past years around Team Feelgood.