Don’t pity the Dolphins’ offensive line. Don’t grade them on a curve.
“It’s a production business,” right tackle Sam Young said.
So, set aside the injuries (everyone has injuries) and the loss of their offensive line coach to a midseason video scandal (likely a first in NFL history).
Look at the offensive line’s production in general numbers.
The Dolphins have allowed 32 sacks, 11th fewest in the NFL.
The offensive line has been pretty good when it comes to pass protection.
The Dolphins average 86.3 yards per game rushing, 28th in the NFL.
The offensive line hasn’t been good when it comes to run blocking.
Overall, they’ve been what you’d expect from a six- or seven-win team, which means not playoff-caliber.
“It seems like we’ve had games where we’ve had zero sacks and then the next game we’ll have six,” coach Adam Gase said. “It’s not just the line’s fault. It would come from a couple of different areas.
“For us, it’s just like anything else, we just need to be consistent.”
To be fair, this year’s offensive line has been stressed, on and off the field, such as few others in recent franchise history.
You know about the stress off the field. It’s the video scandal that took down ex-offensive line coach Chris Foerster in October, that video in which he was snorting a white powder.
On the field, the stress wasn’t just injuries to players such as guards Jermon Bushrod (foot), Ted Larsen (biceps) and Anthony Steen (foot), tackle Ja’Wuan James (back) or center Mike Pouncey (hip).
It’s about statistics.
The Dolphins have asked this offensive line to pass protect at a furious pace because they’ve trailed in so many games.
Miami is fifth in the league in passing attempts (558) and last in the league in rushing attempts (338).
The franchise record for passing attempts is 645, established in 1986 with legendary quarterback Dan Marino.
Last season Miami attempted 477 passes, 81 fewer than this year, and that’s with one game remaining. In light of that, allowing two more sacks than last season isn’t so bad.
“It’s not that terrible, I guess,” right guard Jesse Davis said in a moment of reluctant acceptance.
Gase said the high amount of pass attempts, spurred by frequent deficits, didn’t hurt the offensive line’s performance.
“I haven’t seen it,” he said. “They’ve done a good job of keeping [the pass rush] away from [quarterback] Jay [Cutler], and he’s gotten the ball out and guys are getting open quick, or trying to get open quick.
“There’s a sense of urgency there. They understand when we get in that situation the other team knows you’re throwing it and everybody’s got to be on their mark and we’ve got to be on time as far as throwing the ball.”
The franchise record for fewest rushing attempts in a season is 326. That was established in 1967, a time when team played 14-game regular seasons.
This is where the offensive line shoulders a large part of the blame.
Miami had 405 rushing attempts last season, which was 18th in the NFL. The Dolphins averaged 114 yards per game, which was ninth in the league.
This year, the Dolphins’ three rushing touchdowns rank last in the league.
Blocking for any running back – whether it Jay Ajayi or Kenyan Drake – has been bad. Holes have been scarce, and frequently backs were hit behind the line of scrimmage.
“There are some times where you just go, ‘Man, we’re getting it,’ ” offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said of the run blocking. “And then there are times where you go, ‘How does that happen? How did we set him free?’ ”
As the Dolphins look ahead, they have decisions to make about Pouncey, who is due $8 million next season, and James, who is due $9 million.
The Dolphins could keep either or both, locking down starting jobs, cut either or both, or attempt to re-negotiate with either or both.
Right guard Jermon Bushrod, who is on injured reserve with a foot injury and is about to conclude his 11th season, might retire.
Left tackle Laremy Tunsil, right guard Jesse Davis, and Larsen are among the top candidates to return, but it’s not out of the question three or four starters are back.
Whether that means the Dolphins would return a good offensive line might depend on how you judge this year’s group and its performance.