MIAMI — Death, federal taxes and conversations about the Miami Dolphins' offensive line. Such are the unavoidable realities for a South Florida sports fan.
An unstable position group has plagued an already unstable franchise over the past decade -- particularly over the past five seasons, which have produced more offensive line coaches (six) than Pro Bowlers (one). This offseason got off to a familiar start, with the Dolphins firing and hiring yet another position coach, but the Dolphins hope the cycle ends here.
Last season, Miami added Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead and center Connor Williams to its starting lineup, leading to a slight uptick in productivity. Any improvement was hamstrung, however, by injuries to right tackle Austin Jackson and left guard Liam Eichenberg. The Dolphins were forced to plug and play linemen throughout the season, resulting in the ninth-worst pass block win rate in the NFL.
General manager Chris Grier said the position wasn't necessarily an area of concern and that the team was more focused on adding depth, getting healthy and developing the players they already have.
"In our particular circumstance, you’re always trying to figure out what the perfect solution is for your team," Grier said.
There weren't any additions of the magnitude of last offseason, but the Dolphins made several signings that have improved their offensive line as a whole over the past few months. Former first-round picks Isaiah Wynn and Cedric Ogbuehi should push Jackson for the starting right tackle job and give the Dolphins a viable backup should Armstead miss any time.
Dan Feeney has starting experience at offensive guard and could replace Eichenberg if he's injured or ineffective.
The Dolphins are also looking for continuity on the sideline after firing first-year offensive line coach Matt Applebaum and hiring former Denver Broncos offensive line coach Butch Barry. Head coach Mike McDaniel said the move was made to take pressure off offensive coordinator Frank Smith.
“So realistically, the way the staff was orchestrated the previous year, I really needed to get more offensive coordinator work out of Frank Smith, and he was devoted a little too much to the offensive line," McDaniel said. "And I needed more, selfishly, to alleviate some stuff off my plate.”
Barry has nine years of NFL coaching experience, including one season with the San Francisco 49ers, with whom he worked with McDaniel, Dolphins tight ends coach Jon Embree and running backs Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr.
Even in their lone season together, Barry made an impression on Mostert. Enough for his vote of confidence heading into OTAs.
"If those guys up front can make it happen, then we’re going to be in good hands, and as of right now, they’re all locked in," Mostert said. "Especially with Frank being there to help, and then we also got Butch as well. Very familiar with Butch out in San Fran, so he’s going to going to get them right.”
A lack of depth buried the Dolphins' offensive line last season, and questions about the line's future remain with Williams and starting right guard Rob Hunt set to enter free agency next offseason. But this front office hopes it learned from previous mistakes and appears to be prepared in the event the Dolphins have another rash of injuries in 2023.