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Friday, May 8, 2009
Point of attack: Dolphins run blocking


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

The Miami Dolphins were decent when it came to run blocking last year. They had two capable backs in Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, finishing 11th in the NFL in average per carry but 22nd in average yards per game.

2008 Dolphins O-line at the point of attack
Player POA att. Yds Avg POA pct.
Jake Long, LT 105 532 5.1 88.6
Justin Smiley, LG 86 433 5.0 87.2
Andy Alleman, LG 52 167 3.2 73.1
Samson Satele, C 132 711 5.4 79.5
Ikechuku Ndukwe, RG 126 638 5.1 85.7
Vernon Carey, RT 119 646 5.4 84.9

KC Joyner's film-room research, which will be included in his upcoming book, "Scientific Football 2009," shows the Dolphins were pretty good --- not great.

The chart here breaks down a lineman's performance by net point-of-attack attempts (plays in which he was at the point of attack plus penalties committed and drawn), yards gained on these plays and his blocking success rate.

Joyner considers an 80 percent POA success rate borderline acceptable.

The Dolphins had four who met that baseline. But two linemen didn't, and nobody graded out at 89 percent or higher. Every other AFC East team had at least one 90 percent grade.

That illustrates why head coach Tony Sparano, an offensive line coach at his core, fired line coach Mike Maser after the season.

The Dolphins also addressed the biggest weakness, according to Joyner's numbers. They signed Oakland Raiders free-agent center Jake Grove and later pawned Samson Satele off on the Raiders.

Satele led the AFC East with 20 lost blocks, even though eight linemen had more POA attempts than his 130. But he did have the most POA attempts on the team and was involved in gaining the most yardage when blocking at the point of attack.

In Joyner's behind-the-chart numbers, left guard Justin Smiley was pushed into the backfield a team-high three times, but that's a respectable number. Right guard Ikechuku Ndukwe allowed a team-high five defenders to get into the backfield and make contact with the ball carrier.

Rookie left tackle Jake Long was defeated only five times at the point of attack, was pushed into the backfield only once and allowed two backfield penetrations.