AFC East: left tackle

The AFC East blog continues its "Show and Prove" series for players in the division in 2013.

Next up, we take a look at Miami Dolphins left tackle Jonathan Martin.

2012 stats: 16 starts

What he must prove: Martin has to prove that he can make the switch full-time from right tackle to left tackle, which is one of the toughest transitions in the NFL level. Fortunately for Martin, he played left tackle most of his career at Stanford University protecting college teammate Andrew Luck. Martin is a smart player who understands the mechanics of the position. However, he has big shoes to fill replacing four-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long.

Walker’s 2013 outlook: Opinions vary on Martin’s ability to make the switch. I thought he was more consistent on the right side last season and struggled when facing top competition on the left side. The thing I’m most concerned with is Martin’s strength. But Martin did a good job of adding noticeable bulk in the offseason in his upper body. What made Long so good was his consistency. In his prime, Long would go weeks without a bad play or allowing a sack. Martin still has to prove his consistency in Year 2. His development is one of the most important storylines for Miami this season.

That is the final installment of "Show and Prove" in the AFC East this week. For a recap, here's a look at the "Show and Prove" Class of 2013.
  • No. 1: Running back Lamar Miller, Dolphins
  • No. 2: Linebacker DeMario Davis, Jets
  • No. 3: Defensive end Mark Anderson, Bills
  • No. 4: Wide receiver Danny Amendola, Patriots
  • No. 5: Quarterback Kevin Kolb, Bills
  • No. 6: Wide receiver Stephen Hill, Jets
  • No. 7: Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, Patriots
  • No. 8: Left tackle Jonathan Martin, Dolphins

Offensive tackle Tyson Clabo explained his release from the Atlanta Falcons as "sudden" and "unexpected." But Clabo explained in a conference call why he feels he landed on his feet quite well by signing with the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

“When I was released and became a free agent, one of the things we wanted to find out was who had interest,” Clabo explained. “What teams do I think have use [for a right tackle] and on the move upward in the league? Miami was right there.”

Clabo, 31, is projected to start at right tackle for Miami after signing a one-year contract. Clabo started at right tackle for a majority of his career. He also played right guard in Atlanta in 2006. Miami’s in-house candidate, Jonathan Martin, is now the likely starter at left tackle.

Like many of Miami’s free-agent acquisitions, Clabo cited the potential of Dolphins second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill as one of the key reasons why he joined the team. Clabo grew with 2008 first-round quarterback Matt Ryan in Atlanta to become a perennial playoff contender and aims for similar results in Miami.

The Dolphins, my sleeper pick in 2013, look solid on paper and will try to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2008 season.

“We made some big moves in the offseason in free agency, and the draft look like it went really well,” Clabo said of the Dolphins. “With the young QB with a lot of upside, I feel like we can make some noise.”
There has been a long silence from the Miami Dolphins regarding four-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long. Miami apparently has no interest in paying top dollar to retain Long, who was the team's No. 1 overall pick in 2008.

But there are at least two teams reportedly in the hunt for Long's services. USA Today reports the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams are most interested in the soon-to-be former Miami offensive tackle. Both Chicago and St. Louis have a need at offensive tackle to protect their starting quarterbacks: Jay Cutler and Sam Bradford.

As free agency nears, it is more and more evident that we've probably seen the last of Long in a Miami uniform. The Dolphins have the cap room to spend but haven’t shown any indication they will use it on the veteran left tackle.

The only chance of Long returning to Miami is if he doesn't get much interest elsewhere in free agency and is willing to take a team-friendly contract. But those chances appear slim.

Is this it for Jake Long in Miami?

December, 4, 2012
The Miami Dolphins put four-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long on injured reserve Tuesday evening. Long tore his tricep muscle in the first half of Sunday’s 23-16 loss to the New England Patriots.

But here is the multi-million dollar question: Did Long just play his last game in Miami? The former No. 1 overall pick will be an unrestricted free agent in March after wrapping up his rookie contract.

Whether to re-sign Long or let him walk is the biggest decision Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland will make this offseason. It’s a complex situation with many layers.

Long was once considered the top left tackle in the NFL. But he’s been plagued by injuries and inconsistency the past two seasons. This is the second consecutive year Long ended his season on injured reserve. Can Miami make Long one of the NFL’s highest-paid linemen based on his play the past two seasons?

Long plays the premium position of left tackle, and good left tackles are hard to find. Long is no longer elite, but still a top-10 player at his position. The development of rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill also depends on good pass protection on the blindside.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the franchise tag is not an option for Long. Therefore, the Dolphins have narrowed their choices to a long-term extension or letting Long sign elsewhere.

The Dolphins (5-7) will start rookie Jonathan Martin at left tackle for the remainder of the season. Martin’s performance over the final four games could determine if Long returns to Miami next season.