Even amid recent health and performance issues, Miami Dolphins offensive line coach Steve Marshall wanted to make one thing very clear Tuesday:
He remains just as bullish about the futures of Dolphins rookie linemen Austin Jackson, Rob Hunt and Solomon Kindley as he was in September, when Jackson and Kindley were healthy and playing well.
Asked if recent developments have shaken his confidence or left him less convinced about whether these three rookies will become long-term NFL starters, Marshall said:
“None whatsoever. As you go through your rookie season, with all the different challenges [it’s not going to be a cakewalk]. l’m very excited about those three young guys as I have been all along.”
Here’s how each stands:
▪ Jackson’s play at left tackle has been uneven in four games since returning from a foot injury. Over the past two games, he was accountable for two sacks (both against Denver) and 11 quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. For the season, only eight NFL offensive tackles have allowed more quarterback pressures than Jackson’s 27, and those eight have played substantially more snaps than Jackson.
The good news: Jackson has allowed only three sacks, which isn’t an egregious number.
As perspective, Philadelphia former All Pro tackle Jason Peters — who shifted to guard this week because of a toe injury — has allowed seven sacks in 317 pass-blocking chances.
San Francisco and former Washington seven-time Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams has permitted four sacks in 396 pass-blocking snaps. So Jackson’s three sacks allowed in 306 pass-blocking chances isn’t awful by any means.
For most of the season, Jackson has been competent. And his run-blocking grades Sunday were excellent.
▪ Right tackle Hunt, who has started six games, wasn’t blamed for any of the 10 sacks on Dolphins quarterbacks the past two weeks, though he did permit three hurries, per PFF. He has permitted just one sack in 206 pass-blocking chances. And he graded out well in run blocking against the Jets.
“I’m real happy with Rob,” Marshall said.
Why is Jesse Davis playing right guard and Hunt right tackle instead of vice versa?
“I feel comfortable [with that lineup] because Jesse has had more experience than Rob has [at guard],” Marshall said. “Jesse has played every position on the offensive line other than center in a game. Those kinds of guys are invaluable in this league. There might be a time where Rob can move around and play different positions. I don’t think it’s quite the time to do it.
“Jesse has proven to be a solid guard and a solid tackle. I see Rob in that same [light] down the road. I don’t think he’s quite there yet.”
▪ Right guard Kindley allowed two sacks against Denver — after relinquishing just one in his first nine games — and his status is now in question because of a painful foot injury that sidelined him last week.
The good news: His pass protection had been very good the first two months; veteran guard Ereck Flowers has allowed one more sack than Kindley has this season. And with his size and strength, Kindley has the tools to become a very good run blocker.
THIS AND THAT
▪ Malcolm Perry’s chest injury isn’t serious and he won’t be out long-term, but his status for Sunday’s game against Cincinnati is undetermined, according to a team source.
If Perry misses any time, the Dolphins have some uncertainty at slot receiver, where Lynn Bowden, Antonio Callaway and Jakeem Grant could all get work. Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey suggested one of the most appealing options is using Miami’s No. 1 receiver, DeVante Parker, at least partially in the slot, where he has been very effective against traditionally shorter nickel corners.
“We’ve got some options there,” Gailey said of slot receiver. “We have to be able to use everybody at our disposal there. We try to not pigeonhole too much where guys are going to be. DeVante has been more of an outside guy but we have played him inside and he’s good in there. He’s done it and can make some plays inside in the slot.
“As the rest of the season unfolds we are going to have to use these other guys in different and varied ways. Malcolm has come a long way. Lynn has come a long way. Antonio is learning as he goes. It’s going to take everybody.”
▪ Bowden, the former dynamic Kentucky quarterback and playmaker and third-round pick acquired from the Raiders in August, has played just 45 offensive snaps and has four carries for nine yards and one reception for minus one yards.
“He’s done a good job coming along,” receivers coach Josh Grizzard said Tuesday. “You see him move around a little bit, whether it was in the backfield or an empty formation.”
Grizzard said Bowden needs reps — in games and practices — to gain more knowledge of defensive coverages. “[We’re] trying to use his abilities in ways to get him the ball and let him do something with it,” Grizzard said.
▪ Gailey said the Dolphins are keeping quarterbacks separated at practice and not allowing them to huddle together to prevent a COVID outbreak in the quarterback room.
Incidentally, quarterback coach Robby Brown said undrafted rookie Reid Sinnett - who was returned to the practice squad after serving as Ryan Fitzpatrick’s backup on Sunday - “does a really good job with the mental aspect of the game. He does everything the right way. We’ve been pleased what we’ve seen so far. He has to continue to try to raise the bar for himself.”
▪ The Dolphins are delighted with how second-year pro Nik Needham has improved at nickel cornerback, a job he seized in competition with Jamal Perry. Quarterbacks have an 82.5 passer rating in Needham’s coverage area; he has one interception and hasn’t allowed a touchdown.
From a defensive standpoint, that passer rating is 19th best among all NFL cornerbacks who have been targeted at least 40 times.
“Nik is becoming a true professional,” defensive coordinator Josh Boyer said. “He comes to work like a sponge, wants to absorb as much information from players, coaches. His work ethic has taken off to a new level. The extras he does before and after practice, the film study -- it’s an awesome thing to see as a coach. He’s taken a real initiative. Nik has made some great strides. We’re going to ask him to do more.”
▪ Running backs coach Eric Studesville said he won’t know until Wednesday’s practice whether Myles Gaskin is ready to be activated off injured reserve after missing four games with a sprained MCL.
In his absence, DeAndre Washington played well against the Jets, with 13 carries for 49 yards and two receptions for 11 yards.
“This is a passionate guy who prepares,” running backs coach Eric Studesville said of Washington, who was acquired last month from Kansas City. “It’s a credit to who he is, his work ethic and patience that he was ready for his opportunity when it came up. Physically he has vision, eyes to be able to find holes, has good feet in the holes. Ran with toughness the other day.
“In pass protection, I thought he did some really, really good things and he caught the ball well — had a nice screen play and another catch in the flat. He’s got a skill set that can help us.”
Washington is earning $900,000 and will be an unrestricted free agent after this season.