For the first time in six years, the Miami Dolphins' offensive line will not be anchored by Jake Long, the first overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft. In his place will be second-year lineman Jonathan Martin, who is quite confident he can fill the shoes of the four-time Pro Bowl selection.
"I played left tackle in college, so I'm really comfortable there," Martin said Wednesday. "I'm confident in what I can do. I'll just do the best I can to help this team win."
The Dolphins picked Martin in the second round of the 2012 Draft, and he started all 16 games for Miami last season at right tackle. Now he has the task of protecting QB Ryan Tannehill's blind side, something he did for Andrew Luck at Stanford.
Taking Martin's spot on the right side is Tyson Clabo, who the Dolphins signed away from the Atlanta Falcons. The seven-year veteran was a 2010 Pro Bowl selection.
"He's a very talented player, and from what I understand he was very well liked and a good locker-room guy," Clabo said. "So obviously I'm not trying to replace him. I'm just trying to come in and find my own spot and fill the void that's my job to fill, provide a veteran presence and help this team figure out how to win."
Miami is hoping for improvement from the offensive line, which would go a long way towards turning around
The Dolphins scored on just 27% of their offensive possessions in 2012 (5th-worst in the NFL), were near the bottom of the league in passing yards, and gained a ho-hum 4.0 yards per rush (19th-best in the league).
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said Martin showed good signs in 2012, but will need to improve in 2013.
"We saw a lot of progress. We saw development there," Philbin said Wednesday. "His technique was good. He needs to work on the consistency of his punch, but overall we thought he played well. He had the whole offseason to get comfortable and work on things, so we're expecting him to play better."
His teammates are equally supportive. "It takes all five for us to be good, and we're going to be good," center Mike Pouncey said. "We definitely miss Jake, but Jonathan Martin is adjusting to the left side, and we're looking for a big year out of him."
One thing Martin expects will help: he gained 15 pounds of muscle after undertaking an offseason workout routine that was initially devised to help him lose weight.
"I think it will help a lot," he said. "It'll give me a better anchor and more power in the running game."
Just about everyone is looking for a big second-year improvement out of Tannehill, and if Martin does his job, the quarterback should have a much easier time finding his newly-upgraded receiver corps open downfield all season.