2012 will be a season perennial pro-bowl left tackle Jake Long will wish to forget. Right in the middle of what is considered a poor year by his standards, Long went down with a torn tricep in week 13 against the AFC East division leading New England Patriots. The reality of the situation, is that Long may have seen his last days in Aqua & Orange, as this was a contract year for him. The Miami Dolphins drafted Jonathan Martin early in the 2nd round on the 2012 draft, and will get a 4 game look back at his collegiate position on the left side.
There has been a trend lately towards talk about how Jake Long is possibly loosing his ability to dominate, and it is a possibility, but as it stands Jake Long is still a pretty good offensive tackle. According to ProFootballFocus, Long is currently rated as the 15th best tackle when it comes to pass blocking efficiency. He has allowed 4 sacks, 7 hits and 10 hurries. This is a good performance for most offensive tackles, but it is not up to par on what we have come to expect from Long. Jake’s performance in the run game this season has been pretty poor, as he has the 51st best grade in run blocking among all starting offensive tackles. Another area of concern is Long leads the offense in penalties. As the de facto leader on the line, Long really should not be the biggest rule breaker.
Lets not pretend that we can expect a better performance from rookie Jonathan Martin. Martin has the 55th best pass blocking efficiency among starting tackles. Martin has allowed 4 sacks, 2 hits, and 37 QB hurries on the right and allowed 1 sack, and 4 hurries in relief for Long in week 13. Martin is also ranked as the 70th best offensive tackle in run blocking. One can argue that Martin’s troubles are compounded by not playing his natural position, but I do not believe that.
Long and Martin just have two really different styles of play. Long has issues with speed rushers that beat him to the edge which is why he has allowed so many hits on the QB this year. However, Long has the strength to handle the power rushers and rarely gets pushed back, as evidenced by his low count on QB hurries. While Martin, typically does not allow his man to get around him, but he does not have the strength to go up against some of these defensive ends, and as such gets pushed backwards a lot, evidenced by his low count of hits, and his high count of QB hurries respectively. Martin is also poor in run blocking, as he is 70th in that ranking; my guess would be to still go back to the he is not strong enough.
At the end of the day, Long is still worth something to the Miami Dolphins. It would be crazy to sign him to a long term deal with Joe Thomas type money, considering his recent performance does not warrant it, nor is it safe with his recent history of multiple injuries. If the Dolphins have to use a franchise tag on him to give him one more year to see what hes got or draft a high round guy to replace him, so be it, because this upcoming draft should not be about offensive linemen in the early rounds. If the Dolphins do sign Long to a long term contract it really should be in the range of 7-9 million a year (for reference, Joe Thomas makes between 10-15 million a year).
Now matter the future, the Dolphins pass protection got worse with the injury to Long. Nate Garner could be a downgrade from Martin on the right and we dont know if Martin can step up on the blindside.