Most football fans would not consider an offensive line coach to be an important hire. Matt Applebaum, next to Head Coach Mike McDaniel, was the Dolphins most important coaching hire this offseason. The team’s struggles along the line go back to before Tua Tagovailoa being drafted. There are number of reasons why Applebaum needs to be a successful offensive line coach, and here are the three biggest ones, in order of importance.
Matt Applebaum Has Work To Do With Worst Rated Line In NFL
Pro Football Focus rated the Dolphins offensive line was rated 32nd, dead last in the NFL, in 2021. Applebaum will be working with a young line. Every starter but one was 25 years old last year. Austin Jackson, at 20 out the University of Southern California, started at left tackle at times for the team last year. Miami needed veterans, such as Terron Armstead, tackle from the New Orleans Saints, and Dallas Cowboys guard Connor Williams, to mentor young linemen.
Offensive coaching was sited as an issue under Brian Flores. There was an awful lot of turnover on his offensive staff in only three years. Given the Dolphins long term problems with line play Applebaum and McDaniel need to work together to elevate its play, and the offense overall.
Better Offensive Line Play Needed In McDaniel’s Offense
Mike McDaniel’s offense relies on running to set up the pass. This is not the same as other NFL offenses. So many offenses in football now are pass first. Linemen learn and practice pass blocking more than run blocking now. That’s yet another reason Applebaum’s coaching is so important. Boston College’s offense, Applebaum was the Eagles offensive line coach last year, also heavily emphasized the running game. Pro Football Focus, at one point last season, ranked the Eagles line as high as number two in the nation.
Miami completely turned over its running backs this offseason. In order to make McDaniel’s offense work linemen need to be understand and work in his zone blocking scheme. Boston College offense also relied on a zone blocking scheme, one reason McDaniel hired Applebaum. The thought was that hiring a coach who already had run what McDaniel wanted would make the transition easier.
The Domino Effect
Better offensive line play is needed for the Dolphins to have a chance to make the playoffs. It can start a huge domino effect through the entire team. As the line improve so can the running game. Miami finished 30th in yards gained rushing last year. A better offensive line improves that stat.
Tua’s lack of time to throw last year forced him to throw shorter passes, mainly to Jaylen Waddle. With deep threats Waddle, Tyreek Hill, and Cedrick Wilson more time to throw means more explosive plays and better scoring. Miami needs to know whether or not Tua’s their quarterback beyond this year. Better offensive line play helps their evaluation.
Finally better offensive line play helps the defense as well. The Dolphins blitzed heavily under Flores. Miami retained Josh Boyer as Defensive Coordinator. Pass rushers need to remain fresh to be effective. Miami also very often leaves its corners in one-on-one coverage. Staying off the field limits chances they give up big plays down the field. This is why Applebaum’s hire was so important. Improvement by the Dolphins offensive line to the top of half of the league benefits the entire team.
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