Dolphins fans have 30 million guaranteed reasons to expect No. 1 overall pick Jake Long to make an impact for their rebuilding club. Franchise left tackles come at a steep price, without a clear-cut skill position player jumping out as a potential No. 1, Miami went for the big rock while hoping to lock down the position for the next decade. The immediate comparisons and expectations may be drawn from 2007 No. 3 overall pick Joe Thomas.
Thomas immediately stepped in at left tackle for the Browns and made an impact, helping the revamped Cleveland line leap from the 30th in the NFL in sacks allowed (54) in 2006 to third (19). The Browns also were the best team in the NFL at converting third and short situations (3rd and < 4) at 88.9% (16-for-18), while the Browns averaged 5.12 yards per carry behind Thomas -- sixth best in the league despite going that way 190 times (third most). He capped off his impressive rookie campaign with a selection as the first alternate for the AFC Pro Bowl. Beyond Thomas, the Browns had made other improvements to their line including guard Eric Steinbach (2007), after picking up center Hank Fraley and tackle Kevin Shaffer in 2006. Further, the Browns added a credible threat to their backfield in Jamal Lewis, and they finally had a healthy Braylon Edwards-Kellen Winslow duo on the field together. Overall, a nice arsenal behind a rapidly improved line.
Long was a dominant force in college, allowing just two sacks during his senior season at Michigan, and as far as the Miami offensive line goes, they've hovered atop the bottom third of the NFL in sacks allowed (41) in each of the last two seasons, while quietly making improvements including Justin Smiley at guard and Vernon Carey at right tackle. Despite the limited talent on offense last season, running back Ronnie Brown was on his way to a breakout season before tearing his ACL in October. Long's short-term impact probably won't be as pronounced as Thomas', given the uncertain health of Brown, the fact that Ted Ginn and Ernest Wilford simply aren't as good as Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow, and the uncertainty at quarterback with Josh McCown, John Beck and possible Chad Henne? vying for the snaps this summer.
The bottom line here is that there's a little bit less going on in Miami this year than there was in Cleveland last season, so Dolphins fans may have to wait a little while before this pick pays off.
Posted by Derek VanRiper at 4/24/2008 5:00:00 PM