Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dolphins' versatile OL Nate Garner to miss eight weeks

The Miami Dolphins' offensive line depth has taken a significant blow this week, as offensive tackle Nate Garner will reportedly miss the next eight weeks due to a foot injury.

Garner recently had surgery on his foot for the second time this offseason—an injury that forced him to miss time during OTAs.

Though not projected as a starter after seeing time at guard in 2009, the injury is significant because Garner is the top backup right tackle behind Vernon Carey. Garner also had the most versatility among the Dolphins' backup linemen, with the ability to play anywhere on the line.

The Dolphins must now decide if it is worth carrying Garner on the active 53-man roster well into the season, as the eight-week timetable for his return would put him out until October.

Garner's injury will also impact which other reserve linemen make the team following the preseason.

The Dolphins typically keep nine offensive linemen, and a healthy Garner would undoubtedly be in that nine.

If the Dolphins keep an extra spot for Garner in addition to nine healthy linemen, there is an intriguing battle between the backup guards and backup tackles.

With two centers (Jake Grove and Joe Berger) plus four other starting linemen locks, that leaves three roster spots for five players—guards Ray Feinga, Cory Procter, and Donald Thomas, and tackles Lydon Murtha and Andrew Gardner.

I like Procter's chances as an experienced starter and ex-Dallas Cowboy, while Murtha appears to have a good shot as Jake Long's primary backup.

Conversely, Feinga has no NFL experience and has already been waived once during camp, making him the longest shot of the bunch.

That means Donald Thomas and Andrew Gardner are potentially competing for one roster spot. The Dolphins will keep four guards or four tackles, but almost certainly not four of each.

I've had Thomas as a potential roster casualty since camp began, but Garner's injury could certainly help his chances of making the team.

I don't think either Thomas and Gardner are held in very high regard by the Dolphins' organization, so it's possible the Dolphins could opt to keep only eight linemen and pick up a ninth after cuts—the same way Nate Garner was acquired from the Jets two years ago.

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