Monday, August 27, 2012

Jake Long suffers knee injury in Monday practice

As if things couldn't get any worse for the Miami Dolphins, the team suffered a scare Monday in practice when Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long went down with a knee injury, stayed down for several minutes before leaving the field and not returning.

Conflicting reports have emerged about the exact severity of Long's injury. Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post cites a source indicating the Dolphins "dodged a bullet" and classifying the injury as a "tweak."

However, ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted Monday night that an MRI was still to take place and that the injury was an MCL sprain. There could be truth to both reports, although an MCL sprain is technically a stretch and/or tear of the ligament and could put Long's availability for the Sept. 9 season opener in doubt.

In fact, a report from the Miami Herald says the Dolphins fear the injury could cost Long "1-to-3 weeks." The season opener at Houston is smack in the middle of that prognosis at 13 days away.

After Long's injury in practice, rookie right tackle Jonathan Martin moved to the left side, while guard Artis Hicks moved to right tackle and John Jerry stepped in as the starting right guard, where he has worked and excelled recently in Hicks' absence due to injury.

Such a setup would certainly not be ideal for the Dolphins, however. Martin has struggled mightily as the starting right tackle this preseason and probably wouldn't fare any better on the blind side despite playing there extensively at Stanford. The veteran Hicks has plenty of experience at tackle but has proved himself to be a weak starting talent, while Jerry remains a poor scheme fit and an inconsistent producer.

The Dolphins' depth is even thinner right now with minor injuries to Lydon Murtha (foot) and Nate Garner (ankle), who can play both guard and tackle. An extended Long injury could open the door for someone like Ray Feinga or Andrew McDonald to make the 53-man roster, with Will Barker and Will Yeatman remaining long shots.

Free agent options could be explored as well, with names like Kareem McKenzie (a former starter and two-time Super Bowl champion with the Giants) and Chad Clifton still on the market. Head coach Joe Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman obviously have an extensive history with Clifton from their time in Green Bay, although the 36-year-old veteran has had injury issues of his own.

While the Dolphins are unlikely to win many games in 2012 given all the roster's holes and simply not enough avenues to fill all of them this season, losing Long for an extended period of time would be a crushing blow not only to the team's already-challenged offense as well as another hurdle for rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has little to work with right now and was already facing tough pressure from opposing teams even when Long was part of the unit up front.