When the Miami Dolphins drafted Notre Dame offensive tackle Liam Eichenberg in the second round of the 2021 NFL draft, the instant assumption was that he would secure the right tackle position for himself.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case so far.
Anyone who watches the way the Dolphins run things, they know that they love cross-training offensive linemen. Their desire for versatility on the offensive line is astounding. For years, fans and analysts have lamented Miami’s apparent refusal to allow players to develop in one specific spot. Laremy Tunsil moved inside to guard as a rookie. Fans feared the transition would impede Tunsil’s growth, all for the sake of Branden Albert staying at left tackle.
Thankfully, Tunsil’s development was not hindered. Not only that, he became good enough to warrant a massive trade to the Houston Texans for a king’s ransom of draft picks. Granted, he was packaged along with WR Kenny Stills, but Tunsil was the real highlight of that trade.
Now the Dolphins are doing the same with Liam Eichenberg. Since the opening of training camp, Eichenberg has played at both right tackle and left guard. Early reports indicated he was struggling in practice, but he’s been slowly improving throughout the process, which is promising.
Here are all of Liam Eichenberg's pass blocking reps with the first team line last night. He just doesn't lose very often. Even when he makes a mistake early in a rep, he battles back.
— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) August 22, 2021
“He did some good things.” Head coach Brian Flores said last Sunday. “There are some things he can improve on. He’s moved around, he played a few positions – last night he was at tackle. I thought he did well, but there are definitely a lot of scenarios where he can get better. They are watching the film right now. I know ‘Lem’ (Offensive Line Coach Lemuel Jeanpierre) is making the corrections with him. He’s a hard-working kid, so he’ll work hard to make the corrections and hopefully get another opportunity to improve this week during practice and we’ll see what next week looks like.”
Hardworking was one of the key factors for his draft status. At Notre Dame he had the chance to learn under the likes of Quenton Nelson and the very tail end of Ronnie Stanley’s college career. In college he earned the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the top lineman in the conference. So it’s obvious Eichenberg is worth investing time into. The only question is where. If Eichenberg continues training at left guard, that unseats Solomon Kindley, who also is working on his technique. If he plays at right tackle, he competes with veteran Jesse Davis, who is the projected starter.
The ideal scenario, obviously, is Liam Eichenberg taking Davis’s spot at right tackle. Davis has greater worth as a versatile reserve than as a starter. More recent reports indicate the Dolphins are spending more time with Eichenberg at right tackle now. Does this mean the team has made their decision?
According to co-offensive coordinator George Godsey, the answer seems to be no.
“It’s the same thing with the amount of guys on a roster on game day.” Godsey said on Monday. “He’s going to have to play multiple and learn multiple spots and based on the dynamics in that room, whoever is active come the first week of the season, which we’ve got some time, there needs to be some flexibility to be able to play inside and outside. We know that that’s a hard role and as each week goes on – going against another opponent this past week playing another spot – it’s going to help him grow and we want that to be fast as possible.”
If the goal is to develop a player as fast as possible, the Dolphins should seriously consider deciding definitely where they want Liam Eichenberg to focus. On Thursday, Brian Flores announced that many of the team’s starters would sit, including Jesse Davis.
So naturally, the assumption is that the start will go to Liam Eichenberg. That’s where he should be playing. His college career defines him as a talented tackle, not as a guard. Naturally the Dolphins want the best five players on the line, but maybe it’s time to stop thinking so hard about it. Sometimes the answer is much simpler than anyone can imagine.
Eichenberg anchros against a bull rush of Ogbah
Hunt thwarts Wilkins, who then tries a spin and Hunt gets him to ground
Davis tries power on Deiter, nothing doing
Butler gets good surge on Kindley, but Solomon recovered
Jackson absorbs bull by Van Ginkel, anchors and redirect https://t.co/ReMxLbF7sF
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) August 26, 2021
The most recent reports indicate Eichenberg is responding well to right tackle. That’s all the proof the Dolphins should need to make up their minds.
Luis Sung has covered the Miami Dolphins for numerous outlets such as Dolphins Wire for seven years. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
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