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Why Jake Long Will Be Key to Miami Dolphins' Offensive Hopes in 2012

Devin NoonanCorrespondent IIIJuly 17, 2012

Why Jake Long Will Be Key to Miami Dolphins' Offensive Hopes in 2012

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    The Miami Dolphins are in the process of a complete offensive overhaul.

    Their success will certainly depend on their quarterback selection; on running back Reggie Bush, and possibly even on wide receiver Chad Ochocinco.

    But there is another offensive star that always seems to go unmentioned.

    I'm talking about starting left tackle, Jake Long.

    Mike Sherman and Joe Philbin are on a mission to turn this Dolphin franchise around with a entirely new offensive scheme.

    The fast-paced, west coast-style of play will require a lot of patience and a ton of hard work from all parties involved.

    As the 2012 season continues to draw closer and closer, here are some reasons why Jake Long holds the key to the Dolphins' offensive success.

Leadership Ability

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    With Mike Pouncey back under center for his second NFL season and rookie Jonathan Martin stepping in for his first, it will be up to Jake Long to show the offensive line how business is handled in Miami.

    Jake Long is returning from a torn right bicep injury that sidelined him at the end of last season.

    As he comes back healthy in 2012, he recognizes the need to step up and motivate the players around him.

    Long has even recently mentioned that he will take it upon himself to act as one of the team's vocal leaders—an effort to hopefully help smooth the transition over to Joe Philbin's new style of play.

    As one of the team captains, it will be his duty to help mentor the younger members of the O line, while also keeping the veterans such as Richie Incognito and Artis Hicks in check.

    If he can emerge as an offensive leader, it will certainly take some weight off of the yet-to-be-named starting quarterback and running back Reggie Bush in the huddle.

Raw Talent

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    Jake Long was the No. 1 overall selection in the 2008 NFL Draft.

    Since then, Long has entered each season as the Dolphins starting left tackle and earned himself four consecutive Pro Bowl selections.

    The 6'7", 320 pound offensive tackle has given the team all they could ever hope for on the field.

    As the Dolphins switch their offensive scheme in an effort to increase tempo and scoring opportunities, the entire line will need to make adjustments.

    Joe Philbin and Mike Sherman plan to implement a zone-blocking scheme, one that the Dolphins are relatively unfamiliar with.

    Long, who is a natural athlete, will hold a lot of the responsibility for helping his teammates adjust to the new style of blocking while also figuring it out for himself.

Pass Protection

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    The Dolphins still have a question mark next to their starting quarterback position for next season.

    Regardless of who is under center, the 'Phins will need to provide their offensive leader with the time and confidence necessary to sit in the pocket and make big plays.

    As the entire offensive game plan changes, it is critical now more than ever to protect the QB as they adjust and get comfortable to calling an entirely foreign playbook.

    As of right now, rumors report that Ryan Tannehill will not be the starter coming opening kick-off.

    Sources also say that David Garrard has emerged as the early leader for the starting role over the returning Matt Moore.

    If this is the case, than it will be extremely important for Jake Long to provide blind side protection for the injury prone, 34-year-old QB.

    Garrard is very possibly a few big hits away from seriously considering retirement, especially with his bad back.

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