Getting his first start at center in place of an injured Joe Berger, veteran offensive lineman Cory Procter's night took a downward turn in a hurry when he suffered a significant knee injury in the first quarter of the Miami Dolphins' 16-0 loss to the Chicago Bears.
Procter, who was sprinting downfield for a dump-off pass, fell to the ground without contact by a defender and was immediately in pain.
Initial reports the following morning are that Procter has a torn ACL in his knee, which would end his season. An MRI is scheduled for Friday.
After Procter's injury, the Dolphins were forced to move left guard Richie Incognito inside to center and insert Pat McQuistan, who has worked extensively at right guard this season, at left guard.
Although Incognito had center experience from his time with the Rams, he struggled mightily last night and routinely gave quarterback Tyler Thigpen low snaps out of the shotgun.
The Dolphins offense in turn struggled as a whole, gaining just 10 first downs, going 1-for-11 in third-down conversions, allowing six sacks, and failing to put any points on the board.
Now 5-5, the Dolphins are on the playoff bubble and heading in the wrong direction as injuries continue to mount. They'll have a long period off before they head to Oakland and face the Raiders in Week 12.
The Dolphins' offensive line is in as bad of shape as it's been in this season, and losing Procter does not help things.
While Procter is merely a reserve for the most part and Joe Berger is expected to return to the field in the Dolphins' next game, it's not good to lose depth on a line that already isn't doing half its job.
The run-blocking was nonexistent yesterday, as it has been for most of the season. Incognito and Berger have been bad as starters, but things got even uglier when Incognito was forced to play center and McQuistan right guard.
The pass protection also broke down quite a bit yesterday, which is something we haven't really seen often this year. This can obviously be attributed to the lack of talent inside and guys playing out of position, and to some extent the shoulder injury being played through by Jake Long.
Procter will likely be placed on injured reserve shortly, and will be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. He becomes an unlikely candidate to be re-signed by the Dolphins, as there is no guarantee he'll be ready for training camp given the late part of the season in which he suffered the injury.
A lot of people bring up guys like Jake Grove and Donald Thomas as players we should bring in to help solidify the line, and I will certainly grant you the run blocking was better when those guys were starting.
That being said, Grove's injury history is well-documented, and I think it's quite telling than neither he nor Thomas has been signed by any NFL team 11 weeks after the season began.
Instead of picking up a free agent veteran, I'd expect the Dolphins to promote second-year Ray Feinga from the practice squad to take his spot. Feinga is still with the Dolphins after a car crash and injury in training camp, a finger injury in the preseason, and a four-game suspension for an undisclosed violation of league policy, so he obviously has something they like.
Second-year center Andrew Hartline, who was released from the practice squad a few weeks ago, could be a candidate to be brought back for depth while Berger works toward returning to the field.
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Chris J. Nelson majored in journalism at Georgia State University and is currently a programming coordinator for Turner Sports in Atlanta. He operates his own Miami Dolphins website, The Miami Dolphins Spotlight, and he can be followed on Twitter here.
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