There’s not much to do so I figured I’d take a look back to see how much useful talent this team has cast off over the last several seasons. Here’s one name that stood out – Joe Berger. Berger’s career began in 2005 when he was selected by the Panthers in the 6[SUP]th[/SUP] round. Berger is first and foremost an intelligent guy. He graduated from the mechanical engineering program at Michigan Tech with honors. A sprained foot and a missed season saw him cut by the Panthers after his rookie year. He subsequently wound up in Miami and then Dallas where he played spot duty and remained a perennial back-up, often inactive on game days. He came back to Miami during Sparano’s stint as HC where his career really began. By that time Berger was getting a grasp on things. He could play all 3 interior positions and ended up beating out Jake Grove as the Dolphins starting Center. In 2011, Miami drafted Mike Pouncey and Berger was moved to the Vikings after training camp ended. What do you think happened? Well, you probably guessed it! He’s been an asset for the Vikings over the last 5+ years playing several positions, sometimes as a starter, sometimes as a back-up. In short, Berger looks like a journeyman who’s finally found some footing. While he’s not a dominant force, he’s capable of rotating between LG, C and RG in order to solidify his team’s line. Last year, Berger was asked to start all season at Center and it turns out he’s pretty solid. He did a very good job protecting Teddy Bridgewater. He also ended up being touted by PFF as the NFL’s best run blocker as he and his teammates helped Peterson lead the league with about 1,500 yards rushing. How nice would it be to have a smart veteran on the line that wasn’t at the end of his career? How nice would it be to have a position-flexible, interior lineman who could run block? How nice would it be to have something more than just Pouncey on the interior? How great would it be to have a real option in place if you decided to move Pouncey’s big contract? How nice would it be to have a guy who could shift into Pouncey’s shoes when he inevitably gets hurt? It kind of sounds like a tease doesn’t it? Miami could’ve held onto Berger and it breaks your heart. He’s typically worked for short term deals, too. It’s not like he’s had some big 5-year contract. He’s largely been year-to-year player with the Vikings. Let’s take a second to imagine what Miami’s line could be. LT: Albert / Bushrod LG: Incognito / Steen C: Pouncey / Berger RG: Berger / Steen RT: Tunsil / Bushrod That’s the most legitimate form of the O-line IMO. I’m not even including Ja’Wuan James. Heck, maybe it’s more realistic to think the team would’ve traded Albert for a draft pick, gotten his big contract off the books, accommodated Tunsil by keeping him at LT and just bitten the bullet with James as the RT. Point is, they’d have had options and none would be nearly as bad as the present line. And if you went that route and wanted to replace James at RT it’d be manageable because you’re talking 1 position instead of 3 or 4. In fact, it could be done with free agents like Andre Smith, Sebastian Vollmer or Ryan Schraeder this offseason. Or the team could just wait for the right player in the draft. Point is, between Albert, Tunsil, Pouncey, Incognito and Berger you’d have several starting caliber players and between Steen, Berger, and Bushrod you’d have some depth and position flexibility. Unfortunately, that story leads to a broader conversation about the coaching and how much we trust what’s been in place. Between a team’s Head Coach and its O-line coach, they’re supposed to help sift through what’s available on the roster and to make it as good as it can be. When the talent isn’t sufficient, they’re supposed to press the front office to bring in more. Yet the hall-mark of linemen in Miami is that most get consistently worse year to year and it essentially takes a first round pick to get any sort of consistency. We’ve also seen the team hold onto bad players while letting the solid ones go. To me, the problems seem to go a lot deeper than just lack of talent on the roster. Injuries have derailed Pouncey and he looks less conditioned today than in his first couple years, which incidentally were his only 16-game seasons. What I hope is that his injuries have simply gotten in the way of his preparation and conditioning. It’d be easier to stomach if I knew the decline in strength and conditioning was caused by the constant injury issues but I can’t be sure of that. Ja’Wuan James has obviously regressed and is another player (like Pouncey) who simply looks weaker than he should. He doesn’t look like he’s gotten stronger since coming into the league and his technique is certainly no better. Both Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner are extreme examples of guys who are both terrible in their technique and who get pushed around as a result. Is bad coaching making these guys even worse than they are? Neither were exactly polished coming into the league but they seem to have gotten even sloppier over time. It’s as if they’re not being coached at all. And then we have guys like Joe Berger and John Jerry who were JAGs in Miami but yet have gone on to be starters for other teams. In Berger’s case he appears to actually be pretty solid. I dare say that even Incognito looks more dominant with the Bills than he ever was with Miami where most thought of him as a solid-at-best Guard. It's as if every year as a fan we say "at least it can't be worse" and then somehow it always is. Let's hope this season marks the end of this and that finally, at some point, the O-line is coached up properly in Miami.