The Dolphins have given Austin Jackson chances at a few spots on their offensive line. Most recently, they plugged the 2020 first-round pick into their lineup at right tackle. But an injury nixed that opportunity and moved Jackson to a career crossroads of sorts.
Although Jackson played in just two games last season, GM Chris Grier said Wednesday the Dolphins still view the USC product as their starting right tackle. The draft can change teams’ situations, but this follows a report from the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson that indicated the fourth-year blocker indeed remains in play to be the Dolphins’ right-edge starter.
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Austin Jackson’s Week 1 ankle injury last season essentially wiped out his third NFL campaign; he wound up playing in just two contests and 84 total snaps. The Dolphins ended up needing to use an in-season free agent pickup — ex-Jets and Seahawks starter Brandon Shell — as their primary right tackle. Shell, who started 11 games last season, also missed time due to injury. Subsequent signing Eric Fisher did not stay healthy long enough to play in a game for the team.
Tua Tagovailoa being both the only current left-handed starting QB and coming off a multi-concussion season amplifies the importance of Miami’s right tackle gig. The Dolphins need to bring in competition for Austin Jackson, Barry Jackson adds, but the veteran writer points to a post-draft free agent signing rather than the team using its top pick (No. 51 overall) on this position.
As far as free agents go, multiyear Jets starter George Fant remains available. So does Cameron Fleming, who spent a chunk of last season as the Broncos’ right tackle starter. Shell is also currently unsigned. Seeing how the Bengals’ situation shakes out could be prudent for the Dolphins as well. Jonah Williams has not generated too much trade interest and does not want to play right tackle, but incumbent starter La’el Collins could lose his job if Williams returns and wins a competition to start opposite Orlando Brown Jr. While Collins, 29, is coming off a December ACL tear, the longtime Cowboys starter figures to have some run left once he recovers.
Jackson, 23, keeping the gig would mark his first chance to stay in the same role for two straight years. The Dolphins have used Jackson at guard and left tackle. He worked primarily at guard in 2021, starting 16 games. The team also has flexibility in guards Robert Hunt and Liam Eichenberg. Both have tackle experience, with Hunt starting his career at right tackle. As the Dolphins continue to search for post-Ja’Wuan James right tackle stability, Grier said the team plans to keep Hunt at guard. The former second-round pick is going into a contract year.