Why Liam Eichenberg Shouldn’t Start After Stint on IR

The Miami Dolphins have announced that offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg has been activated from the injured reserve. Eichenberg, a former second round pick out of Notre Dame, began the season starting at left guard. On November 1st, the Dolphins placed Eichengerg on injured reserve after he was carted off the field.

In his place, Robert Jones has stepped in amicably. Jones, undrafted out of Middle Tennessee State in 2021, has been better than anticipated, but still not great. However, this return to the active roster for Eichenberg should end there. Jones has been just as good — if not better — than Eichenberg was. The results on the field show in both the numbers and the tape. 

Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg
Photo Credit: Junfu Han-USA TODAY Sports

Why Keep Liam Eichenberg out of the Starting Lineup 

Discipline 

One of the biggest reasons Robert Jones has been an improvement over Liam Eichenberg has been the reduction in penalties. Both players have started about 7.5 games along the Dolphins offensive line, but Eichenberg has considerably more penalties. Eichenberg has totaled five penalties this season, with three of them being holding. A holding penalty can absolutely kill a drive and put your offense behind schedule. Jones has just two penalties, with both coming as five yard false starts. 

Run game revelation

The Dolphins’ run game was lost early in the season. However, they have managed to find some rhythm late this year. The biggest surge came in Jones’ second start against the Cleveland Browns, where Miami rushed for nearly 200 yards on the ground. Strong surges against Buffalo and Green Bay kept Miami in those games when the passing game was sputtering. The Dolphins spent far too much time early in the season averaging less than four yards per carry on the ground. 

The Outlook Going Forward

Robert Jones should certainly finish out the season at left guard, regardless of whether or not Liam Eichenberg is healthy. The results clearly show that Jones has been more effective, and January is not the time to be shaking up an offensive line that is playing relatively well. Going forward, however, could be a different story.

Both Eichenberg and Jones can be categorized as ‘replacement level’ players. They are not complete disasters like the days of Sam Young and John Jerry, but neither have produced results encouraging enough that Miami should be completely ignoring the position going forward. They can both be on the roster when training camp starts, but some type of stop-gap veteran should be signed in the process.

The Dolphins have a drastically improved offensive line from their 2021 disaster, but this unit is by no means a finished product. The line seemed to self-destruct any time that perennial pro-bowler Terron Armstead was out of the game. Better players at both left guard and right tackle should curb that trend.