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Dolphins T Greg Little Looking at Big Opportunity

Former second-round pick Greg Little might be the front-runner when it comes to the backup offensive tackle role

Greg Little didn't play in the Miami Dolphins preseason opener, but he still might have taken a step toward becoming the team's primary backup offensive tackle this season.

The backup tackle spot has been one of the more highly contested battles during Dolphins camp, and Little is listed on the depth chart as the second-team right tackle opposite second-team left tackle Larnel Coleman.

Little's name hasn't come up all that often during camp, but he drew praise from head coach Mike McDaniel when he explained his absence from the 26-24 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“He’d been really doing well, flashing some stuff and gaining some confidence that he should have and deserves, and we didn’t want to compromise that confidence by putting him out there before he was ready,” McDaniel said. “He’s really day-to-day, and we’ll continue that evaluation so we can get the right Greg Little out there on the field.”

THE BATTLE FOR THE DOLPHINS BACKUP TACKLE JOB

Along with Little and Coleman, the other tackles on the depth chart are Kion Smith and rookie free agent Kellen Diesch. Little is the only one of the four with any NFL regular season experience.

This battle is so important because Miami’s prized free agent acquisition, left tackle Terron Armstead, has never played a full season of games.

The Dolphins acquired Little, a former second-round pick, in a trade with the Panthers last August. He didn’t suit up for Miami last season after being inactive for 10 games and then being placed on injured reserve in November.

With Armstead and Little out, Coleman (42 snaps) and Smith (34) both got extensive action against Tampa Bay on Saturday, and the results were spotty at best.

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The Dolphins produced just 49 rushing yards on 14 carries, and 41 of those yards came on two carries by Skylar Thompson and Myles Gaskin. Smith and Coleman aren’t the only ones responsible for those poor numbers, but they didn’t perform well in this area either.

The running game might be one area Little can help the Dolphins if he’s forced into action this season. Little earned a PFF run blocking grade of 66.2 in 2020, and his film does show he’s capable of creating movement when he’s square with his target.

A GREG LITTLE SCOUTING REPORT

Additionally, Little’s combine testing points to some potential upside in Miami’s new outside zone running scheme. He finished in the 92nd percentile in the broad jump and 50th percentile in the 20-yard shuttle.

Those numbers point to solid short-area explosiveness, which is vital for success when running the outside zone.

Little will have to make major strides in pass protection during training camp to prove he deserves this role. This was another area where Coleman and Smith had some struggles on Saturday night, with each beaten for a Tampa Bay sack.

Coleman received favorable pass blocking grades, but it’s clear when watching the film he was having trouble handling speed off the edge for most of the night. Smith was graded poorly, and he too struggled with some of Tampa Bay’s quicker rushers.

In 2020, Little was charged with six quarterback pressures, five quarterback hurries and had a PFF pass block grade of 24.4. His film backs up that low grade. He was consistently getting beat by speed and struggled to communicate with his fellow linemen to cover up blitzes, leading to busted plays.

On the flip side, Little’s natural length — his 85-inch wingspan ranked in the 94th percentile at the combine — is clearly an effective tool when he gets his hand placement correct.

The bar for a backup tackle (based on the current roster) in Miami isn’t high, and Little has the best pedigree of the bunch and the most regular season starts, all of which were at left tackle.

Combine that with his raw power in the running game, and McDaniel’s positive comments about his training camp performance, and Little looks like a real contender for the job, if not the outright front-runner.