Dolphins' offensive line so decimated standout guard Robert Hunt played tackle
MIAMI GARDENS ― Robert Hunt of the Dolphins has been one of the best right guards in the NFL this year.
The Dolphins love Hunt's size and strength and mobility at guard and have wanted to leave him there to develop, after previous experience at tackle.
But when Brandon Shell injured an ankle and a knee in last Sunday's must-win game against the Jets, Miami felt its best option was to shift Hunt to right tackle and insert Robert Jones at right guard.
How much had Hunt practiced as guard this season?
"Not much. Not much," Hunt said this week. "Probably little to none."
In the fourth quarter, Hunt was quite good. He may have even gotten in a pancake block or two.
"Some smaller bodies that you get on quicker at tackle," Hunt said. "But I've gotten a couple of big guys at guard. You know the way I want to play the game. But they usually find me — the pancakes."
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Shell was an excellent free agent pickup. But because he's likely out Sunday, Hunt figures he'll see practice reps at both tackle and guard this week, in advance of Sunday's playoff game at Buffalo.
"I was ready for it," Hunt said of the shift. "I came into this league as a tackle. I think I can still be a tackle. If they need me to play tackle, I'll play tackle."
Dolphins hurting at worst time
Miami has stayed healthy at center (Connor Williams) and right guard (Hunt). But the rest of the spots on Miami's offensive line have been decimated by injury. As in, way more than usual.
Consider that Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead has missed the past two games due to injuries to his toe, pectoral, knee and hip.
"This league is tough, man," Armstead said Wednesday. "It’s a 100% injury rate, so more than likely there will be changes to the lineup in the course of a season. The importance is having that depth, staying ready and dual training."
It seems more probable that backup left tackle Greg Little would start for Armstead on Sunday than not. Little recently stepped in for Kendall Lamm, who was also injured.
At right tackle, Shell was subbing in for Austin Jackson, who has been on injured reserve twice this season.
Armstead was seen on the practice field on Friday for the first time all week.
At left guard, Liam Eichenberg has returned from injury for the past two games. But he has not practiced this week due to a hand injury and may again be replaced by Jones.
Terron Armstead voted 'Good Guy'
Armstead received the Miami Dolphins "Good Guy" Award on Wednesday. That award is voted on by the media and presented to a player who displays exemplary professionalism and cooperation.
One thing Armstead has shown is great patience in answering a multitude of questions about his multitude of injuries throughout the season. (Linebacker Jaelan Phillips was also a finalist.)
Coach Mike McDaniel, offensive coordinator Frank Smith and offensive line coach Matt Applebaum have done a good job at getting decent production from their wounded, battered and staggered offensive line.
Consider that Miami signed former Pro Bowler Eric Fisher as a top-shelf emergency tackle and he went on injured reserve before ever even playing a game.
The Dolphins allowed only 35 sacks this season, ninth-best in the NFL.
And despite limited rushing attempts, Miami averaged 4.3 yards per carry, tied for 18th.
When Armstead plays, Miami's offensive line is much more stable.
But even without him, scheme and coaching have prevented disaster.
Perhaps Miami goes with Armstead or Greg Little (backup), Robert Jones, Connor Williams, Robert Hunt (starting guard) or Jones and Hunt or Little on Sunday, but nothing is guaranteed.
The way things have gone, it would not shock anyone if Geron Christian, a tackle who signed on Jan. 5, were to end up on the field Sunday.
As for Robert Hunt, Miami does feel he can be a future Pro Bowler at right guard. But at this point of the season, they all have to do what they have to do. And that may again mean tackle.
"I'm gonna work my [butt] off," Hunt said. "Whether it's guard or tackle."
Joe Schad can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Miami Dolphins forced to move standout guard Robert Hunt to tackle