Why Mike McDaniel wants to give Liam Eichenberg, Austin Jackson Year 2 chance: 'Tons of potential'

PHOENIX — Mike McDaniel understands and hears the criticism and skepticism about the Dolphins' plan to give left guard Liam Eichenberg and right tackle Austin Jackson another chance to start.

But McDaniel, speaking at the NFL's owners meetings this week, expressed confidence in the decision.

"I see those guys as having a ton of potential and it needs to be developed," McDaniel said. "And that's what coaches are for. And I know one thing about those two specific players is their worst football, the football they played last year, will be the worst one, the worst football we'll see moving forward."

Jackson was a first-round pick who has not flourished at left tackle or left guard.

Eichenberg is a second-round pick who has not blossomed at left or right tackle.

Jackson missed 15 starts at right tackle due to injury last season.

Eichenberg missed seven starts at left guard due to injury last season.

No, they are not guaranteed to start in 2023. But McDaniel is convinced of one important reason he believes will lead to vast improvement.

"If you talk to any offensive lineman, the major growth in their game within the system that they're playing 100 percent of the time, is year two," McDaniel said. "So what's the best year two that Austin or Liam have had thus far in their career that people are judging them on? Like, year two of a system? The answer is it hasn't happened."

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McDaniel explained that in year two of his previous stops at Washington, Atlanta and San Francisco there were big jumps. "Historically, the numbers go up because the linemen know more of what you're doing and can understand it biomechanically," he said.

The Dolphins did sign veteran Dan Feeney to compete at left guard. And Miami will likely add another player to compete at right tackle.

"I will tell you that that that position, specifically offensive line, we aren't done with that position group," McDaniel said. "What does that mean? Are we talking about draft picks, free agents, undrafted free agents? Yeah, you know, we'll do the best that we can with the afforded opportunity and get the best products for sure."

Eichenberg was a solid tackle at Notre Dame and his mobility should be a good fit for Miami's outsize zone scheme. The same can be said for Jackson, who has flashed some athleticism at right tackle.

Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Liam Eichenberg (74) walks on the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Liam Eichenberg (74) walks on the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Each player has worked on technique and generating power.

McDaniel used guard Laken Tomlinson of the Jets as an example of a lineman given up on too early.

Tomlinson was a first-round pick of the Lions, but he was shipped to San Francisco after only two seasons for a fifth-round pick. McDaniel said executive Martin Mayhew expressed regret to him for giving up too quickly.

"He started every game for like the next four years for us and then got it two contracts after that," McDaniel said. "So he was labeled a bust. He hadn't been in a system for two years in a row. And then he came to us and we invested in him and developed him. So you're trying not to make that mistake."

There is going to be competition at left guard and right tackle. But Miami made a strategic opportunity-cost decision not to invest big in free agency at those spots.

And a belief that it's too soon to give up on Eichenberg and Jackson was a key factor.

"I think it would be irresponsible of us to not see it through," McDaniel said.

Joe Schad is a journalist covering the Miami Dolphins and the NFL at The Palm Beach Post. You can reach him at and follow him on Instagram and Twitter @schadjoe. Sign up for Joe's free weekly Dolphins Pulse Newsletter. Help support our work by subscribing today.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel on offensive line: We aren't done