The current Dolphins regime was very fortunate in that they took over the team having the first pick in the NFL draft of 2008. Their selection to begin rebuilding the team was Jake Long, Michigan offensive tackle. There has been much debate whether this was an appropriate decision, as left tackles are rarely playmakers, but nobody could argue that Jake Long had been among the top three in the NFL at his position.
Things have changed since last season. Long injured his knee in a 2010 preseason game and hasn't been the same since. Playing Long in a meaningless game may have been Sparano's greatest error as Dolphin coach. Long had a decent but subpar season in 2010-2011. He then underwent knee surgery during the offseason, although the exact nature of the procedure hasn't been fully disclosed. This year, Long has regressed into a journeyman left tackle at best. Nobody is revealing whether Long is still recuperating from his surgery or if this will be a permanent situation. Long, in a sense, was the Dolphins' franchise player. He is also one of the highest paid offensive linemen in the NFL. If Long is slipping, the Dolphins will have to make some very difficult decisions in the upcoming 2012 NFL draft and continue to address their porous offensive line.