Chris Perkins: Dolphins’ role reversal between O-line and defensive front is curiously encouraging

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — So, perhaps we had it backward. Perhaps we should have expected the Miami Dolphins’ offensive line to play well in Sunday’s 36-34 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers, and should have expected the defensive front seven to be, well, sloppy.

But that makes no sense.

The Dolphins’ offensive line, which was shaky last season, was playing without Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead, their best player. The offensive line was a major concern entering this season.

And the Dolphins’ defensive front seven, which was good last season, and was projected to be even better this season under the direction of coordinator Vic Fangio, had everyone healthy. It was considered a source of strength entering the season.

Yet it was the offensive line that did great work Sunday against the Chargers.

We expect that the defensive front will come around.

But perhaps we should re-evaluate what the Dolphins are building offensively up front.

Perhaps this offensive line can be everything it wants to be, and more.

And perhaps this Dolphins team, fueled by a strong offensive line, will get its first playoff victory since the 2000 season.

“From our perspective, we’ve been saying it from the beginning,” said left tackle Kendall Lamm, who started in Armstead’s place, “we’re just trying to really and truly set a standard in the O-line room.”

Dolphins fans, who aren’t well-schooled on strong offensive line play, will be happy to hear that.

Dolphins fans certainly had to be happy with what they saw Sunday from an offensive line standpoint.

The offensive line, which was going against outstanding pass-rushing linebackers Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, didn’t allow a sack on quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who was 28 of 45 passing for 466 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

“Kudos to the line, and the room we have,” said right tackle Austin Jackson, who has been one of the biggest concerns on the line. “We set a very high standard that we try to achieve and we work toward it every day and we’re really honest with ourselves.”

The offensive line, which also includes center Connor Williams, left guard Isaiah Wynn and right guard Robert Hunt, did quality work against the Chargers.

Yes, the Dolphins only rushed for 70 yards on 20 carries.

But this was a game where they needed big plays in the passing game, and Tagovailoa had plenty of time to execute those big plays thanks to the offensive line.

The defensive front seven, on the other hand, allowed the Chargers 234 yards rushing, led by running back Austin Ekeler’s 117 yards.

“Real sloppy on defense by us,” edge rusher Jaelan Phillips said.

Give the defensive front credit for making crucial late-game plays, however.

Edge rusher Bradley Chubb, who ended with four tackles, including one for a loss, was putting pressure on Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert late in the game.

Defensive lineman Zach Sieler had a late-game sack.

And Phillips sealed the deal by combining with safety Justin Bethel for a fourth-down sack on Herbert on the Chargers’ final snap of the game.

“I have confidence in our defense,” wide receiver Jaylen Waddle said. “We knew sooner or later they were going to figure it out.

“And they figured it out at a good time.”

The Dolphins’ defensive front, which also includes linemen Sieler, Christian Wilkins, and Raekwon Davis, and linebackers Jerome Baker and David Long Jr., in addition to Chubb and Phillips, wasn’t good Sunday.

They missed tackles, they missed opportunities, they missed a chance to show fans their new system under Fangio.

They blew it.

But it’s just one game.

Don’t get discouraged.

One of the most positive things from Sunday was the role reversal between the offensive line and the defensive front.

You have to think the defensive front will eventually come around, perhaps even next week at New England.

But if the offensive line, especially without Armstead, can continue doing what it did Sunday, well, there could be reason to believe anything is possible this season.

And when you see the Dolphins’ offensive line, a major concern for most of the past two decades, play the way it played Sunday, you kind of start to believe anything is possible.