The Miami Dolphins appeared to have drafted a huge steal in last years NFL draft when they selected OG Donald Thomas in the late rounds. A year later and the Phins are still wondering if that selection will be a bonafide steal or a never realized dream. Over the weekend however it was learned that the late rounder suffered a torn pectoral muscle during workouts two weeks ago and that could be a “guarded” concern for the coaching staff.
The injury may keep Thomas out of this years training camp although HC Tony Sparano stated that he was confident that Thomas would return sometime during that period. The issue here however remains what happens if he does return and what happens if he doesn’t.
For starters, Thomas has only one regular season game under his belt as he suffered a Lisfranc fracture to his foot in the opening game last year against the NY Jets. He was placed on IR. Recovered from the foot injury, Thomas was going to be the penciled in starter to lineup between Vernon Carey and new center Jake Grove.
With only one game and an off-season to work with, Thomas will miss valuable off-season time due to this new injury. He will spend the remaining off-season rehabbing instead of building muscle and he will likely spend a the better portion of training camp continuing that rehab instead of getting in proper condition. Which could lead to another injury if he his body is not conditioned well enough to deal with the rigors of the NFL.
While many believe that Thomas’ early return would be beneficial to the team, it may not be in time to secure Thomas the starting job for the opening weekend against the Atlanta Falcons. However, his return at any time, as a starter or back-up would still be more welcomed than the opposite. No return until the seasons start.
The Dolphins did not make any real changes to the offensive line this off-season and may be forced at some point to look to the free agent market or possibly a trade should Thomas not recover in time for the start of the season. As it stands now, the Phins have only 7 listed guards on their roster and only a few of those names have any experience.
The top name on that list is former Dolphins and Cowboy guard Joe Berger. Berger however is seen more as a back-up to center Jake Grove. Berger would likely be the man in line for the starting RG spot but he will have to beat out Ikechuku Ndukwe who has 3 years experience and played the position at times last year for the Dolphins.
Two of the 7 are rookies, J.D. Quinn and Mark Lewis. Quinn comes highly regarded despite his off-field issues and Lewis is not expected to dent the roster. Justin Smiley is the starting LG and that leaves Andy Alleman and last years 4th round bust in the making guard Shawn Murphy who is still a bit undersized.
The loss of Thomas puts a bit of a hole on the roster when you begin to factor in depth and the Phins will have to watch Thomas’ recovery closely. If Thomas is able to return to the field completely healthy during training camp, the Phins would not have the depth issues they would otherwise face. Thomas could be given more time to get conditioned for the season and the Phins could use one of their other guards as a caretaker.
In the event that Thomas can not return by seasons start, the Phins may have to look elsewhere for a guard that can either start immediately or add depth behind whoever the starter is. No matter which side of the fence you view the situation from, the guard position for the Dolphins is a concern. It’s a concern about who will start and it’s a concern about the depth behind that starter.
The Phins may very well have found a gold nugget when they drafted Thomas last year. They also may have drafted one of those freakish athletes with all the talent who’s body just won’t let him do what he knows he can. Which Donald Thomas is he? Only time will tell.