To say this years’ OTAs has been competitive is a complete understatement. This is especially true on the offensive side of the ball. Specifically, the competition at right guard is heating up in Miami between John Jerry and Artis Hicks. At the start of OTAs, Jerry was the early favorite by working in with the first team and the way he finished the 2011 season. But don’t sleep on Hicks. At 33 years old with ten years of experience, Hicks has been impressing the coaches with his recent play.
Jerry was drafted in the third round of the 2010 draft by the Dolphins and started every game as a rookie at right guard. Last year, he reported to camp at over 330 pounds, out of shape and overweight. Ultimately, his lack of conditioning lost him his starting spot when the Dolphins acquired Marc Colombo to start at right tackle which caused Vernon Carey to start at right guard.
Even though Jerry had a disappointing start to the 2011 season, he did show tremendous signs of progress near the end of the year. When Carey went out with an ankle injury, Jerry finally started in week 13 against the Oakland Raiders. Due to the injury of LT Jake Long, Jerry went on to see significant playing time in the remaining four games of the season, also starting against the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets.
During this stretch, Jerry was able to take advantage of his weight, moving piles and did a nice job blocking for QB Matt Moore. By season’s end, Todd Bowles and the coaching staff were impressed with Jerry’s performance and they gave him kudos during their post game and practice interviews. Things were looking good for Jerry and many believed he was ready to regain a “starting gig” in 2012. Well, that’s before the Dolphins acquired Hicks from the Cleveland Browns this past March.
According to recent reports and comments made from coach Joe Philbin, Hicks has been performing very well playing with the first team this week in OTAs. Philbin appears pleased with his overall demeanor and ability to quickly pick up the new system. He also mentioned that Hicks is better suited to play on the right side of the offensive line, which basically means right guard since Lydon Murtha or Jonathan Martin will most likely play right tackle.
Most importantly, Hicks is smaller and “appears” to be more athletic than Jerry. Considering this new west coast offense will lead to about 20 more plays per game compared to last year’s offense, it is important to have athletic linemen who are well conditioned. This is especially critical for the linemen on this team, playing in the smothering heat under the south Florida sun.
Philbin went on to say that he is not use to having guys the size of Jerry playing in his system and he’s curious to see how well Jerry holds up in pads during long drives. Although Philbin didn’t necessarily say anything negative about him, his comments seem to imply that Jerry better be conditioned and in shape if he wants to be a starter in 2012.
But since we are only talking about the OTAs, it’s still way too early to predict starters at this point. We will have to wait until training camp when the players are competing in pads before we can begin to draw lines between first stringers and the backups. But for me, it is always exciting to see players battle it out for a starting spot at any position on the team, even at right guard. It’s time for Jerry and Hicks to step up their game. Let the competition begin!