It’s fair to say that Mike Pouncey’s 2011 arrival in Miami was not greeted with a fervor of excitement by Dolphins fans despite the name recognition brought on by his twin brother Maurkice’s time with the Pittsburgh Steelers. When a team largely devoid of offensive weapons uses the 15th overall pick in the NFL draft to select a center, its fair to expect fans to be up in arms. For a center to be worthy of any first round pick, he would have to be one of, if not the best center in the league, and even then it would still be debatable whether or not such a pick was well spent. The good news? Dolphins fans can debate away because Pouncey has lived up to the billing.
Mike Pouncey didn’t make the Pro Bowl this year, nor did he make the All-Pro roster. Despite being one minute older than his twin brother Maurkice, Mike was beaten into the NFL and thus the minds of the NFL electorate by his brother, and thus Maurkice gets the nods by default. But, this is not to say that Maurkice was necessarily the better player.
Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com and Matt Williamson of ESPN.com have both regularly written and stated that they felt that Mike was the better player in 2012, and that Maurkice was largely receiving these accolades on reputation. Furthermore, Mike did make Pro Football Weekly’s Midseason All-Pro team, and also led ProFootballFocus.com’s Center rankings for most of the season before having a drop off in the final quarter of the year. With any spot on the offensive line, it is always difficult to place any sort of rankings with the absence of significant statistics, but it has become clear that Pouncey is to be considered at least a top five center in the league.
Using my own eyes on the field, you can come to these same conclusions. To the casual fan watching the game, Pouncey is rarely noticed. That’s a good thing – most offensive linemen only get noticed when they are on their backsides as their man destroys the quarterback or other ball carrier in the backfield. Pouncey rarely falls victim to such bull rushes.
On running downs, Pouncey has turned Reggie Bush into a man who can generate yards in the interior running game, something he was previously unable to do in New Orleans. As he learns the defensive schemes in the NFL, he has proven capable of calling the correct protections to account for various blitzes and defensive formations, an important characteristic when starting a rookie quarterback as the Dolphins did in 2012.
Pouncey has also taken a vocal leadership role with the team, dropping one of the best one liners of the season prior to the Dolphins second matchup with the New York Jets this season. When asked whether he would respond to Aaron Maybin’s comments that the Jets were looking to “knock out” Bush, Pouncey retorted “I have to be on punt block to say something to him,” referencing the fact that despite his loud mouth, Maybin never actually sees the field.
While the current front office regime’s penchant for drafting offensive lineman high will always be a source of much moaning and groaning, all fans can ask for is those picks to at least live up to their all star billing. In the case of Mike Pouncey, it certainly appears that will be fulfilled. Regardless of his actual impact on winning and losing each week, Pouncey has a strong chance to be a plus player at the Center position for the Dolphins in the years to come.
His performance on the field in 2012 was supremely strong in the first half of the season, but as mentioned did begin to tail off as the season wore on. Hopefully a third year in the NFL will bring better conditioning to perhaps correct this issue in 2013. It is only the end of season tail that prevents a perfect grade for Pouncey in 2012, but with the slide I award him a B+.