Miami Dolphins rookies take part in first team rookie mini camp of the year. - Photo - MiamiDolphins.com

Dolphins Oline Depends On Rookies


 

The Miami Dolphins 2014 season and possibly their coaches future hangs on the shoulders, outstretched arms, and planted legs of the teams offensive lineman.  Mike Pouncey will anchor the center once again, provided he doesn’t do or say something stupid between now and September.  The question of how the Dolphins spread out from his position has been debated.  This weekends rookie mini-camp may shed some light on what the Dolphins are hoping to see and the success of the Oline will come down to how well the rookies can handle their first NFL season.

The Dolphins are using Ja’Wuan James at right tackle.  We knew that coming out of the draft.  Third round pick Billy Turner was supposed to compete for the RG spot but it appears that the Dolphins are doing the smart thing.  For a change.  Turner is getting exclusive work at LG and will slot in between LT Branden Albert and center Mike Pouncey.  It’s a good spot for him given his style of play and physicality.  Having Turner supported by two very good veteran lineman is a smart way to get your rookie up to speed.

Of course the veterans are not on the field at this camp with the players.  Last years starting LG Sam Brenner who took over for Richie Incognito will have something to say about Turner starting the season.  Turner and Brenner share similar qualities.  Attitude and drive.  This should build a very good competition come training camp and should make both players better which in turn makes the line better on the left side.  Turner is still raw so the edge would have to go to Brenner at this point but Turner is going to push the 2nd year un-drafted lineman.

On the other side of the line the Dolphins are being equally intelligent as they are reportedly going to line up veteran Shelley Smith to play inside of James.  The move would give James, a rookie, veteran support.  Smith will face a challenge from last years draft pick Dallas Thomas but Thomas is not likely to push Smith out of a job anytime soon.  Smith can be a mauler at times with solid run support blocking but more consistency would have elevated his free agent status.  Regardless he will help shore a huge hole on the right side.

The Dolphins had one of the worst offensive lines last season, something I am sure you do not need to be reminded of.  This year real competition will take place, something that could not be said for last year when Jonathan Martin lined up on the left next to Incognito, Pouncey was at center, John Jerry was at RG, and Tyson Clabo manned the RT spot.  Going in to the 2013 season the line was set.  Although questions regarding durability and in the case of Martin, the position, were questioned, there was no doubt who was going to start.

That is not the case this year for at least two positions and possibly three.  Both guard positions will be up from grabs and a legit competition should be a focus of training camp.  While Ja’Wuan James is the penciled starter as the teams first round pick, he won’t simply be handed the job as veterans Jason Fox and Nate Garner will both fight for playing time and that starting position.  As they say, competition can only make you better and stronger.

The Dolphins for the first time have a real offensive line camp battle ahead of them.  Promising young rookies from this years draft and a couple sophomore’s will vie for position.  What was one of the weakest positions last year could be a strong one this year.  Still it’s far too early to tell who will step up and who will fall behind and yes every year someone impresses and someone regresses.  There is no guarantee that either of the rookies will have the impact that on paper seem to be a sure thing.  The good news is that they simply will not be handed the job as so many have been in years past.

Consider this, John Jerry never lived up to his potential in Miami for whatever reasons.  Richie Incognito was always a serviceable veteran.  Despite his one Pro-Bowl, he was never seen as a long term solution but only the best solution the team had.  Jonathan Martin was a better RT than he ever was a LT but the Dolphins put themselves in a position to rely on Martin being able to play the left side.  Only Mike Pouncey has been the inline staple for the team.  Behind all of that, nothing really materialized in terms of competition.  The closest competition for playing time came yearly from Nate Garner.

Garner has been very solid for the Dolphins but injury history really kept him from becoming more.  Able to play all of the line positions, Garner found his niche’ by giving the Dolphins a reliable off the bench lineman who could step in and play on a moments notice.  He could start a few games when needed but again, he was never a long term solution.  Outside of Garner the Dolphins simply had no competition.  That will not be the case in 2014 when the team could very well have starting caliber offensive lineman on the 2nd team.

Whatever happens in 2014 however will surely rest on how well the rookies from this class and the youngsters from 2013 can acclimate to a physical and fast NFL.

For a very good read on Billy Turner, click here.

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Tags: Billy Turner Ja'Wuan James Miami Dolphins

  • Johnny

    Yes… Turner has to play LG.. Not RG.. First off, he played LT in College and staying on the left side at Guard will be an easier transition to a new position for him… AND?? Do you really want 2 rookies on the same Right side of the OLine??? Stick G Turner at LG, keep him there, and get all the snaps he can at LG.. No experimentations.. No playing around at different positions.. That’s how players become OK at different positions and not GREAT at one position…
    LT Albert
    LG Turner
    C Pouncy
    RG Smith
    RT James
    That’s how I see it anyway… 4 spots sound right.. The RG position should be up for grabs between Smith, Thomas, or Brenner…

    • LostSok

      That’s pretty much dead on, I think, Johnny. And I totally agree they should decide early in camp where pieces go, and stick with it unless utterly forced to make adjustments.

      • Johnny

        Exactly… Stuck Turner at LG and keep him there so he can get every snap he can.. Don’t play around..

    • bbies1973

      It’s like you can read my mind!

    • Miami Jules (Julian)

      Johnny this has to be the comment right? It took a while but I found it… I can’t argue with that… and as I looked for your comment, I went through several other posts I hadn’t read and comments you had written I hadn’t either. I briefly met the Phin fans from NYC last year.

      I agree with your comment about not sticking two rookies on the same side unless they show something to the coaching staff in training camp, that based on their inexperience, we wouldn’t expect. On the right side however, if Fox is healthy, I have to say Fox. Fox is a proven starter and his only issue has been injuries. Good stuff my friends… I hope you have fun in NYC.

      • Johnny

        Hmmmmmmmm. Fox is basically depth at OT.. I think he started only 2 or 3 games in his whole NFL career.. Just depth..
        Hopefully Turner works out at LG.. Then I see either Shelly Smith or last years 3rd round pick Dallas Thomas at RG….
        Right now..
        LT Albert
        LG Turner
        C Pouncy
        RG- Smith or Thomas
        RT James

        • Miami Jules (Julian)

          OK, so you asked me to read and I did so I’m just sharing what my opinion is. Yes, 2 rookies shouldn’t start on the same side of the line and IF he’s healthy (which is the reason he didn’t play the position he was slated to start at), Fox should start as a RG. Fox isn’t depth material, because as much of a stud as he is, if he isn’t starting, it’s because he’s injury debilitated, so that’s that and if he’s healthy, I believe other than LT and RT, he’s talented and experienced enough to win the spot, so that’s that on top of that too. I’m not debating, it’s my opinion, I expressed what I agreed on and where I have it slightly different. I plan to attend training camp… for the open to the public work outs as a fan… of course.

  • LostSok

    Considering the free agents we’ve signed, and the number of rookies in camp, a major shakeup…even well beyond what is simply necessary due to the “loss” of Incognito, Martin, Jerry, etc,…is likely on the offensive line. All the projected rosters I’ve seen include guys like Garner. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he or other holdovers are also gone.

    If Brenner becomes a starter or even primary backup at guard, Larsen could well be Pouncey’s backup…and that means someone else has to go.

    • Buckeye Finfan

      While I don’t see Garner as a starter I don’t see him getting cut either. He is far too valuable as a backup because he can play any position on the O-line. Basically, his roster spot saves at least one or two additional roster spots that don’t have to be devoted to backups for other line positions.

      • LostSok

        Doesn’t Fox now do the same thing? I like Garner, but the stark truth is…we have a lot of options now, and only so may roles. Other than Pouncey, I’m not sure any of the holdovers are 100% at this point to be held.

        • Buckeye Finfan

          I don’t know as much about Fox but I’m not confident in his abilities or health. It be a battle between those two for a backup position. Personally, I feel Garner would be a safer bet. BTW, Garner and Albert are our 2 oldest linemen at 29, which could be a factor.