Miami Dolphins training camp preview: Offensive line


More than any other positional unit on the Miami Dolphins team, the offensive line gets the most glaring assessment for need. With training camp barreling towards the Dolphins head on questions at right guard and left guard are glaring and left tackle isn’t fully guaranteed given the uncertainty surrounding Branden Albert’s rehabilitation. In short, training camp is going to answer a lot of questions or make more.

The locks:

Ja’Wuan James

James should have an excellent 2015 season and should spent his time at right tackle. Unlike last year where he played well but then faltered a bit after moving to left tackle, James should play the season at right tackle and have a great season. James is a dedicated footballer and loves the contact of the sport. He is a natural on the right side but will likely need help from Mike Pouncey with whomever the guard between them is.

Branden Albert

Injury aside, Albert may start the year on the PUP list depending on how his knee injury is. His agent says he is doing great with rehab but there are still questions about his returning so son to start the season. Regardless when healthy, Albert is an almost unmovable left tackle. With the Dolphins opening the season against some of their weaker opponents there should be no huge rush to get Albert back into the fold. Provided they can find a suitable back up.

Mike Pouncey

The all-pro center who became an all-pro guard returns to center with a brand new contract. Pouncey is the Dolphins future along the line of scrimmage and has started to mature on and off the field which will only make his play better. He is going to have a tough season with likely two shouldering guards next to him who have little or no NFL experience. 2015 could still be  his best in the NFL as the talent outside of the line has improved.

Billy Turner

Turner spent almost his entire rookie season banged up and when he was healthy enough to play on game days, he was left on the inactive list. Somehow the Dolphins coaches believe that Turner is the right man to challenge and hang on to the starting right guard position. In other words, the Dolphins coaches love what they have seen on the kid. They need to be right because the 2015 seasons really comes down to how well the offensive line will play. Without the Oline playing at a much higher level than last season, the Dolphins will not have a sufficient running game or sufficient time in the pocket for Tannehill.

Turner was a bull in college. A mean offensive lineman that played clean. He has good footwork but needs to use his arms better and it’s unclear how much he has learned through two off-season programs. If Turner can hit the coaches expectations then the Dolphins will have little to worry about. However, he needs to beat Dallas Thomas first.

Jamil Douglas

Douglas is a lock to make the roster if for no other reason than the Dolphins won’t give up on this 4th round pick. They likely don’t need to worry too much about his practices. Douglas has impressed the team during OTA’s and mini-camps and the fully expect him to win the starting left guard spot. His performance is one of the reasons the Dolphins may not have reached out to Evan Mathis the free agent former pro-bowl guard. Douglas is quick and has a very sound base in blocking. He can read blitzes well and pick them up but he doesn’t attack and instead waits for the rushers to come to him. Coming out of college he was projected as a left guard player only which is good for Miami since they have a need at the position.

More from Dolphins News

Likely to make roster

Jason Fox

Versatile Jason Fox is back in the mix and is the penciled in early back-up/starter for left tackle in the absence of Branden Albert. Fox was reliable if unexciting last year but the Dolphins need the former instead of the latter. With Fox the Dolphins have a veteran who can play multiple positions if need be and someone who can come off the bench if he isn’t starting. Fox could be a key player for the Dolphins offensive line this year given the status of Albert and questions at guard.

Dallas Thomas

There isn’t much time left for Thomas to impress his coaches but to be honest I think he makes the roster this year if for no other reason then Joe Philbin likes this kid’s potential. Albeit potential he has yet to demonstrate. Thomas is a back-up at best and has struggled as a starter with plenty of chances. While I put him on the likely to make list it’s also likely that he could be left off the roster all together if others players outperform him from the start. Thomas is going to get starting reps in camp and that will help keep some of the other players from jumping ahead of him early.

Jeff Linkenbach

Link is entering his 6th season in the NFL and has starting experience. In 2011 he started all 16 games for the Colts but that level dropped to eight games in 2012 and then to five in 2013. He played  last year with the Kansas City Chiefs. A journeyman, Linkenbach can play both tackle and guard and will likely enter camp as a back-up tackle while others battle out at the guard spot. His versatility will likely allow him to the make the roster.

Jacques McClendon

Indianapolis, Detroit, Atlanta, and then two years in Jacksonville where he started three games in 2014, McClendon is every bit of a journeyman lineman. He is not expected to push for starting time with the team this year but his veteran status should give him a lift over the younger guys that don’t have the experience to step in if someone is injured. McClendon, like Linkenbach are probably on the outside of this category but they have experience and that should help put them in contention for a roster spot.

J. D. Walton

Unlike Linkenbach and McClendon, Walton has real starting experience. As a rookie in 2010 Walton started 16 games for the Broncos in both of his first two NFL seasons. Injuries kept him out most of his third and final year in Denver. In 2013 he split time with Denver and Washington but did not start. In 2014 he started all 16 games for the New York Giants. He is a legit back-up option who has experience at center, guard, and tackle. Walton isn’t a lock to make the roster but he is closer than many of the “Likely to make roster” list. Walton can struggle at times on the outside but the Dolphins will likely want him for his interior experience and with the way Joe Philbin moves around his lineman don’t be surprised to see Walton taking some reps at right guard if both Turner and Thomas struggle.


Sam Brenner

Brenner played well his rookie year coming in relief at center but has since been nothing more than a practice squad player or a back-up. His time is running out and he will have to show the coaches that he gives the offensive line value on game day. With a couple of other versatile lineman added to the mix this year, Brenner is going to find it hard to make the team simply as the only center to back-up Pouncey.

Donald Hawkins, Aundrey Walker, Dionte Savage, Michael Liedtke

Donald Hawkins is entering his 2nd season while the others are all rookies. All four will be looking to showcase their practice squad value. Thus far Liedtke has shown some of his abilities in OTA’s but pads are not on and until they are teams will never truly know what they have along the offensive line. That won’t be the case through seven padded practices during training camp which means that every offensive lineman not penciled in as starters will need to show their game every opportunity they get. There is likely one spot available for one of these four and that spot may be given to someone not on the roster yet.

Hawkins, Walker, Savage, and Liedtke can hope for a practice squad spot.


The offensive line needs to improve and who makes the unit improved is anyone’s guess at the moment. Questions at both guard positions and at left tackle are high on the watch list heading into training camp and how camp plays out will go a long way into solving or exposing the weakest unit on the Dolphins offense. At some point the offensive lineman need to grow tired of hearing that same old song and dance and step up and improve to the level of the rest of the offense.