Dolphins 2016 offensive line preview: line depth and backups


The Miami Dolphins are expecting major improvements out of the offensive line this season. How far the offense, and the team itself, will go this year will depend largely upon the performance of the offensive line, including the depth along that line.

Injuries last year proved that the depth on the offensive line is not only convenient but also essential to the team’s success. Heading into training camp, a number of players on the offensive line hope to make the roster and provide the Dolphins with the requisite, quality depth. Here is a review of the hopefuls, in alphabetical order.

Ruben Carter

Ruben Carter joins the Dolphins as a rookie free agent out of the University of Toledo. Carter started his college career at Florida State, where he played in 5 games in 2012, 11 games in 2013, and 1 game in 2014. He went to the University of Toledo after graduating from Florida State in the spring of 2015 and still having one year of remaining eligibility.  Carter’s ability to play both guard and center makes him an intriguing prospect, but he will be challenged during training camp to demonstrate that he is deserving of a roster spot.

Jamil Douglas

Jamil Douglas was originally drafted by the Dolphins in the fourth round (114th overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft.  During his rookie season, he was forced to move into the center role when Mike Pouncey went down with an injury, but he did not play well at that position. Not knowing the snap count on 4th down at the end of the game against the Indianapolis Colts, resulting in an 18-12 loss, was arguably his lowest point of his rookie season ( If Douglas is to contribute to this team on a meaningful level, his best shot might be developing as a quality back-up at his best position, guard. The progress of Douglas this year at that position could impact decisions regarding the positioning of Laremy Tunsil, and thus Branden Albert, next year.

Ulrick John

Ulrick John, Jr. was originally a seventh-round draft choice of the Indianapolis Colts in the 2014 NFL Draft.  He was placed on injured reserve on August 26, 2014 with a right leg injury. The next season, John was waived prior to the start of the regular season but was signed to the Colts’ practice squad the next day. On October 31, 2015, the Dolphins signed John off the Colts’ practice squad, giving him the roster spot that opened up with Cameron Wake’s injury. John then appeared in 2 games for Miami as a backup tackle. Although the Dolphins clearly thought enough of John to place him on the roster and play him during the 2015 season, his challenge heading into training camp will be convincing the new coaching staff that he is deserving of a roster spot during the upcoming season.

Jacques McClendon

Jacques McClendon was originally a fourth-round draft selection of the Indianapolis Colts in the 2010 NFL Draft.  McClendon has had a journeyman NFL career: he was waived by the Colts prior to the start of the 2011 season; claimed off waivers by the Detroit Lions but not resigned following that season; signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers for the 2012 season; signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Falcons for the 2013 season but was cut prior to the season’s start; and then was claimed off of waivers by the Jacksonville Jaguars and started the final two games of the 2013 season. His tenure with the Dolphins has been no more consistent: he first signed with the team in April 2015; was cut on September 11, 2015; was re-signed September 14; was then cut on September 26; was signed December 1; was waived on December 15; and was signed on December 22 for the remainder of the season and then on March 11, 2016 for the 2016 season. He will have to demonstrate to the decision-makers that he is worthy of his one-year, $840,000 veteran contract or else will not survive training camp.

Vinston Painter

Vinston Painter was originally a sixth-round draft choice of the Denver Broncos in the 2013 NFL Draft.  The Broncos thought enough of Painter to place him on their practice squad both in 2013 and 2014. On September 1, 2014, the Cleveland Browns signed Painter off the Broncos’ practice squad, only to release him the following year. The New York Giants then signed Painter to their practice squad on September 16, 2015, but released him just two weeks later. One month after that, the Dolphins signed Painter to their practice squad, and he stayed there for the remainder of the 2015 season. Painter was then resigned by the Dolphins at the end of the season as a free agent. Having played in only 2 games (both for Cleveland) in three NFL seasons so far, Painter is likely competing once again for a practice squad assignment.

Anthony Steen

Anthony Steen won a national championship with Alabama, but he still went undrafted during the 2014 NFL Draft. The Arizona Cardinals did sign Steen as a rookie free agent, and he spent the 2014 season and part of the 2015 season on the Cardinals’ practice squad. After being released by the Cardinals, the Dolphins signed Steen to their practice squad for the remainder of the 2015 season. There are opportunities for Steen on the line this upcoming season, but he has a lot to prove to secure a roster spot as opposed to a spot on the practice squad.

Dallas Thomas

Dallas Thomas was originally drafted by the Dolphins in the third round (77th overall) of the 2013 NFL Draft.  During his rookie season, he was inactive for the first 9 games before playing in 6 games in a reserve role. In 2014, Thomas played in 14 games with 9 starts: 2 at right guard, 2 at left guard, and 5 at right tackle. Last season, Thomas played 1,053 snaps but was the worst rated Dolphins’ lineman of 2015 according to ProFootballFocus rankings. With Thomas scheduled to count for $1.87 million against the 2016 salary cap, he must show dramatic improvement very early in camp or else should simply be released to save the Dolphins both cap and roster space.

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Sam Young

Sam Young was originally drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He was active for three games of the 2010 season, playing on special teams, but was cut before the start of the 2011 season. The Buffalo Bills claimed Young off of waivers, and he started 4 games at right tackle for the Bills during the 2012 season. Still, he was waived during the first part of the 2013 season. The Jaguars then claimed Young, and he made the active roster, playing 20 games, mostly on special teams but also making 6 starts at right tackle. His contributions on special teams as well as his ability to start at right tackle give him a good shot at making the active roster. For the Phin Phanatic exclusive interview with Sam Young, see