The PhinPhanatic staff is recapping the 2016 season for each Miami Dolphins player as the team prepares for the start of free agency. Here is the 2016 player recap for starting center Mike Pouncey.
Mike Pouncey has been on the Dolphins’ roster since joining the team as a draft pick in 2011. After playing out the first four years of his five-year rookie contract, the team signed him to a new, five-year, $45 million contract in 2015, including a $5 million signing bonus, $22 million guaranteed, and an average annual salary of just under $9 million. The team’s decision to sign Pouncey to a new contract before he was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in 2016 was intended to give the team a consistently outstanding starting center in front of Ryan Tannehill for years to come. When healthy, Pouncey served as the team’s starting center in 2016.
Pouncey started all 5 of the games that he played in during the 2016 season. He missed the first four games of the 2016 season while recovering from a fractured hip suffered in the preseason. Once he returned to the field, Pouncey again became an anchor at the most important line position. His strength and athleticism allowed him to perform at a high level both in pass protection and run blocking. In fact, when Pouncey, Branden Albert, and Laremy Tunsil were finally in the starting lineup together, Jay Ajayi responded with his first two 200+ yard games.
But Pouncey re-aggravated the hip injury in practice in mid-November and never returned. In fact, the team placed Pouncey on Injured Reserve on December 13, marking an official end to his season. The move was made to avoid the threat of another fracture and to give Pouncey a full offseason to strengthen the hip. When he was not on the field, Pouncey was still on the sidelines, encouraging and cheering on his teammates all the way to the playoffs, even though he himself has yet to play in a playoff game. Moreover, the Dolphins nominated Pouncey for the 2016 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award for his various, off-field charitable adventures.
5 starts in 5 games played at center.
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Pouncey now admits that he probably rushed back too soon to action after injuring his hip in the preseason, but he stated that he could have played in the last regular season games and the playoff game if he was not on Injured Reserve. Adam Gase stated that he shut down Pouncey for the year because he wanted “to be around Mike as long as he can possibly go,” a clear sign that the team expects Pouncey to return and perform at a high level. Pouncey is signed through the 2020 season, he has made the Pro Bowl three times, and despite the recent injuries, has played in approximately 80% of the games since he joining the team. The challenge for the team is keeping Pouncey on the field and healthy. To help in doing so, one possibility involves the team changing his position from center to one of the offensive guard spots.
Pouncey was originally the Dolphins’ first-round draft pick (15th overall) in the 2011 NFL Draft.