The Dolphins planned to have a starting offensive line with Laremy Tunsil at LT, Ted Larsen at LG, Mike Pouncey at C, Jermon Bushrod at RG and Ja’Wuan James at RT. However, injuries have prevented those five players to practice together but has provided opportunities for other players.
Pouncey played in only 5 games last year and the team has brought him back slowly this offseason. He is practicing every other day at this point. Larsen tore his bicep and is likely out for the first 8 weeks of the season. James injured his shoulder and has missed both preseason games. Kraig Urbik, who was considered Miami’s top backup offensive lineman, is unable to play the next few weeks because of an injured knee.
These injuries have allowed the young developmental players on the offensive line to get more reps and more time with the coaches. This invaluable time with the coaches can allow the players to improve and add depth to the offensive line for the season. Five young players have benefitted and have a better opportunity to make the team due to the injuries.
Steen started seven games for the Dolphins last year as an undrafted rookie. He has been rotating with the first and second team at the guard and center position.
Davis the past two seasons has bounced from the Seahawks to the Jets to the Dolphins practice squad last year. He described himself on Tuesday as, “I’m big and I can move kind of well.” He played tackle at the University of Idaho and is listed as a tackle for the Dolphins. However, he has started at left guard the first two preseason games and could be the starter for game one.
The Dolphins also signed Brendel to the practice squad in 2016. He has taken first and second team snaps at center due to Pouncey’s health plan and Urbik’s injury. With Pouncey’s reliability issues, Brendel could make the 53-man roster.
Smith is an undrafted rookie from the University of Virginia. Due to James’ injury and Davis moving to guard, he has received a lot of reps at tackle. He played well in the first preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons. After the game Adam Gase said, “He did a really good job in the game.”
Lastly, the Dolphins drafted Asiata this year in the fifth round from Utah. Many fans hoped he would be an immediate impact rookie and start for the Dolphins. However, he seems destined to be on the second team or practice squad this season. Even though he received some reps with the first team this week, he still needs some work and doesn’t seem ready to start.
Will some of these young players continue to progress and make the team or even get a starting position? Overall, the offensive line depth will get better with these young players getting more playing time, more coaching and improving. Injuries now in training camp have allowed the young players to speed up their development and get better. As the starters get healthier and are added back into lineup, the depth will improve for the season.
If healthy, the Dolphins could have a strong offensive line with solid depth because of the development of their young players.