It's no secret to anyone that one of the biggest question marks on the Miami Dolphins is the offensive line, and there seems to be no one on that line who is more scrutinized and more maligned than third-year offensive lineman Dallas Thomas.
The former third-round pick has been a major disappointment ever since he arrived in Miami, and it has gotten to the point where fans are ready to see him pack his bags and leave Miami to never return.
The desires are not baseless, as Thomas has consistently been ranked as one of the worst offensive linemen in the NFL. In fact, Thomas was ranked as the worst guard in all of football last season according to Pro Football Focus, earning a miserable overall grade of -15.8.
He's been given the opportunity to be a starter every year he's been in the league, and each time his job has been taken by someone who performed better. Last year it was veteran lineman Daryn Colledge, but Thomas wound up playing anyway when left tackle Branden Albert went down for the season, and Thomas ended up playing right tackle while rookie Ja'Wuan James moved over to the left. Needless to say, the results of that switch were not pleasant.
Thomas has been maligned, he's been ridiculed, he's been mocked and berated at every turn. Saying his name in Miami would immediately garner groans from anyone around you.
It appears that Thomas is tired of it.
Over the past several practices, Thomas has managed to step up and shake off the pursuing rookie Jamil Douglas, who at one point early in camp seemed like a shoe-in to win the starting left guard job.
But after the game against the Chicago Bears, Douglas has moved over to the right side of the line, and Thomas has all but locked up the starting job at left guard, and his play against the Carolina Panthers in practice is supporting this thinking, as the line as a whole - including Thomas, is showing improvement.
“I think guys are getting better, I really do." Head coach Joe Philbin said. "I watched some of the one-on-ones and yesterday I was only over for the second portion of it, but guys are getting better. Dallas (Thomas) was doing some good things. Billy (Turner) was doing some good things in the one-on-ones. Sam Brenner did some good things. And again they didn’t win every single one, but I could see progress with these guys.”
Thomas has been one of the hardest working players this offseason, as revealed via a chart by Executive VP of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum at the 2015 Dolphins Kickoff Luncheon which can be seen at the bottom of the article. He and Billy Turner have both been spending lots more time at the facility, working out and doing whatever they could to prove they could accomplish their goals.
After spending all of training camp going up against one of the best defensive lines in football, dealing with anyone else seems so much easier to the lineman, and the results have been made apparent against Carolina.
“I feel like going against our D-line had us prepared to go against their D-line,” Thomas said. “We were ready.”
And they'll have a greater opportunity they were ready on Saturday night when the Dolphins play their real game against the Carolina Panthers. It seems that left guard is now taken, is right guard now where the real competition is?
“I think we’ll know a little bit more after the tape." said Philbin. "I thought probably Dallas (Thomas) had the best day yesterday of the three. Again, it’s a fluid situation, so it could change. Like I said, I think John (Benton) and Jack (Bicknell) have done a really fantastic job providing opportunities for guys to get in there and compete with different people.”
This isn't the first time Philbin has praised Dallas Thomas for working hard, but it is the first time that the results appear visible by those who are watching. Will it be enough to legitimize the Dolphins not throwing their last bit of cash for free agent Evan Mathis? That remains to be seen.
However, there's no mistaking that Thomas has finally shown improvement where before there was none, and everyone - including myself - who thought he was doomed to eternal failure, are now having a large slice of humble pie. Let us all strive to remember that patience is a virtue, and perhaps Thomas is becoming living proof of that virtue.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater
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