It's been a roller-coaster of emotions and predictions and speculations for Dolphins fans everywhere this past offseason, and one of the biggest (no pun intended) reasons is the Dolphins Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert, who has been kept out of full practice activities due to an injury he suffered back in 2014 against the Detroit Lions.
First he vowed he'd be ready to start the season when it came around, and the fanbase got behind him and cheered him on. Then he admitted he wasn't sure whether he'd ever play football again, and the fanbase gasped in shock.
Then he said he knew he'd play again, but he wasn't sure if he'd be ready when the season actually started, and the fanbase began holding their breath to see if he would indeed make his projected goal of playing when the team traveled to the nation's capital to go up against the Washington Redskins.
After Tuesday's practice, Albert was seen working hard and moving more smoothly than he had all offseason, and it appears the fanbase can be at ease as Albert now feels much more confident about his chances.
"It's going to be sooner rather than later," Albert said about his return to full speed Tuesday after practice. "I don't have an exact date, but it's going to be soon."
Albert is the anchor of the Dolphins offensive line, and a lot of the unit's failures can be attributed to his absence. Veteran tackle Jason Fox - while decent - has not come close to producing the level of play that comes from the eight-year veteran Albert.
Albert's return is arguably more important than finding out who will wind up playing the guard positions, as it's more than likely his absence has a huge impact on how well the young guards competing for the starting job do. If Albert were currently healthy and playing, it's quite possible that the level of urgency fans feel regarding the idea of signing Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis would be much lower.
Ja'Wuan James proved he had a lot of promise at right tackle last season, and Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey is back where he belongs. If Albert returns, it could make up for the shaky guard play that may not even be as bad as it's being made out to be thanks to the likes of Ndamukong Suh ripping holes in the line and even making Pouncey look foolish at times.
Albert could very well return to full speed practice soon, and if he does, we may just get a chance to see what the line is capable of once its anchor returns. Whether or not Albert will play in a Preseason game however, that much is still questionable.
"We'll see how things go, how the timetable [goes], how I'm feeling," he said. "Things are going right, I'm not hurting, I'm not swelling up, so that's a positive."
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater
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