Despite the fact that the Miami Dolphins offensive line is in a very sad state of affairs - particularly the guard positions - there really isn't a lot of room to fight for starting jobs as the Dolphins seem ready to hand the starting jobs to five chosen players already, making other players a long shot to earn a roster spot.
One of these players is six-year veteran offensive lineman Jacques McClendon, who signed a 1-year, $745,000 with the Miami Dolphins presumably to fight for a starting guard spot. McClendon started 3 games last season for the Jacksonville Jaguars, and he played 13 games overall, in which he posted less than stellar numbers according to Pro Football Focus.
McClendon was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft, where he only played four games before moving on to the Detroit Lions the next year, and then he spent short stints with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Atlanta Falcons before finally signing with the Jaguars, where he finally got a chance for significant playing time. Though he's never really been able to secure a starting spot, he has carved out a niche for himself as a utility player wherever he goes.
“I’ve definitely been around the block a little bit. I think that’s one of the things that’s kept me in, I can serve more than one purpose. There are only five starters. So anybody that is behind has to do multiple things." McClendon said. "I’ve been very blessed and I’m thankful that I’m going on year six and that’s something that’s been keeping me going this long, is the ability to adapt and just do whatever a team needs me to do. You need those kinds of guys.”
Last season, the Dolphins relied on utility players Nate Garner and Dallas Thomas to fill that role, and they both struggled in their own way. Now the Dolphins have moved on from Garner, and Dallas Thomas is currently first in line to win the starting left guard position. So now McClendon has the opportunity to become the new utility go-to and step in wherever he's needed.
“When I was with Jacksonville (Jaguars) I was a guard, swing guy, same thing with Atlanta (Falcons), so probably for the past three years I’ve been a swing guy that’s been able to step in and do whatever a team needs." McClendon said. "That’s pretty much my M.O., just being able to contribute any way possible and trying to be a valuable tool for any team that would allow me to do that.”
McClendon won't have an easy time earning that spot though, as he'll be facing stiff competition from his former Colts teammate Jeff Linkenbach, who signed a 1-year, $795,000 contract to compete for a spot on the offensive line after playing all 16 games - starting 3 of them - for the Kansas City Chiefs.
“Jeff is an astoundingly smart human being." McClendon said. "He does a great job. He’s another guy that is very versatile, can play guard and tackle and is kind of a Swiss Army Knife guy. He’s definitely a valuable piece. He’s a great locker room, great film study guy. He’s very, very smart and a very savvy veteran.”
McClendon is determined to prove his worth to the Miami Dolphins, and show that he is more than worthy of just a roster spot, he is aiming to prove that he can be counted on to do whatever the team he needs. And the way he plays football will certainly ensure that he gets that chance.
“I just try to play to the whistle. I’m definitely an effort guy. That’s something that I learned at a young age is that sometimes you can’t control the outcome but you control the effort. I just go out there and try to leave it all on the field and give all of the effort I have.”
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater
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