The Evan Mathis watch reached the point where it really became Evan Mathis Fever. Despite all the moves that the Miami Dolphins made over the offseason - the signings of Ndamukong Suh, Greg Jennings and Jordan Cameron, the drafting of DeVante Parker, etc. - Dolphins fans were still convinced that the Dolphins would be 8-8 at best all over again without Mathis.
I understand these people, I do. I really do. But just because the Dolphins apparently lost(?) out on the Evan Mathis sweepstakes does not mean that the Dolphins are doomed to once again be mediocre in 2015. It does not negate all of the other moves that the Dolphins made.
Everyone was super excited when the Dolphins signed Suh, and people were already making playoff predictions. Granted, some of them were made in jest, but there were several sincere comments made regarding how with the Dolphins new D-line, they would be able to finally get over the hump.
The confidence continued to build, the hype continued to grow, Jordan Cameron was brought in to be Tannehill's redzone target, Greg Jennings was brought in to be a savvy veteran route runner and the locker room cancers were removed, the offense began to fit together like a puzzle. It was all coming together at last.
Then, Mathis was released from the Eagles, and everyone went rabid all over again. They saw an opportunity to make the team better, give the team a better overall chance to not only make the playoffs but potentially compete in them. That in itself isn't wrong. What is wrong, however, is suddenly getting the idea that Mathis was the key to the success of the team.
Did the Dolphins lose Ndamukong Suh? No.
Did the Dolphins lose Jordan Cameron? No.
Did the Dolphins lose Ryan Tannehill? No.
"THAT'S WHAT WE'RE WORRIED ABOUT!"
Yes, I understand. The concern is valid, it's more than valid actually. Tannehill's been sacked 139 times since since he came into the league. It's a problem, I totally get it...but the Dolphins have been just barely edged out of the postseason for the past three years, and that was without the obvious upgrades.
If you're worried about the possibility of Tannehill getting hurt, then I totally understand. But if you're worried that the Dolphins just won't be good enough, then that's just plain crazy. The same people who were excited about this upcoming season are now doom and gloom because Mathis signed with Denver instead of Miami. Talk about bipolar.
Let's just do the rundown, ok? Branden Albert is on the right track and seems like he'll be ready to play again very soon. That in itself should get people to breathe a sigh of relief. If he manages to get back on the field by Week 1, then good for him. I'd prefer he rested until Week 3, but that's just me.
Mike Pouncey is fully healthy and back at center where he belongs, and the new contract - instead of inflating his ego - has had the opposite effect and humbled him into becoming a true leader on this Dolphins squad, and his play on the field is showing that he's clearly back to form.
Ja'Wuan James is also back where he belongs: firmly rooted at right tackle where he was good enough to quickly earn the favor of the fanbase and effectively lock down the right tackle position. That issue is no longer an issue.
"But the interior!"
Yep, I'm getting to that. If there are true unknowns on this offensive line, it's the guard play. I totally get that. But here's the thing, I - and several other members of the media - have been reporting over the past couple of weeks that left guard Dallas Thomas has looked much better than he ever has before. And when I say much, I mean MUCH. It's almost night and day.
If there's anyone who's had to have a slice of humble pie when it comes to Dallas Thomas, it's me. I predicted when I heard that Thomas was going to be given the first shot at winning the starting job at left guard, that Thomas would quickly lose that job and rookie Jamil Douglas would easily overtake him.
I was wrong.
It's taken a while, but apparently being nailed down at one spot and getting most - if not all - of his reps at left guard rather than being moved all over the line has allowed Thomas to finally get a handle on what he's doing, and his play has reflected that against the Chicago Bears and the Carolina Panthers. Naturally he still has a lot of trust to build, but he's laying a foundation and I'm starting to be ok with the idea of him at left guard.
So the only real question is right guard. Billy Turner's aggressive, mauler style of blocking has been more of a hindrance than an asset so far, something I was also wrong in predicting. He's technically a rookie this season since he was practically redshirted in 2014 due to a turf toe injury, and there's speculation that he's hurt again which is affecting his play.
The other option is once again Douglas, who is getting the same opportunity as Turner at right guard - because of Thomas' increased level of play at left guard no less. So assuming Thomas' play isn't a fluke, that leaves only one spot as a question mark.
Listen guys, I totally understand that concern. The depth on the offensive line is a problem, particularly at tackle, no doubt. But Tannehill's offense - with backup Jason Fox at left tackle - has scored three touchdowns in four drives during the preseason. And yes, I know preseason games don't count, but it's not like everyone out there is jogging. They're playing like it's real, since a lot of players are playing for their NFL lives.
I get they haven't faced a team like Buffalo or New York yet, but not every team is the Bills and Jets, and their offenses leave a lot to be desired, because they don't really have a quarterback. The Dolphins clearly do, on top of a potentially great defense.
Enjoy this season, there's a lot to be excited about. This is the best Dolphins squad that we've had in a long time, and not just because of talent, but because it fits like the puzzle it's supposed to. There are very few pieces that seem to "not fit" and there are no players - to our knowledge anyway - creating a stink in the locker room just because they feel like it. That helps.
Evan Mathis would have helped this year, but he would have caused issues in the future since the salary cap would've been really hard to work around and still re-sign core players. Now the Dolphins have a chance to do that, and still compete this season with what they have,
Evan Mathis is a Denver Bronco, for better or worse. Now we can move on with our lives and remind ourselves of what got us excited for the 2015 season.
This column was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater
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