Offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James may be one of the more quiet players in the Miami Dolphins locker room, but with a year of experience under his belt, his confidence is high heading into his second year with the team. As a first round pick in 2014, James had to acclimate quickly to not just one, but two positions in the NFL, beginning the year at right tackle, then switching to left tackle after Branden Albert went down in November.
James started all 16 games in his rookie year, earning All-Rookie-Team honors from the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA). That’s particularly impressive considering he spent half of the season playing a position he’d never played before.
“I’m willing to do whatever, like I always tell them,” James told the Finsiders regarding the switch. “It was definitely a struggle switching back and forth, but I’m willing to do it. Whatever the team needs, that’s what I’m going to do.”
James was forced to learn quickly when he entered the league, as he was being viewed by the majority of the fanbase as one of the saviors who would finally be able to protect Ryan Tannehill and give the Dolphins a playoff berth. While they still didn't make it, James mentions that being able to play in the games made him improve quite rapidly.
“Just being out there, getting those game/live reps. Seeing things out there, being better from game one. I got way better from game 1 to 14 and I just want it to carry over." James said. "I want me to be 16 games better this year.”
With Albert still rehabbing from a torn ACL and MCL, James has spent the offseason back on the right side, while veteran Jason Fox has maintained the left tackle spot. Based on what we've seen in practices, it appears that the Dolphins see a rising star in James, and want his focus to be on one position.
This approach is what many fans would prefer to see, as it was painfully obvious last season that despite the tutelage he was receiving from Branden Albert, James was much more comfortable at right tackle than left tackle, as his performance suffered when he made the forced switch.
Now James is getting to focus on what he's already good at, and it seems clear that the Dolphins expect James to improve upon his rookie season's performance. As for his own expectations heading into this season, James is brimming with confidence.
“I’m more comfortable. I know what’s coming now." James said. "This offseason, spring training went by fast, flew compared to last year. But just knowing what’s coming and knowing the playbook already and stuff like that, it helped me work on other things."
There's a lot of pressure on James this season, as all of the moves the Dolphins have made this year speak to the idea that the Dolphins are making a huge push to finally break into the playoffs for the first time since 2008. But the pressure isn't getting to James, as his mentality is just to make sure he improves as an individual.
“We’ve been in the process of setting O-line goals, but for myself I just want to be mentally clear,” James said. “Just go up to the line, be able to play fast, knowing my playbook, knowing checks or anything I have to do at the line. I want to be able to play faster this year. That’s the mental aspect of it, being in the film room more, just having the extra experience. I definitely just want to play mentally clear and faster.”
Keep your mind clear Ja'Wuan, we're all rooting for you. If you succeed, it's quite possible the Dolphins are playoff bound.
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball.
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