The first week of OTA’s are winding down and I wanted to take a look at the position battles that we should be keeping a close eye on. There has been much turnover in the recent months with the Miami Dolphins, many staples of past years are simply not here anymore. With veteran starters like Brian Hartline, Charles Clay, and Jared Odrick leaving, there is plenty of room for the young guys to make some noise this season.
I'll be highlighting various positions over the next week or so and we can begin with the offensive line with a special focus on the interior of the line at both guard positions.
Now, I certainly think that the offensive line battles are the most important. But unfortunately with Branden Albert still rehabbing from tearing up his ACL and MCL week 10 vs the Detroit Lions, we simply cannot put too much emphasis on the way the line play is this early into camp. The regular season offensive line roster in Week One is going to be vastly different from day 1 of OTA’s roster. With that being said, we can get a good gauge from what the Dolphins’ young guards can bring to the table by watching them in camp.
Dallas Thomas is set to start at left guard. Many long-time Dolphins fans cringe at hearing those very words being uttered and with good reason. Thomas gave up seven sacks on only 333 snaps while manning the tackle position for the Dolphins. But there is a world of difference between the guard and tackle spots. Just lining up three feet further out brings a whole slew of different gap assignments, level of competition (tackles usually face the defenses best/ biggest pass rusher) and overall sense of responsibility. The Miami Dolphins were ranked dead last in offensive line play by Pro Football Focus. Injuries to Albert and Ja’wuan James certainly weighed heavily on those results. But this is football, and the mantra of “Next Man Up” is something these teams take to heart, “no excuses.”
Many feel Billy Turner will make a jump this year. He is still very raw at pass protection but he is a wrecking ball run blocking and is set to flourish in offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s zone blocking system. Turner was sidelined early on during the preseason with a turf toe and many believe his injury concerns are his biggest obstacle from being a consistent contributor to the team. Right now, Turner is penciled in to be the right guard and barring an injury or a collapse during the exhibition games I fully expect him to be the starter in Week One.
The wildcard in the bunch is Jamil Douglas. The former Arizona State standout played his entire college career in a zone blocking scheme (ZBS.) This will make the jump to the pros much easier as he will be comfortable with the responsibilities the left guard position entails. As of now, the Dolphins are spelling (rotating between plays) Douglas and Thomas in the first team offense.
Miami has in the past been viewed as reluctant to play rookies or first year players. But Douglas benefits greatly from being in a ZBS during his college stint and also from the blatant lack of experience from the other two guards (Turner and Thomas). I fully expect Douglas to push Thomas for that left guard spot and we should be able to tell who the best man is a couple of games into the preseason.
This story was written by Pablo Gomez. Follow him on Twitter: @PabloGradio