Just when it seems that the Dolphins have finally found a formula that works on the offensive line, the delicate balance gets disrupted by an indispensable piece of that line falling to injury before the beginning of the regular season. Center Mike Pouncey briefly came out of the game against the Cowboys and later went back in before the first team offense exited the game.
Unfortunately, Pouncey's injury is more severe than what was initially thought, as the Pro Bowl offensive lineman missed out on Sunday's practice, and head coach Adam Gase revealed stunning news that - unlike Cameron Wake - keeping him out was not a precautionary measure like many other decisions have been.
"We’re going to be week-to-week right now." said Gase. "We’re still kind of feeling out what’s going on. We’re working with the doctors and trying to make sure when he comes back, he’s ready to go. Right now, he obviously won’t be playing in the Atlanta game. We most likely won’t see him the rest of the preseason."
An injury that's bad enough to keep him out of the rest of the preseason at this point in time may also be enough to keep him out of the regular season opener against Seattle and even beyond that. The fact that the injury is in his hip is even more concerning, as Pouncey has had surgery on both hips in the past.
“I don’t want to put a timetable on it, but there’s a possibility." Gase said about Pouncey possibly missing the season opener. "If things change for us or if we get some kind of diagnosis where they tell us it’s a longer period time than we originally thought, it could happen.
"Right now, like I said, we got to be ‘next man up.’ We can’t hope for this to happen because we don’t know right now. That’s why we’re still working with the doctors as far as, ‘Where are we at? How long is this going to be?’ We’re taking our time as far as making sure we got the right evaluation and we make the right decision.”
With Pouncey ailing, the team is turning to the 26 year old Anthony Steen, who went undrafted in 2014 and was later signed by the Arizona Cardinals, only to be released and subsequently placed on the practice squad by Arizona before finally landing on Miami's practice squad on November 24th, 2015.
Since then, the former Alabama offensive lineman has steadily climbed the ranks in training camp, to the point where Adam Gase has deemed him worthy of being the primary backup to Mike Pouncey over Jamil Douglas, who was the primary backup in 2015.
“I think at first, he’s got this toughness about him." Gase said of Steen. "He’s got that grit about him. When you get an offensive lineman like that, it’s hard not to like. You start appreciating that. The more we’ve all been around him, the more we’ve appreciated the way that he’s played, the way that he goes to work. He doesn’t say much. He gets after it every day. You never see him have a bad day because he comes out and he’s got something to prove every day.”
Now with Pouncey down for the count, Steen will have even more to prove as he now has the responsibility of making the calls at the line of scrimmage and filling the shoes of an arguably top 10 center in the NFL.
"You don’t have a choice." Gase said. "The center’s really the starting point for us and then the quarterback really is the guy that can trump everything. It’s just going to be a little different for our guys right now because it’s a different voice. They’re so used to Mike (Pouncey) doing everything and he’s got that calmness about him and now (Anthony) Steen’s got to get in there and he’s got to be next man up."
Pouncey is an integral part of the offensive line, but Adam Gase has been preaching the importance of the "next man up" philosophy. The third preseason game against the Falcons on Thursday should shed a lot of light on what the line will look like with Steen - not Pouncey - blocking and making calls. If there is a silver lining, at least it happened in preseason, and not when the games count.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater
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