As the Miami Dolphins head into training camp, there will be a power struggle on the interior of the offensive line.
Many Miami Dolphins will be battling it out in training camp, fighting for a starting job or roster spot. While it’s not the sexiest battle, Dolphins fans know the struggle all too well on the interior of the offensive line, and that the group may be the key to taking that next step as a team.
The Phins interior offensive line has been an absolute mess since the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito debacle, which in turn dismantled the guard position in Miami. For the vast majority of Ryan Tannehill’s career, there has been no protection up the middle.
We got a small glimpse of just how good this team could be for a stretch last season when the entire line was healthy. Tannehill was efficient and relatively mistake free while Jay Ajayi was doing things Dolphins fans haven’t seen since Ricky Williams in his prime.
First and foremost, the health of Mike Pouncey means everything to this group. When he’s healthy he’s an All-Pro caliber center. Unfortunately he’s coming off yet another year dealing with injury and surgery. His hip still isn’t healed, although there is hope he can be ready for the season opener.
Being that he hasn’t played a full 16-game season since his sophomore campaign in 2012 and is coming off a year in which he missed 11 games and had major hip surgery, it’s more than likely he’s going to miss at least some time. This throws a whole other dimension into this group of interior lineman because you have to prepare like he may not be there for multiple games.
Excluding Pouncey, who will undoubtedly be the starter once healthy, this crew consists of Jermon Bushrod, Ted Larsen, Anthony Steen, Craig Ubrick and rookie Isaac Asiata. The guard positions are completely up in the air right now and they must be earned in camp. The outcome of this camp battle may be the key the Dolphins entire season.
I believe Asiata will be locked into a starting guard position by the time the season kicks off. I liked him heading into the draft and believe he was a strong pick by Miami in the third round. Opposite him, I like Bushrod to be the primary guard on the other side of the line. He’s reportedly looking better this season and could be setup for a bounce back season. This is the toughest spot to predict because Steen and Larsen are both very much in the mix. Asiata isn’t a lock either, at least not yet.
Steen has proven he can step in and be serviceable at center. I’m not overly optimistic about Pouncey’s availability early in the season and anticipate Steen getting plenty of playing time at center. However, once Pouncey is fully healthy or at least healthy enough to play, Steen could earn a starting guard job and push someone else to a backup role.
The concern with this battle is no matter who wins the starting job, we won’t know how good they are until we see them line up on Sunday in September. How they perform may be the key to the Dolphins playing into January.