With the potential loss of Dolphins center Mike Pouncey for at least three months, the Miami offensive line that was going to be the center of attention this season has even more focus on it. The trenches of the Dolphins offense was going to have four new starters before Pouncey’s injury, and now we’re basically guaranteed to have a completely new starting five in Week 1 against the New England Patriots.
So naturally, the question becomes who will slide into Pouncey’s spot at the start of the season? Will it be a guy like Nate Garner or Sam Brenner, who both have experiences filling in on the offensive line? What about a move for probable starting guard Shelley Smith, who was seen during OTAs snapping the ball? Or will it be someone that isn’t on the roster yet?
Whatever the case may be, it’s an intriguing question before training camp opens, and something that will be talked about for days and weeks to come. That makes it fodder for NFL analysts like Jamie Dukes, and Finsider and former Dolphins offensive lineman Keith Sims, as both joined The Finsiders in interviews with Greg Likens, and former Dolphins Troy Stradford and Chris Chambers to discuss the issue.
Replacing Pouncey for a decent amount of time will be a tall task for Miami because of his role on the line. The center is the main cog on a line. He’s the guy making all the line calls, the one in control of the rest his teammates in the trenches. According to Keith Sims, that’s the biggest thing in this situation. The position he plays is just so important.
“It is a different world and a different viewpoint from the center position, and a whole different level of responsibility,” said Sims. “Typically the center is the quarterback of the offensive line. He’ll make the line calls, he’ll make the shifts, he’ll figure out who the middle linebacker is, and all protections go off of that situation. It’s a huge responsibility. After all of that you have to do a clean snap to your quarterback, so it’s a huge deal that Mike Pouncey won’t be in there to start the season or the start of training camp.”
Not only is replacing Pouncey a big deal from a position standpoint, but it’s also obviously because of his Pro Bowl pedigree. Pouncey does a lot of different things that centers don’t always do, such as pulling out wide and making blocks down the field. His athleticism allows him to get out on the edge and seal off defenders, and not anyone can come in and replace that production immediately. His skill set is extremely rare for a center.
“You’re not talking about replacing an average, non-mobile center,” said Sims. ”Mike Pouncey is arguably the most athletic center in the league at that position, so these are huge shoes to fill…They need to make this decision quickly, (his replacement) needs to get the maximum amount of reps.”
Whoever the eventual starting five are, they’ll need to become a cohesive group, and quickly. Training camp and preseason are coming on fast, and are gone in a flash. Jamie Dukes thinks that time is needed, but the hard working young players that Dolphins have make it possible as opposed to last season.
“Well, it takes years at times, but you don’t have that luxury,” said Dukes. “You’re going to have good and bad, it’s just going to take a minute. But at the same time I like where you’re positioned because you got rid of some guys that necessarily couldn’t play, you bring some young players in and they’re going to be working hard.”
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