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2013 Training Camp Preview: Offensive Line

Posted Jul 19, 2013

Pouncey and Incognito anchor a fluid front five in front of Tannehill.

Once Head Coach Joe Philbin and General Manager Jeff Ireland accepted the notion that they would be parting ways with four-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long in the offseason, they knew how important it was going to be to construct a stable offensive line in front of second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. It helped having center Mike Pouncey and Pro Bowl left guard Richie Incognito already in place.

Despite speculation in the media that the Dolphins had to be angling for a left tackle in free agency or the draft, the decision was made to place that responsibility on last year’s second-round draft pick out of Stanford, Jonathan Martin. He played on that side in college and was transitioning to right tackle as a rookie, but Philbin, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and offensive line coach Jim Turner remained confident in him and targeted a right tackle instead.

Veteran Tyson Clabo was that new piece in free agency, and Miami also drafted Dallas Thomas out of Tennessee in the third round, a three-year starter at tackle for Tennessee who played guard as a senior. Another veteran, former Chicago Bears guard Lance Louis, was brought in to compete with John Jerry at right guard and behind them is a strong group of young and veteran linemen eager to earn playing time, so training camp in the trenches should be intense.

BREAKING DOWN DOLPHINS OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

• Mike Pouncey C (6-5, 305) — With each snap of the ball, Pouncey continues to emerge from the shadow of his twin brother, Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, and has earned the respect of opponents and teammates alike. Secure in his position at the start if training camp, the 2011 first-round draft pick has a solid rapport with quarterback Ryan Tannehill and appears ready to grab hold of that leadership role on the offensive line.

• Lance Louis G (6-3, 320) — Louis had developed into a solid starter for the Chicago Bears when he suffered a season-ending torn ACL in his left knee last November 25th at Minnesota and finished the year on IR. Miami signed him as an unrestricted free agent on March 27th of this year and with 24 career starts under his belt he is expected to compete with John Jerry for the starting right guard spot.

Josh Samuda C/G (6-3, 315) — Last season was a dream season for Samuda, a South Florida native, as he earned his way onto the 53-man roster after being signed as an undrafted free agent out of UMass. Serving as the primary backup to Pouncey, he actually took a couple of snaps against the Indianapolis Colts in the second half of a Week 9 matchup after Pouncey hurt his knee and performed admirably, giving him confidence heading into this training camp that he can hold down that backup spot again.

• Richie Incognito G (6-3, 319) — Incognito made it to his first Pro Bowl in what was his eighth NFL season in 2012 after starting all 16 games at left guard and formed a strong left side of that line next to Pouncey. With Jonathan Martin moving over from right tackle to left tackle, he will be asked to help ease that transition both on the field and inside the meeting room, but speaking up has never been a problem for the former Nebraska Cornhusker.

• Dallas Thomas G/T (6-5, 315) — The Dolphins used their first third-round draft pick on Thomas out of Tennessee because they liked what they saw on film and how he graded out on the scouting reports. A four-year letterman for the Vols, Thomas started 25 consecutive games at left tackle before moving to left guard as a senior and has the flexibility to play both at the next level, which he will try to prove in training camp.

• Jonathan Martin T (6-5, 312) — Martin is going back to his natural position in his second year, the one he thrived at during his years at Stanford protecting the blind side of Andrew Luck. The second-round pick with a high intellect was Miami’s starting right tackle for 12 games before ending the season on the left side after Long was lost to injury and he bulked up in the offseason in order to better handle the stronger pass rushers, so this camp is an important one for him to reward the coaching staff for their confidence in him.

Will Yeatman G/T (6-6, 315) — Very few NFL players have been asked to morph their bodies as drastically as Yeatman has since being claimed by Miami off waivers as a rookie tight end in 2011, first moving to offensive tackle prior to the start of last season and now moving further inside to guard. Yeatman has added around 50 pounds to his frame but believes he will not compromise the athleticism he developed as a lacrosse player and tight end, which should give him an upper hand in the competition for a backup spot.

• John Jerry G (6-5, 345) — Jerry endured the scrutiny that came with the Dolphins’ appearance on HBO’s Hard Knocks and started all 16 games at right guard, delivering on the expectations that come with being a third-round draft pick back in 2010 out of Ole Miss. His starting spot is not assured by any means, which he is aware of thanks to the signing of Louis and the drafting of Thomas, so he hopes to get off to a fast start in camp.

Nate Garner T (6-7, 320) — When it comes to reliability and versatility, Garner has more than proven himself during his five seasons in Miami having lined up at every position up front except at center. He held his ground at right tackle last season after Long went down and Martin moved over to the left side and was rewarded with a new contract in March, so he will be counted on in training camp to keep the pressure on the younger players.

• Tyson Clabo T (6-6, 315) — Clabo brings with him the experience of making a deep playoff run with the Atlanta Falcons last season and has started 91 consecutive games, which is the fourth most among active tackles in the league. This is his eighth season and he has been selected to one Pro Bowl (2010), so he also brings a veteran presence to the line and should be able to help Martin as well while also making Tannehill comfortable.

There are six other offensive linemen looking to crack the 53-man roster or at least be assigned to the practice squad – undrafted rookie free agent guards Chris Barker and Brian Thomas, undrafted rookie free agent center Sam Brenner, tackle Jeff Adams and guards Chandler Burden and Andrew McDonald.