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2014 Positional Breakdown: Offensive Line

Posted Feb 3, 2014

Unit produced a Pro Bowler for the second year in a row.



There was bound to be a microscope on the five players tasked with protecting second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill after replacing both tackles, and the offensive line handled the attention all season. Two of the mainstays from the year before – center Mike Pouncey and right guard John Jerry – took on the responsibility of assimilating the newcomers up front.

Pouncey kept up the family tradition of traveling to Hawaii on the NFL’s dime by being selected to the Pro Bow for the first time, marking the second consecutive year a Dolphins offensive lineman earned the honor. His twin brother Maurkice, center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, made it the previous two seasons, so that was an example of how players around the league viewed him.

Injuries and other circumstances forced a number of different alignments as the season progressed, with seven-time Pro Bowl tackle Bryant McKinnie coming over via trade to hold down the left side and versatile guys like Nate Garner and undrafted rookie Sam Brenner having to step up. Veteran free agent right tackle Tyson Clabo also finished strong on a line that is sure to receive a lot of attention again when training camp rolls around.

BREAKING DOWN DOLPHINS OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

• Mike Pouncey (6-5, 303) — There was a consensus in the media at the end of the 2012 season that Pouncey deserved to make the Pro Bowl over his twin brother, but he used the snub as motivation in 2013 and put together another strong campaign, despite missing two games with an illness. His unique skill set and athleticism combined with his size allowed him to be effective both as an in-line blocker and on screens as a pulling center capable of getting down the field ahead of his running backs and receivers. That was evident on Mike Wallace’s first touchdown as a Dolphin in Week 2 at Indianapolis on an 18-yard wide receiver screen, as Pouncey snapped the ball to Tannehill in the shotgun and then took off down the field and knocked Colts strong safety Antoine Bethea into the end zone ahead of Wallace.

• Bryant McKinnie (6-8, 352) — McKinnie was a dominant tackle in college down the road at the University of Miami and a seven-time Pro Bowler with the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens, winning a Super Bowl last year with the Ravens. He jumped right into the starting lineup at the New England Patriots four days after arriving in South Florida and did a stellar job protecting Tannehill’s blind side for the most part over the final 10 games of the season.

• Tyson Clabo (6-6, 329) — After seven seasons in Atlanta with one Pro Bowl appearance in 2010 for the Falcons, Clabo tested the free agent market and added a strong veteran presence to a young Dolphins offensive line. He had a streak of 97 consecutive starts before missing the New England game and then he started the last nine regular-season games, serving as a mentor to Jerry and picking up the quality of his play down the stretch.

• John Jerry (6-5, 345) — Jerry was the only offensive lineman to start all 16 games, which is something he also did in 2012 to give him 33 consecutive starts going back to the 2011 season finale against the New York Jets. His personal highlight of the season was going up against his brother, Falcons defensive tackle Peria Jerry, in Miami’s home opener at Sun Life Stadium and coming out on the winning end of a 27-23 score.

• Nate Garner (6-7, 325) — Mr. Versatility is Garner’s nickname, as he has managed to play all five positions on the offensive line during his four active seasons in Miami (he missed all of 2010 with a foot injury and was inactive for all 16 games in 2008). The Arkansas native started two games at center for Pouncey and four games at left guard, proving his value on the line in a pinch, and he helped Brenner transition off of the practice squad.

• Sam Brenner (6-2, 301) — Brenner went from an unknown entity stashed on the practice squad to a popular postgame interview after making his unexpected NFL debut against the San Diego Chargers in Week 11. The undrafted rookie out of Utah started at left guard and wasn’t fazed by the big stage, ending the season with four starts in the final seven games.

Dallas Thomas (6-5, 306) — Taken in the third round from Tennessee, Thomas struggled early on adjusting to the speed of the game at the pro level but progressed enough to catch the eye of the coaches late in the season. He was active for six of the last seven games and is expected to contend for more playing time in 2014.

Danny Watkins (6-4, 262) — Watkins signed with Miami less than a week before the season opener at the Cleveland Browns after starting 18 of 23 games for the Philadelphia Eagles in two seasons. He was Philadelphia’s first-round draft pick (23rd overall) in 2011 out of Baylor but was only activated for one game (against San Diego on November 17th) and hopes to stick next season.

David Arkin (6-3, 310) — Like Watkins, Arkin was picked up after training camp and the preseason, signing with the Dolphins on November 5th off of the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad. He also was active for one game, against the Carolina Panthers on November 24th in Week 12, and will try to make a case for playing time in 2014.

Only one offensive lineman, rookie tackle Jason Weaver from Southern Mississippi, was kept on Miami’s eight-man practice squad and at 6-5, 305 he has the body type that could swing to guard if necessary. The upcoming NFL Draft in May could be a focal point for the Dolphins to try to beef up the offensive line in 2014.
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