The Dolphins will enter training camp with what appears to be a wide open competition for the two starting positions at guard, and the biggest reason is what happened in the offseason.
The Dolphins didn’t add pure high-end guards, per se, but the two most significant acquisitions along the offensive line were tackles who have the ability to slide inside — veteran Jermon Bushrod
and first-round pick Laremy Tunsil
Those two should battle for a starting job with returning starters Dallas Thomas
and Billy Turner
, as well as Jamil Douglas
, who started the first four games last season before being replaced by Turner.
Also possibly in the mix for a starting job is veteran Kraig Urbik
, who joined the Dolphins after spending six seasons with the Buffalo Bills. BREAKING DOWN DOLPHINS OFFENSIVE LINEMEN RETURNING VETERANS • Jamil Douglas (6-4, 308) —
Douglas worked at both guard and center in the spring after getting his first exposure at center last season. That versatility will help in his quest to land a roster spot should he lose out in his quest for a starting job. • Jacques McClendon (6-3, 318) —
McClendon is one of the many offensive linemen with roster flexibility, as he can line up at guard or center. He re-signed in the offseason as an unrestricted free agent, but he’ll have to fight to earn a roster spot. • Mike Pouncey (6-5, 299) —
Pouncey had hip surgery after his third consecutive Pro Bowl season, but he took part in all the spring work and also lost some weight. He’s firmly established as one of the best centers in the NFL. • Dallas Thomas (6-5, 316) —
A big focus for the Dolphins in the offseason was getting all of their linemen — offense or defense — stronger and Head Coach Adam Gase said Thomas really embraced the challenge. Thomas started 25 games the past two seasons and is looking to keep his job at left guard. • Billy Turner (6-5, 310) —
After a camp injury derailed his rookie season, Turner made big strides last season after being inserted into the starting lineup after four games. A third-round pick in 2014, Turner remains an intriguing prospect, though he’ll face a challenge for his starting job. VETERAN ADDITIONS • Jermon Bushrod (6-5, 320) —
This is the wild card along the offensive line because he has never played an NFL game at guard and because he’s coming off shoulder surgery. That said, Bushrod has plenty of experience, is a two-time Pro Bowl selection and got practice time at guard with the Chicago Bears in 2015 after an injury cost him his starting job. His credentials alone suggest he’ll challenge for a starting job. • Vinston Painter (6-4, 322) —
Painter spent most of the 2015 season on the Dolphins practice squad and was re-signed to a future contract in early January. Since being a sixth-round pick of the Denver Broncos in 2013, he has appeared in three games, all with the Cleveland Browns in 2014. • Kraig Urbik (6-5, 334) —
Urbik was a third-round pick of the Steelers in 2010, but he never played for them. Instead, he had a successful run in Buffalo, where he started 57 games and played 84. He has lined up at guard and center, and that versatility could make him a factor for the Dolphins offensive line. ROOKIES OR FIRST-YEAR PLAYERS • Ruben Carter (6-4, 312) —
Carter finished his collegiate career at Toledo after graduating from Florida State. A star at Miami Jackson High, he’s another lineman who can play guard or center, though he’ll have to make a quick impression to earn a roster spot. • Anthony Steen (6-3, 313) —
Steen joined the Dolphins practice squad in late November and was re-signed to a future contract in January. He won three national championships while at the University of Alabama and has bounced on and off the Arizona Cardinals practice squad. He’s strictly a guard, which will make his quest to earn a roster spot more difficult. • Laremy Tunsil (6-5, 316) —
The 13th overall selection in the 2016 draft emerged as a big-time tackle prospect at the University of Mississippi, but the presence of Branden Albert
and Ja’Wuan James on the Dolphins roster could lead to him starting his NFL career inside. Tunsil got practice snaps at both guard and tackle in the spring, and Gase said that while he showed promise he still has a lot of work to do. That said, Tunsil clearly is among the contenders for a starting job at guard.