Dwight Stephenson Very Impressed With Pouncey's Progress

Posted Oct 2, 2012

Hall-of-Fame center likes what he sees about the first-rounder.

Recognition from your peers on the field is one thing, but to earn praise from a Hall-of-Famer at your position that played for your team is something that doesn’t happen very often.

Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey first caught Dwight Stephenson’s eye last year as a rookie with his athleticism and strength, but now four games into this season he is impressing Stephenson in other ways.

“Year one was outstanding and this year is a continuation of last year,” said Stephenson, who was named to five consecutive Pro Bowls from 1983-87. “He’s already good, it’s just a question of how good he’s going to get, but he does a lot more than probably than what we did when I played. He has all of the tools. He has the physical ability, he’s quick, he’s strong, he’s big and he has the smarts, so I think he’s going to continue to be a great center.”

Stephenson was smaller in stature back when he played for the Dolphins at 6-foot-2 and 255 pounds, so he used his quickness much the same way the 6-5, 303-pound Pouncey does to gain leverage and to be effective at the second and third levels. His command of the huddle and making the calls at the line of scrimmage still stand out today to those who played alongside him.

When Pouncey was taken 15th overall in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft the talk was that he was better suited to play guard, even though his twin brother, Maurkice, made the Pro Bowl as a rookie center for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He insisted that he could excel at center and delivered on his word with 16 starts last season and 20 consecutive heading into Sunday’s road game at the Cincinnati Bengals, showing Stephenson that there is still plenty of potential to be tapped.

“He’s never lost his poise in there no matter how tough the situation, fourth-and-short or late in the game, and I think that’s one of the things that’s been pretty interesting about him,” Stephenson said. “The guy’s a very smart guy and he’s just going to keep getting better and better. He’s doing a great job both as an athlete and with his head through his leadership and his preparation.”

Unlike last season when he snapped the ball to veterans Chad Henne and Matt Moore, Pouncey has a rookie quarterback behind him in Ryan Tannehill. That typically puts more responsibility on the center to get the protections right and execute the snap perfectly, even though Tannehill has shown his fair share of poise so far.

During Stephenson’s eight seasons in Miami in a career that was cut short by a knee injury, he was the undisputed voice of reason in the huddle and the one his teammates feared the most. Hall-of-Fame quarterback Dan Marino got the notoriety for his intimidating stares and demand for perfection, but former Dolphins tight end Joe Rose pointed to Stephenson as the one nobody wanted to cross during Stephenson’s guest appearance at the Miami Dolphins Touchdown Club this afternoon at Bokamper’s Sports Grill in Miramar.

“Two things that are very important for a center are that you’ve got to be poised and you’ve got to show leadership out there,” said Stephenson, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998 in his sixth year of eligibility. “The center position I feel is kind of like a natural leadership position because you’re the one that sets the huddle, you break the huddle and you take the line up to the line of scrimmage. That’s one of the things that I’ve always enjoyed about it and he’s demonstrating that he’s handling things quite well.”

Judging by the success the Dolphins have had running the ball behind Pouncey and that offensive line and the improved pass protection for Tannehill, that observation by Stephenson is proving quite accurate.
Game Pass: Miami Dolphins