James Makes Every Snap Count In NFL Debut

Posted Aug 10, 2014

First-round pick started the game at right tackle and played 30 snaps, the most of any of the starting offensive linemen.

Ja’Wuan James got his first taste of NFL game action Friday night at the Georgia Dome. As it turned out, he wound up getting a little extra action.

The Dolphins’ first-round pick started the game at right tackle in the 16-10 loss against the Atlanta Falcons and wasn’t done until late in the third quarter. He ended playing 30 snaps, the most of any of the starting offensive linemen.

In fact, that number tied fellow offensive tackle Jason Fox for third-most snaps for a Dolphins offensive player Friday night, behind only the 50 snaps played by backup quarterback Seth Lobato and the 33 played by backup tight end Brett Brackett.

Lest anyone think James would have preferred having a short night of work — say, like Branden Albert, who was done after the Dolphins’ opening touchdown drive — think again.

“I wanted that because the first drive I did all right, the second drive was kind of bumpy, so I was like, I want to redeem myself,” James said. “He let me stay in there. Got a bunch of reps, so I got a bunch of reps I could go look at on film and get better from.”

At first glance, it certainly would appear James held his own in his first NFL preseason game.

He and the rest of the offensive line played a significant role in that opening drive when quarterback Ryan Tannehill found himself with plenty of time in the pocket and took advantage of it to the tune of a 6-for-6 performance.

“It (gave us) a lot of confidence,” James said. “My first NFL drive was a touchdown. That was pretty cool. But we’ve got to try to continue that out throughout the season.”

While the Dolphins could never reach the end zone the rest of the way against the Falcons, Tannehill and Lobato were not sacked while James was on the field.

“Definitely feel like I can play better,” was James’ assessment of his performance. “Going out there for the first time, that first drive was crazy for me. But I’m going to watch the film and everything, talk about it, get the fundamentals down, things like that so I can go out work on them at practice and it’ll be better vs. Tampa Bay (on Saturday night).”

For his part, Head Coach Joe Philbin said after practice Sunday that James made gradual progress throughout the game.

“He was OK early on, but I thought he got himself kind of into a groove a little bit, felt a little bit comfortable as the game progressed,” Philbin said. “There’s still a lot of room (for improvement), but I thought for the first time he did a solid job.”

The preseason opener was just another step for James, who also was excited about playing at Sun Life Stadium when the Dolphins had their team scrimmage.

With every step, James continues to show tremendous poise for a rookie. And if he’s feeling the burden of expectations as a rookie starter, he’s certainly not showing it.

No, what James is showing is continued growth. The preseason opener was just another step, and it came with a bonus for James.

“It was better going against somebody else than Cam (Wake),” James said. “I just tried to approach every play as a new play. That’s what they try to teach us. But I just want to get my technique down. I’ve definitely got to go watch the film, clean up some things and get ready for Tampa Bay.”
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