Yeatman Successfully Tackling Position Change

Posted Aug 13, 2013

Former tight end making adjustment to life on the offensive line.

Will Yeatman can’t recall the exact date, but the memory is vivid nonetheless.

It was sometime during training camp in 2012 that Yeatman remembers walking off the field and feeling for the first time like he truly, legitimately was an offensive tackle.

“My agent and I talked about it last year; he said there’s going to be a point you’re going to have that moment where you truly do feel comfortable,” Yeatman recalled after practice Monday. “And I don’t know if I could say a particular practice, but I can say that I remember having a practice where I didn’t get beat, I felt comfortable with all my steps and all my footwork and I just remember saying, all right, that’s what I’ve got to do every day. And that’s what I try to do every day.”

In his second training camp as an offensive lineman after playing tight end throughout high school, college and his rookie season in the NFL, Yeatman is hoping his growth as a player can match the physical growth that saw him go from 268 pounds when he first joined the Dolphins to his current 315.

No question, Yeatman remains a work in progress, but he also is a player with intriguing upside as an offensive lineman. As a former tight end — and a college lacrosse player to boot — Yeatman clearly has physical ability and the added weight didn’t slow him down. As 315-pounders go, Yeatman is about as lean as you’re going to get.

Where Yeatman needs to improve is in his consistency with his technique, and there clearly have been steps in that direction.

The best example was his play in the preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars Friday night.

“I told Will I thought his performance in the game the other night was the best I’ve seen,” Head Coach Joe Philbin said Monday. “He’s improving. He needs to see if he can build off of that in his next opportunity.”

Yeatman lined up at left tackle against Jacksonville, and he’s fighting for the chance to become Jonathan Martin’s backup at that position.

In the spring, Yeatman worked inside at guard and he also got practice reps at right tackle early in camp.

“They’re just trying to get me acclimated to the different positions of the offensive line because I’ve never done that before,” Yeatman said. “And I’m appreciative that they did that with me and I do feel more comfortable than obviously if I hadn’t played.”

Yeatman became an offensive lineman with the Dolphins after Philbin took over as head coach in 2012.

As a tight end, Yeatman appeared in the last three games of the 2011 season after being claimed off waivers from the New England Patriots after the final roster cuts. He made two starts at tight end that season, the first coming against the team that had let him go.

At 6-6, 268, Yeatman always fit the mold of a blocking tight end, so the switch to tackle never seemed like a stretch. It also was a move that Yeatman embraced.

“I feel like my frame can carry the weight of an offensive lineman and I feel that with my athleticism, that’s a strong point for me,” Yeatman says. “And if I can get my footwork down and my hands and my punch right, then I’m going to keep improving every day. So I wasn’t concerned. I was more excited and I realize that there’s probably more potential for me to go further in the NFL at the offensive line position than at tight end.”

In his first season as an offensive lineman, Yeatman was inactive for the first 12 games as he fine-tuned his techniques and learned the nuances of his new position.

Yeatman was able to get on the field for the last four games, but his playing time was limited to special teams and the role of extra tight end in short-yardage situations.

While he says his goal entering training camp was mainly to keep improving and be able to contribute, there’s no question Yeatman would love nothing more than to line up at offensive tackle in the regular season.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Yeatman said. “The preseason games obviously make you even more excited, but I’ve just got to keep improving every day. That’s the goal right now, just improve every day and do what the coaches ask of me.”

He did just that against Jacksonville. The challenge now is to keep doing it.

“You definitely want to see him continue to climb and develop,” Philbin. “We’ve seen it in the practices, on the practice field. I saw him in the hallway (Sunday), I told him that’s the best I’ve (seen of him). ‘You looked like a football player on Friday night in Jacksonville. Now you have to continue to grow and develop and continue to do that.’

“It’s hard to say exactly what his ceiling is. He’s grasping the technique of the position very well. It’s a repetition thing. The more he works at it, the more comfortable he appears. The biggest thing we saw (against Jacksonville) was he played fast. He played decisive. We are looking for him to continue to do that throughout the preseason.”
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