The shuffling along the Miami Dolphins offensive line started as soon as the team took the field for the first day of training camp. The Dolphins, who will have five new starters on the line in the first game, shifted the entire interior of the line around.
Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey is out indefinitely after having surgery on his hip in the offseason. The team addressed the problem Friday by moving guard Shelley Smith to the center position. Smith has never played center in the National Football League.
“Probably the biggest adjustment is just, and especially in this offense, the center is kind of the quarterback of the offensive line,” Smith said of the transition to center, “so just getting guys in the right position to be successful.”
Smith had been slotted in at right guard before Pouncey had his surgery. With Smith now at center, the Dolphins shifted second-year player Dallas Thomas to right guard after he spent most of the offseason working at left guard.
Thomas’ move to right guard opened up the left guard position which was filled Friday by veteran guard Daryn Colledge into the left side of the line. The Fins also have Pro Bowl veteran left tackle Branden Albert and rookie first-round pick Ja’Wuan James at right tackle.
The results on the first day of practice weren’t encouraging for Dolphins fans. According to the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson, the new-look offensive line gave up at least six sacks on Friday. That’s a rough start for a team that surrendered 58 sacks last season.
Still, quarterback Ryan Tannehill was optimistic about the guys who will be blocking for him and the running game.
“I feel good about the offensive guys that we have,” Tannehill said. “I feel like the front office did a good job bringing guys in and now it’s just a matter of gelling those guys together, playing consistently with the same five guys and building off what we started in the spring.”
The Dolphins have one more offensive lineman who could play into the equation before all is said and done and the regular season begins. Third-round draft pick Billy Turner played left tackle in college, but projected as a guard in the NFL. He brings a nasty nature that most offensive line coaches love in their players.
Still, the Dolphins have a rookie and a second-year player who got on the field for three offensive snaps last season manning the right side of the offensive line and a center who has never taken a snap at the position in the NFL to start the season, which will have to gel quickly if the team is to take the next step into the playoffs.