Last season, one of the few shining points for a Miami Dolphins offensive line that was simply atrocious for much of the year, was the play of rookie center Mike Pouncey. Pronounced by many before the draft as a player not as gifted as his twin brother Maurkice with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and a player that could only play guard in the NFL, not one who would succeed at center, Mike came in to the league with something to prove.
Add to that, Maurkice's Pro Bowl appearance as a rookie, and older brother Mike wanted to exceed all the expectations put before him. And, he did just that.
Mike may not have been named to the Pro Bowl last year (he was a second alternate), while Maurkice claimed a spot for the second straight year, but Mike showed he was not only capable, but could excel, as an NFL center. With last season's lockout giving a built in excuse for failure, Pouncey worked hard throughout the season to get up to speed on the normal duties of a center, adjusting the offensive line's coverage responsibilities based on what the defense is doing. And, he routinely served as one of the top, if not the top, lead blockers for the Dolphins' rushing attack, often slipping off his block and moving ahead of Reggie Bush or Daniel Thomas to clear a path.
Now, Mike is looking to make his sophomore campaign even better than his rookie one. "A big one," the 6', 5", 303 lbs. offensive lineman recently told the South Florida Sun Sentinel when asked about the kind of growth he hopes to make going into his second season. "They say your second year is supposed to be your best year. I'm hoping for big things. I'm coming out as hard as I can. I want to take on more of a leadership role this year."
When the Sun-Sentinel pointed out the things Pouncey did well last year, including taking over the protection calling duties as a rookie, Pouncey simply responded, "Well, yeah. I was a rookie last year. We didn't have any offseason program like we do this year. Now I have more time to learn the offense, more time to adjust to it. This offseason program's going to help me a lot more to be smoother with the play calling."
The Dolphins are drastically changing the offensive system from the one they played last year, including the way the offensive line blocks. For the first time, the Dolphins will look to become a zone blocking team, a scheme that should aid the offensive line drastically. "I think it's gonna benefit great," Pouncey said of the system. "We have a lot of athletic guys up front that can run. I think the zone scheme is better for us instead of the power scheme."
While Pouncey expects big things, both from the change of scheme and from his personal development, we as fans may get to sit back and watch the next great Dolphins center develop before our eyes.
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