Mike Pouncey Injury Spells Trouble for the Miami Dolphins

J. Meric

The Miami Dolphins were set to enter the 2014 season with a questionable offensive line without a lot of depth. Then, the unthinkable happened. Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey received hip surgery, sidelining him for three months. Pouncey is a key starter and a close second for most irreplaceable lineman on the Dolphins roster.

In the article that was published on Monday morning, I explained how I thought the offensive line was a bit troublesome and wondered if the Miami Dolphins had done enough to repair the biggest impairment from the 2013 season. However, I didn't mention much about Mike Pouncey or the center position due to my confidence in Pouncey to hold down the center of the offensive line.

Then, later in the same day, the news broke that Pouncey received surgery on his hip and will be out for three months. Pouncey will miss at least the first three games of the season and it's possible that Pouncey won't make his return until after the bye of Week 5. That is if he isn't ready to make the transatlantic flight out to London for the Week 4 contest against the Oakland Raiders on Sep. 28. Pouncey could miss a quarter of the season with after this recent surgery.

This news takes a lot of wind out of the sails of the coaching staff, the running backs and Ryan Tannehill. Not only is Pouncey a Pro Bowl center, but the options to replace him aren't comforting in the slightest.

The most likely candidate to replace Pouncey at center is Sam Brenner, an undrafted free agent in 2013 who started four games at left guard last year after the ripple effect from the "bullying" scandal left the Dolphins shorthanded at offensive line.

Brenner played right guard extensively in college but made the Dolphins team as a center before eventually finding the field at left guard. Brenner's experience at center throughout his rookie year will be valuable to him as he will likely be the opening day center when the Dolphins open the season against the New England Patriots.

There is also thought that Shelley Smith, an offseason free agent signee, could slide over from his right guard position to handle the center duties. Smith has never started a game at center in his NFL career but he took snaps at the position during Organized Team Activities.

If Smith does make the transition to center to replace Pouncey, who fills in at right guard? Sam Brenner or Nate Garner? Either way a lineman that I do not currently trust will find his way into the Dolphins' starting front line.

Not to mention I already had reservations about Smith as a starter before this new, unfortunate situation was revealed....

There is also a possibility that Garner, the Dolphins utility man steps in as the center. Garner is an intelligent player who can hold his own, but he may be best suited to compete for right guard if Smith moves to center.

This injury also opens the door for Tyler Larsen or Evan Finkenberg, two high-profile undrafted free agent centers, a chance to stick with the team and possibly even fight their way into a starting position during Pouncey's absence.

While the latter statement may be a bit too optimistic of a view, I wouldn't doubt that one or both of these young guys finds a niche in this roster. However, counting on either to start and hold their own is a pipe dream at this point.

Whoever does start will need to be an intelligent player as the center position has to make all the calls for the line, and in a zone-blocking scheme that communication is even more important.

The Dolphins opening day starter at center won't be Mike Pouncey for the first time since 2010 and its likely that the Dolphins will struggle in the first month of the season without him. For a team that needs to win now, in a season which hinges on quality offensive line play, this is a huge blow.

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