For the third part of our look at CBS Sports' Pat Kirwan's recent article addressing what it means to have depth in the NFL, we turn from the outside of the offensive line to the inside. Kirwan developed 13 questions, looking at key positions on the field and who would fill in if needed. In the end, Kirwan found that the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks and the Cincinnati Bengals best fit the idea of "depth" on a roster.
In his "honorable mention" list, Kirwan placed the Washington Redskins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, and a "tossup" between the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers. Explaining how the Dolphins, and the other teams, landed on that list, Kirwan wrote, "they don't satisfy all the categories but they did better than most teams hitting on at least nine of the 13."
Since the Dolphins met the entry criteria for the depth discussion by having a backup quarterback that "can go at least 2-2 in a four-game stretch" with Matt Moore, the next question on Kirwan's list is:
Does your team have a solid inside offensive lineman that can play guard or center?
While it was difficult to find a true swing tackle for Miami in yesterday's post, today is much easier, and actually comes down to the same guy as the swing tackle. The Dolphins' utility lineman, Nate Garner, clearly fits this question. Miami has used Garner at every position on the offensive line in the past, but he is most at home at either guard position, and has played center when needed.
Garner is a player that does not get a lot of notoriety because, looking at the depth chart, he is just a backup offensive lineman. He is, however, a key part of the Dolphins' offensive line, essentially serving as the sixth man for the group.
The Dolphins have several other linemen who could also fit this answer, including Shelley Smith and Sam Brenner. That may wind up being tested early in training camp as the team looks to fill the vacancy left at center when Pro Bowler Mike Pouncey tore the labrum in his hip and had to have surgery. With Pouncey likely out of action for at least three months, Miami has to find a stopgap for the middle of a completely rebuilt offensive line.
Veteran offensive lineman Daryn Colledge signed with the Dolphins yesterday, giving the team a guard who has filled in at center in emergency situations. He could be given a look at center as the Dolphins start training camp, or he could free up Smith at guard, allowing him to move inside to center.
The Dolphins do have the criteria to answer Kirwan's question. Now that they are having to utilize that depth, we will see how well the backup center options can perform.