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Is Mike Pouncey the most important player to Dolphins rushing offense?

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NFL: Miami Dolphins at San Diego Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey has landed on injured reserve as his chronic hip issues continues to bother him. Pouncey has had surgeries on both hips, and the issue continues to be a problem, something the Dolphins are hoping can finally be fixed with the extended rest time and an offseason of treatment. Pouncey again missing time has led to calls from fans for Miami to move on from the three-time Pro Bowl center, declaring his injury history as reason he cannot be trusted to anchor the offensive line.

Pouncey has played 77 games in his career, or 80 percent of the games in his six seasons since being the Dolphins’ 2011 first-round pick. After playing all 32 games in his first two seasons, Pouncey missed two games in 2013, four games in 2014, two games in 2015, and will miss 11 games this season. While is seems like Pouncey is always injured, his playing time actually shows that, other than this year, he is clearly more available than he is not.

At the same time as the calls for Miami to find a new center, more and more complaints about the Dolphins not being able to run the ball are being raised. The past five games for the Dolphins, the team has rushed for 98 yards, 95 yards, 62 yards, 83 yards, and 67 yards. The four games prior to that, the team rushed for 222 yards, 256 yards, 137 yards, and 106 yards.

The difference? Pouncey missed the last five games, but played in the four before that.

To be fair, Pouncey also played in the game 10 games ago, when the Dolphins only rushed for 51 yards, but that was also the great Dallas Thomas-Billy Turner experiment game where, as Pouncey made his season debut, the guard/tackle combination played so poorly they were both cut after the game.

Looking at the games before Pouncey returned, the Dolphins rushed for 64 yards, 70 yards, 115 yards, and 62 yards.

That means, Miami has averaged 79.6 rushing yards a game without Pouncey, and 154.4 yards per game when he does play. Or, in nine games without Pouncey, the team has 716 yards rushing, while they totaled 772 yards rushing in the five games Pouncey did play.

Pouncey has the third-highest salary cap number for centers this season at $10.025 million (trailing Ryan Kalil at $11.829 million and Maurkice Pouncey at $10.551 million). Next year, Pouncey’s cap number falls to $8.975 million, the fifth highest number in the league. He has three more years after 2017 on his contract, with cap numbers of $9 million, $8.2 million, and $9 million. He is expensive, but his play on the field makes up for it - when he is on the field.

Pouncey’s presence on the offensive line is an important one for the Dolphins. Yes, his injuries are frustrating - and we are just fans, imagine how Pouncey and the Dolphins feel - but that does not mean it is time to give up on him. Yes, Miami needs to make sure they have someone who can play the position in case something happens to Pouncey, but if Pouncey is healthy, he needs to be the starting center for the Dolphins.