The starting left guard spot for the Miami Dolphins appears to be in open competition, as rookie interior lineman Isaac Asiata received snaps with the first-team offense on Sunday. The injury to Ted Larsen (torn biceps) has opened up an opportunity for the fifth-round draft pick, but it is now Asiata's job to surpass the remaining competition at the position.
Isaac Asiata is working with the first team at LG.— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) August 13, 2017
The rookie's potential accession to the starting left guard position is advantageous for both Asiata, and the team alike. Injuries have already been a key factor for the Dolphins in the early stages of the 2017 season - mainly the season-ending injury to quarterback Ryan Tannehill. With Jay Cutler now under center, coach Adam Gase will rely heavily on the play of his offensive line in the coming season.
The increased dependency is connected to the following two factors:
- Cutler isn't as mobile as his predecessor.
- Miami's offense will increase its reliance on running back Jay Ajayi's ability to shoulder the offensive load.
Asiata should be able to contribute to both issues if he is able to live up to his pre-draft profile. At 6'3" and 341 pounds, the former Utah standout made his name by opening up lanes as a run blocker. Asiata's work in that department eventually translated to him capturing the Morris Trophy—awarded to the Pac-12's best linemen—in his final season for the Utes.
While Asiata doesn't project to make an immediate impact in pass protection, his proficiency in the running game should help Cutler stay on his feet. In Chicago, Cutler was sacked nine-fewer times than the year prior when utilizing more play-action plays under Gase in 2015. In order for those plays to work, Miami has to be a consistent threat on the ground.
The long-term implications of Asaita's integration with the first-team offense are equally enticing, as the left side of the line would be comprised of two players under the age of 25. If Laremy Tunsil and Asaita can form an above-average duo immediately, the potential chemistry and salary cap savings are extremely attractive.
While the idea Asiata starting seems like an easy decision on paper, the rookie will still have to overcome competition for the job at left guard. Anthony Steen and Kraig Urbik have performed adequately, and a healthy Mike Pouncey could place center Jake Brendel in the competition as well.
Given the current forecast for Miami's offense for the 2017 season, it tough not to feel encouraged about Asiata's work with the starters. If his run-blocking prowess follows him to the the NFL, the Tannehill-less Dolphins might be able to remain a formidable threat on Sundays.