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Miami Dolphins Depth Chart Projections: Offensive Line

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Which offensive linemen will make Miami’s 53 man roster this season, and where will they place on the depth chart?

NFL: New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The offseason is a magical time in the NFL. All players are “in the best shape of their lives” and every single coach is going to “create a winning culture.” All teams are “poised to make a playoff run,” and perennial losing teams are “finally ready to turn things around.”

That being said, the offseason is also a time when coaches need to make the tough decisions about who is going to make their team’s roster. No matter how much talent a team brings in through free agency and the draft, cuts are inevitable. An offseason roster of 90 players will eventually have to be trimmed down to the best 53, and outside of the team’s top players, there are never guarantees as to who will make the team.

This offseason, I am running a series of depth chart projections, breaking down Miami’s roster by position, and predicting who will make it to week 1 of the 2017 season. Today, we review the offensive line positions.

Roster

Offensive Tackle

Laremy Tunsil

Ja’Wuan James

Sam Young

Jesse Davis

Terry Poole

Avery Young (NFI)

Eric Smith (R)

Kwayde Miller (R)

Offensive Guard

Jermon Bushrod

Ted Larsen

Kraig Urbik

Anthony Steen

Isaac Asiata (R)

Center

Mike Pouncey

Jake Brendel

Roster Locks

OT Laremy Tunsil

Tunsil is the offensive lineman on the Dolphins who fans, coaches, and everyone in between should be most excited about. If not for a draft day fiasco, the supremely talented tackle would have almost certainly been taken in the top 7 selections of the 2016 NFL Draft, but he luckily landed in Miami’s lap at number 13.

After a year of impressing at guard and the departure (and eventual retirement) of previous starting left tackle Branden Albert, Tunsil is ready to slide back to his natural position protecting the blindside. If all goes well, Tunsil will hold down the fort for Tannehill (or any other Dolphins quarterback) for years to come.

Chance of making the 53 man roster: 100%

OT Ja’Wuan James

James has been a steady force at right tackle since being drafted by the Dolphins in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He started every game of his rookie season and did the same for Miami last year. With one year remaining on his rookie contract, the Dolphins exercised James’ fifth-year option to keep him on the team through the 2018 season.

Should James continue to develop and improve his game, it would be no surprise to see the front office pursue a more long term extension for the 6’6” 307 lb lineman. What’s most exciting is that the duo of Tunsil and James provide the Dolphins with two young, talented, and improving long-term solutions at the tackle positions.

Chance of making the 53 man roster: 100%

C Mike Pouncey

Pouncey has been the source of both jubilation and heartbreak for many Dolphins fans. When he’s healthy on Sundays, he’s one of the best players on the field. Unfortunately, that’s rarely been the case for the course of an entire season, as Pouncey hasn’t been healthy for a full 16 games since 2012. The uber-talented center played a career low 5 games last season due to recurring hip problems, making many fans feel as though it might be time to pursue another option to anchor the offensive line.

Now that Miami has reached the playoffs and the team is gearing up to make another run, Head Coach Adam Gase is doing everything possible to ensure that Pouncey plays “16 plus” games this year. Gase knows how important Pouncey is to the offense not only from a talent standpoint, but for the experience and leadership he brings to the offensive line on game days. Gase has all but kept Pouncey rolled in bubble wrap throughout the offseason thus far, and is limiting him to as little involvement as possible to let his hips heal after the center underwent offseason procedures. If the three-time Pro Bowler stays healthy, Jay Ajayi and the rest of the offense will certainly reap the benefits.

Chance of making the 53 man roster: 100%

OG/OT Jermon Bushrod

Bushrod is the oldest player on Miami’s offensive line, but that doesn’t mean the veteran isn’t still productive. Despite the fact that Bushrod received a low rating from Pro Football Focus after the 2016 season, Gase informed the media that the tackle turned guard was the team’s second highest graded offensive lineman of the year. Bushrod also played guard for the first time in his long career last season. That came after 9 successful seasons of playing tackle for the New Orleans Saints and the Chicago Bears.

Despite being unsure of his NFL future after the end of his 2016 campaign, Bushrod resigned with Miami on a one-year $3,000,000 contract ($2,250,000 guaranteed), while also hinting that one of the reasons he came back to play football is because he’s doing so as Dolphin. In his second year at right guard, Bushrod is expected to line up with the starting five when the season begins, and there is reason to believe he should improve upon last season as he becomes more comfortable at the guard position.

Chance of making the 53 man roster: 100%

Probable Backups

C/OG Ted Larsen

Larsen was in line to start at left guard until suffering a torn bicep during training camp. The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals, and Chicago Bears lineman has had a mix of backup and starting experience over the course of his seven year career and was expected to be a reliable stopgap option for the team while younger prospects such as Anthony Steen and rookie Isaac Asiata are groomed for the position.

Now, with Larsen out for the foreseeable future as his recovery timetable projects to bleed well into the regular season, a full position battle has opened up at the left guard spot. If no one else proves capable of being a full-time starter, expect Larsen to be back in contention to start later down the line should he fully recover in time.

Chance of making the 53 man roster: 90%

C/OG Kraig Urbik

Urbik joined the Dolphins on an inexpensive two year contract before last season after playing most of his career with the division rival Buffalo Bills. He started multiple games at multiple positions across the offensive line, finishing the year at center.

With Ted Larsen being sidelined as of now, the Dolphins lined Urbik up as the starting left guard during Friday’s training camp practice. Urbik was previously taking starting reps at center while Mike Pouncey was not taking part in full contact 11-on-11 drills. Urbik is one of the Dolphins’ most versatile linemen, and he’s someone who Gase seems to feel he can count on in a pinch.

Now that Larsen is set to miss the beginning of the season, don’t be surprised if Urbik ends up winning the starting left guard spot and continues to be the team’s second option at center. However, he will face ample competition throughout the rest of training camp and the preseason in some of the names listed below.

Chance of making the 53 man roster: 90%

C/OG Anthony Steen

Steen is another of Miami’s linemen who is listed as both a guard and a center due to his ability to play all along the interior. Last season, with Mike Pouncey unable to play, Steen started seven games at the center position. He lined up as the starting center during Friday’s training camp practice with Urbik forced to line up at left guard in Larsen’s absence.

As one of the team’s younger linemen, the Dolphins are hoping that Steen can develop behind established veterans such as Urbik, Pouncey, and Bushrod. It will be interesting to see whether the team sticks with younger players like Steen and rookie Isaac Asiata when contracts expire for players like Urbik and Bushrod, or if they’ll pursue other options in the draft and free agency.

Chance of making the 53 man roster: 85%

OG Isaac Asiata (R)

The Dolphins drafted Asiata in the fifth round of this year’s draft, hoping he’d come in and develop alongside younger players like Steen. Unfortunately due to injuries, Asiata may be forced to see live action on the field sooner than expected.

Because of Larsen’s bicep problem, Asiata has already begun to see minimal starting reps while occasionally rotating with Urbik at left guard during practice. Asiata’s massive frame (6’4”, 315 lbs) and immense strength will be useful in bulldozing the way for Ajayi’s aggressive running style, but scouts have noted his limited effectiveness while blocking downfield, something he’ll have to correct during camp. Offensive line coach Chris Foerster has spoken about the importance of having athletic linemen with quick feet, traits Asiata needs to hone to make an impact.

Chance of making the 53 man roster: 85%

OT Sam Young

Young has spent the majority of his career with the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars, after which he joined the Dolphins midway through last season. He’s been rostered mostly as a backup while making spot starts over the past few years, including one for Miami in 2016.

At the end of last season, he signed a one year extension to remain with the Dolphins through 2017. With his extremely inexpensive contract (one year, $1,150,000), and the insurance he provides as a veteran at the tackle position (something the Dolphins don’t have many of), I would be surprised if he didn’t make the final roster.

Chance of making the 53 man roster: 80%

Must Impress

C Jake Brendel

After a very successful college career as a center for UCLA, Brendel was signed by the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent following the 2016 NFL draft. He would later be released by the team and signed to Miami’s practice squad, finally being promoted to the active roster for one game last season.

What Brendel lacks in tangible traits such as length and athleticism he makes up for in spades with his intangibles. He was a three-time captain at UCLA and was named to the first-team All Pac-12 Academic Team. He has also been very durable throughout his career, playing 92 percent of UCLA’s offensive snaps during his college campaigns. If he overcomes his physical obstacles by showing a willingness and effort to improve those aspects of his game, he could convince the team to keep him on as a project player at center. I see him as a prime candidate for the practice squad if the team simply can’t afford an extra roster spot.

Chance of making the 53 man roster: 45%

Training Camp Bodies

OT Terry Poole

Poole was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL draft. Coming into the league, scouts took special notice of his effort and body control both in the run-game and in pass protection, but found issue with his slow feet and reaction time against inside pass-rush techniques.

What will make it difficult for Poole to cement a spot on the roster will be the fact that he’d likely have to push past a reliable and established veteran in Sam Young. I find it hard to imagine the coaching staff preferring the idea of turning to a young buck who has never played an NFL snap over someone who has played in 66 career games in the event of an emergency striking at the tackle position.

Chance of making the 53 man roster: 15%

Update: Poole was released by the Dolphins on Saturday.

OT Eric Smith (R)

Smith signed with the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent after starting 32 games as a right tackle for Virginia. He was touted for having quick feet and strength that helps him push back opposing linemen at the point of attack.

Much like Davis, Smith’s greatest hurdle will simply be the fact that the Dolphins might not have enough roster spots to accommodate another developmental prospect on the offensive line. He will have to greatly impress to surpass Sam Young on the depth chart or convince the team to sacrifice an extra roster spot for him altogether. Finding a place on the practice squad and biding his time for another chance to make the roster, possibly if injuries strike during the season, would be considered a success for Smith.

Chance of making the 53 man roster: 15%

OT Jesse Davis

Davis joined the NFL as a Seattle Seahawk back in 2015. His absolutely gigantic frame (6’6”, 309 lbs) should help him stand out on the field, but there’s not much about him from a technical standpoint that will help him move far ahead of the pack. With the amount of competition he has and the fact that there are only so many roster spots to go around, he’ll have to be special in training camp and during the preseason if he wants to stick around.

Chance of making the 53 man roster: 10%

OT Avery Young

The Dolphins signed Young this offseason after he spent his entire first NFL season on the New Orleans Saints’ non-football injury (NFI) list. During his college career at Auburn, Young spent time playing right guard, left guard, and right tackle, showing enough versatility to play all along the offensive line.

Young was again placed on an NFI list this offseason, but this time with the Dolphins. Now recently activated from the list, Young will have to use the time he has left before roster cuts to show the coaches that he’s worth keeping around. As evidenced above though, he’ll find plenty of competition and will need to be unique in both work ethic and ability in order to stand out.

Chance of making 53 man roster: 10%

OT Kwayde Miller

Miller signed with the Dolphins on Friday August 4th just a day before the team waived Terry Poole. Miller started all fourteen games with the San Diego State Aztecs in both his Junior and Senior seasons before going undrafted back in April. Much like his counterparts in this category, Miller will have a tough time latching on to a backend roster spot due to the simple fact that there are only so many to go around, and the coaching staff would likely far prefer a more established veteran as tackle depth as opposed to an unproven rookie.

I wouldn’t count Miller out entirely, but the young hopeful will need to make a huge splash if he wants to have a shot at the 53.

Chance of making the 53 man roster: 10%

Projected 2017 Offensive Line Depth Chart

Left Tackle

1. Laremy Tunsil

2. Sam Young

Left Guard

1. Kraig Urbik

2. Ted Larsen

Center

1. Mike Pouncey

2. Anthony Steen

Right Guard

1. Jermon Bushrod

2. Isaac Asiata (R)

Right Tackle

1. Ja'Wuan James

Current Depth Chart Projections

As we move through this series, I will keep a running list of past projections. By the time roster cuts roll around, we will have a full depth chart projection for the 2017 season.

Quarterback

Running Back

  1. Jay Ajayi
  2. Kenyan Drake
  3. Damien Williams
  4. De’Veon Smith

Wide Receiver

  1. Jarvis Landry
  2. DeVante Parker
  3. Kenny Stills
  4. Leonte Carroo
  5. Jakeem Grant
  6. Isaiah Ford (R)

Tight End

  1. Julius Thomas
  2. Anthony Fasano
  3. MarQueis Gray

Offensive Line

Left Tackle

  1. Laremy Tunsil
  2. Sam Young

Left Guard

  1. Kraig Urbik
  2. Ted Larsen

Center

  1. Mike Pouncey
  2. Anthony Steen

Right Guard

  1. Jermon Bushrod
  2. Isaac Asiata

Right Tackle

  1. Ja'Wuan James

Defensive Line

Defensive End

  1. Cameron Wake
  2. Andre Branch
  3. William Hayes
  4. Charles Harris
  5. Terrence Fede

Defensive Tackle

  1. Ndamukong Suh
  2. Jordan Phillips
  3. Vincent Taylor
  4. Nick Williams

Linebacker

WLB

  1. Kiko Alonso
  2. Neville Hewitt

MLB

  1. Raekwon McMillan (R)
  2. Mike Hull

SLB

  1. Lawrence Timmons
  2. Koa Misi*
  3. Deon Lacey

Cornerback

  1. Byron Maxwell
  2. Xavien Howard
  3. Tony Lippett
  4. Bobby McCain (starter at nickel corner)
  5. Alterraun Verner**
  6. Cordrea Tankersley (R)
  7. Jordan Lucas

Safety

  1. Reshad Jones
  2. Nate Allen
  3. Michael Thomas
  4. Walt Aikens
  5. (Suspended)*** T.J. McDonald

Special Teams

Current Roster Spots Occupied: 48

*Koa Misi was moved to injured reserve after the publishing of the linebacker depth chart projections, and will not take a spot on the 53 man roster.

**Alterraun Verner was not signed as of the publishing of the cornerback depth chart projections. I have him sliding in as the backup nickel corner behind Bobby McCain, possibly pushing McCain for the starting spot.

***Suspended players do not occupy a spot on the 53 man roster until their return to the team following the end of their suspension.