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Miami Dolphins training camp stories: Offensive line could overshadow quarterback battle

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NFL: Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Stop me if you have heard this before: The Miami Dolphins offensive line could be the story of training camp. All the debate around Ryan Tannehill is gone now, with Miami trading him to the Tennessee Titans this spring, but the questions swirling the offensive line that could never seem to come together in front of Tannehill still remain. Heading into another training camp, the season could be made or broken based on what happens in the position battles in front of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen.

Four of the five starting offensive line positions have questions. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil is locked in and, if he continues to play like he did last year, should be considered for the Pro Bowl by season’s end. After that, assumptions have to be made to figure out a starting group.

Daniel Kilgore will likely be the team’s starting center after missing three-fourths of last year with a torn triceps muscle. He could be a solid player in the middle of the offensive line, but there are definitely questions about his play - and his recovery from the injury - that need to be answered. Can he improve against the run? Behind Kilgore is Kyle Fuller and rookie Ryan Anderson, either of whom will hopefully push Kilgore this summer.

The presumed starting left guard is rookie Michael Deiter. Miami selected him in the third round of this year’s Draft, and they need him to immediately start. Chris Reed could push for the job, but the team should be hoping Dieter locks into the role quickly this summer. The other guards on the roster are Jesse Davis, Tony Adams, Michael Dunn, and rookie Shaq Calhoun.

Davis should be the starting right guard, but could need to move outside to right tackle if no one claims that spot. The battle for who will start next to Davis - either on his right as a tackle or on his left as a guard - will be one of the biggest and more important position battles this summer. The Dolphins seem to want to leave Davis at guard, allowing him to settle into one position and learn and grown there, rather than continuing to bounce him around as a utility lineman.

Which would mean a right tackle needs to step up. Jordan Mills seems like the most likely to fill that role, but he has not been great over the last few years, a trend that continued during the Dolphins’ offseason training program in the spring. Maybe when pads come on, Mills’ play will improve, but he definitely has not locked down the position as of yet.

Pushing Mills will be Isaiah Prince, Miami’s sixth-round pick this year. Zach Sterup and Aaron Monteiro could also be in the fight for the job, though Sterup is likely better suited to be Tunsil’s backup at left tackle and Monteiro, a rookie, likely need to develop more.

Alliance of American Football alumnus Jaryd Jones-Smith could be a player to watch when it comes to the tackles. He has the ability to push for a starter position or to be the team’s primary swing-tackle reserve. He just has to prove that he is ready for the NFL now after being an undrafted free agent with the Houston Texans in 2018, but failing to make the roster. Technically still a rookie, could the Dolphins have found a developmental gem from the AAF?

The Dolphins likely head into the season with a starting lineup on the offensive line consisting of:

LT - Laremy Tunsil
LG - Michael Deiter
C - Daniel Kilgore
RG - JesseDavis
RT - Jordan Mills

That combination was good enough to be ranked dead last in Pro Football Focus’ offensive line rankings from earlier this month. The wrote:

The offensive guard curse lives on in Miami. Just one year after a 2017 season that saw the team’s guards combine to give up 69 total pressures, the side lost Josh Sitton to injury, and Jesse Davis, Ted Larsen, and Travis Swanson combined to allow 98 pressures on the interior in 2018. Wisconsin product Michael Deiter will come in and try and steady the ship as a rookie having finished the 2018 college season ranked third in overall grade (82.2) and third in run-blocking grade (82.8) among guards with at least 400 offensive snaps played. Former Bills right tackle Jordan Mills is set to take over the right guard position vacated by Ja’Wuan James, but Mills’ three-year grade at right tackle (60.1) pales in comparison to James’ (75.4).

That might not be the best sign for a 2019 season for the Dolphins. Especially if they are trying to get an evaluation of quarterback Josh Rosen, for whom they traded during the Draft. Rosen struggled behind a subpar offensive line last year with the Arizona Cardinals. If Miami’s offensive line does not come together as an effective unit this summer, it could be hard once again to evaluate Rosen.

The offensive line’s performance this summer, and the position battles that will be decided, will determine how 2019 goes for the team. Will they outperform expectations? Or, will they struggle - again?

And will we be back to trying to decide if it is the quarterback or the offensive line? Rosen? Tannehill? Stop me if you have heard this before.