Did you see what Mike Pouncey did last week?
It was a sight to behold, and the fact it didn’t happen on the field didn’t much diminish its significance because this has been coming for a while and promises to be more enduring than any one game of a season.
Pouncey, who has been a one-man wrecking crew so far, celebrated a coming-out of sorts that put the spotlight where it has rightly belonged for weeks now:
On the Dolphins center.
In a couple of interviews, Pouncey put a Jets player on notice, took the mantle as team spokesman from all the other Miami players who have previously declined to hold it, set talking points for an entire offense if not the entire team and, oh, by the way, helped people around the NFL remember he is perhaps the league’s finest young center.
It was quite a week for Mike Pouncey.
To grasp how all this happened you must understand the dynamic of the Dolphins offensive line for the past couple of seasons.
Jake Long has been the unit’s best player and Richie Incognito has been its most willing and entertaining spokesman. And that has pushed Pouncey backstage because he’s younger and not nearly as highly paid or decorated.
But an interesting thing happened the past six games: Pouncey has become the Dolphins’ best offensive lineman.
As Long has ebbed and flowed, as Incognito has played consistently but never really spectacularly, even as youngsters Jonathan Martin and John Jerry have gotten attention for their struggles and encouraging improvement, Pouncey has been somewhat ignored.
Except, the guy some folks are ignoring has played better than all the others and about as well as any other center in the NFL.
“Yes, he’s playing well. He’s playing very well,” coach Joe Philbin said. “I think he does an excellent job of getting the group going. I like the way he practices. I like the way he competes in the game. I think football is important to him.
“He brings a lot of passion and juice to the locker room, to the practice field and to the game field. I think he’s playing well.”
That’s the local view. Now consider what one AFC general manager told me in confidence Thursday evening.
“The common belief is that his brother [Maurkice] is the best up-and-coming center in the conference and maybe even the league,” the GM said. “The truth is [Mike] is better week to week and, from what I’ve seen, he’s nowhere near his ceiling yet.
“… He’s a keeper.”
The respect Pouncey’s play is earning puts him in a unique position. If his coach and the front-office people around the league have a high opinion of him, you can believe teammates respect his status.
So, increasingly, when Mike Pouncey says something is so … it is so.
And this week, when Pouncey announced that no one is going to bully the Dolphins and no one is going to threaten running back Reggie Bush, his teammates privately agreed that’s how it would be.
That means New York Jets linebacker Aaron Maybin has a problem. In the midst of a sometimes-serious, sometimes-childish quote battle between Miami and New York players, several Jets said they wanted to knock Bush out of Sunday’s game.
New York safety LaRon Landry said it. He even called what he does “head hunting.” And Maybin joined in as well.