Rookie Dallas Thomas’ summer odyssey around the offensive line and the depth chart continued Friday morning at Dolphins training camp. A new answer to “Where’s Dallas?” came about because the game of “Where’s John Jerry?” began.
The Dolphins starting right guard for all 16 games in 2012 was absent Friday morning. Asked why, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said, “Our policy on injuries is, we will talk about anybody at practice. We will be glad to answer any question about anybody at practice.”
Jerry suffered his injury in time for the Dolphins staff to tell third-round draft pick Dallas Thomas on Thursday night to be ready for some time at guard, which is where Thomas played his senior year at Tennessee. Through training camp and the earlier offseason practices, Thomas lined up at tackle, where he spent his first three collegiate seasons.
“I was happy because it was another challenge, something to get better at and to work on,” Thomas said. “So, if they ever did put me in a game, I wouldn’t just be stuck at tackle or guard. I’ll know I could do both.”
Thomas said left tackle Jonathan Martin, just 16 games into his NFL career, and center Mike Pouncey gave encouragement and support to help him relax. Thomas identified defensive tackle Randy Starks as the defensive lineman who provided the toughest challenge.
“They’re all professionals, they know what they’re doing,” Thomas said. “I was just trying to make sure I knew everything so it wouldn’t slow those guys down so they didn’t have to worry about carrying the rookie.”
But instead of just plugging Thomas into Jerry’s right guard spot, the Dolphins coaching staff moved left guard Ritchie Incognito over to right guard most of practice and put Thomas in at left guard next to left tackle Martin. Martin spent the first 12 games of his rookie season at right tackle, the office now occupied by veteran free agent Tyson Clabo.
So only Pouncey spent practice in the spot he was last season with the Dolphins.
“It’s good he gets reps with the first team,” Incognito said. “We obviously have to see what he can do if he plays with the ones. It’s a big challenge for both of us. It’s time for us both to step up. We’re helping the team out. Any time I have an opportunity to help this team get better, I’ll take that chance.
“I’ve started a lot of games over there on the right side. It’s just more repetition and getting back into the groove.”
Philbin deflected any questions about who was lining up left and right of Pouncey.
“It’s training camp, and we want to get a different look at a combination of guys at different spots,” Philbin said. “We are still in the teaching phase of the offense, so a young player like Dallas Thomas hasn’t had experience throughout the whole install, so to speak. We don’t want to be flipping him around quite yet. We’ll look at the tape, but I thought it was good.”
Asked if Thomas would’ve received those first-team snaps if Jerry had been present, Philbin said, “We are going to move guys around, and we are going to give guys different looks at different combinations throughout the course of camp. We are not overly concerned today who are starters are right yet.”
As for whether or not he’d consider starting Thomas, Philbin said, “We don’t have any starters right now. We are just working different guys.”