The biggest surprise of Dolphins training camp so far?
Any conversation would probably begin with Dallas Thomas.
Despite the Dolphins’ deficiencies on their offensive line last year, Thomas was entrusted with just three offensive snaps all season.
But Thomas, to this point, has held off free agent acquisition Shelley Smith and rookie third-round pick Billy Turner for the starting job at right guard, though coach Joe Philbin cautioned it’s still an ongoing competition.
“Really explosive, real athletic,” left tackle Branden Albert said of Thomas. “He’s got a lot of tools I don’t have. He’s going to be a hell of a player.”
Thomas, selected in the third round in 2013, said Tuesday, “It hurt that I had my chance in training camp last year but blew it.”
That made him determined to add muscle and reduce his body fat this offseason, which he achieved by hiring a nutritionist and refining his diet.
“He has performed pretty well,” Philbin said. “He got better. You could tell when you watched the tape last year that he was developing. Obviously, fans didn’t get to see that on Sundays.
“Then he had a very good offseason program. He was one of the guys that was here voluntarily in February and March, working with our strength and conditioning guys.”
The Dolphins believe Thomas can play tackle if needed, but for now, they’re having him focus on guard.
Thomas is comfortable playing alongside rookie first-round pick Ja’Wuan James, his former teammate at the University of Tennessee. Philbin said James played “pretty well his first game,” but “I wasn’t crazy about his start.”
The Dolphins remain resistant to making Dion Jordan a linebacker, even though he’s likely not going to be on the field much on first down as long as he remains primarily a defensive end.
“There is only X amount of time that you have on the practice field, and you have to decide how you want to spend his time,” Philbin said. “One of the things we’ve wanted him to practice on a continual basis is pass rush. So if we’re going to give him an opportunity to compete as a linebacker, you’re taking him out of that element. … in his practice time.”Kevin Coyle