Dolphins great Jason Taylor chatted up old teammate Cam Wake before leaving training camp Friday with no greater conviction about Miami’s chances than when practice began a few hours earlier.
“They’re in pajamas,” Taylor said with a shrug. “We’ll see tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow” as in Saturday. As in the first day pads can come on, and contact becomes live.
For three months, the Dolphins have hoped they will be a good team this year. But beginning Saturday, they’ll learn how good they truly are, particularly in the trenches.
That starts at left guard, which is easily the biggest question mark on a team with surprisingly few.
“It will be a good time,” rookie Jamil Douglas said. “There will be a lot of popping out here.”
At this point, the competition between Douglas and Dallas Thomas for the job is technically wide open.
But Douglas, the fourth-round pick out of Arizona State, seems to have an early edge, however slight. People within the organization see Douglas as the favorite to ultimately earn the starting spot, but it’s far from a done deal.
Dolphins coaches have seen Thomas in pads (with uninspiring results). But Douglas is still an enigma. He has held his own thus far in training camp, splitting reps with Thomas, and certainly has the strength for the job.
Douglas is a weight-room warrior. His measurables are something out of Muscle & Fitness.
“I believe I did 565 [pounds] for three [reps] on squat,” Douglas said. “My power clean was 385. And my bench was 415 for two, I believe.”
Put another way: Douglas could bench press Jarvis Landry with his right hand and Reshad Jones with his left.
But how does that strength translate? We’ll find out Saturday, when the Dolphins want to see him move defensive players backward.
Football is about much more than how a player looks in the mirror, of course. Plenty of Combine freaks have bombed once the lights come on.
Which is why Joe Philbin was so pleased Thursday night when he knocked on Douglas’ hotel room door during his nightly bed check.
“He was watching the one-on-ones of himself,” Philbin said. “He’s into it. He’s aware of some of the things he needs to work on, as any young player.
“He has got good awareness for a young player both on the field and some of the things professionally he needs to do to help improve. I really like what he’s doing.”
Douglas isn’t afraid to keep his nose in a book. He earned his undergraduate degree in criminal justice in the fall of 2013; he’s now just two classes short of his master’s.
After practice Friday, when most of his teammates had retired to the locker room, he was still on the field. Although he has never played center in his life, Douglas was learning how to snap the football, in the off-chance he’s ever asked to do so in a game.
The Dolphins’ plan, however, is for him to never touch the ball. It’s for him to line up between Mike Pouncey and a healthy Branden Albert and protect Ryan Tannehill.
Though they could turn to free agent Evan Mathis in a pinch — Mathis’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, was seen chatting up football czar Mike Tannenbaum on Friday afternoon — the Dolphins are going to give Douglas and Thomas every chance to win the job.
“Definitely, I want to be the guy,” Douglas said. “But at the same time, that’s not something I can focus on. That’s out of my control. If they choose to [sign Mathis], they choose to. I’m not going to worry about that. I’m just going to come here every day and do what they brought me into to do.”
The alarm is set for 8 a.m. Saturday. Time to take off those pajamas.