The rundown of failed Dolphins guards is longer than Santa’s naughty list.
Since 2012, they have drafted four — Dallas Thomas, Billy Turner, Jamil Douglas and Isaac Asiata — and signed stopgaps like Daryn Colledge, Sam Brenner and Jermon Bushrod. They even tried Mike Pouncey at the position for a season.
None has stuck.
So it’s poetic that their most promising young interior lineman is a guy no one in the league wanted just 13 months ago.
Jesse Davis was out there for anyone to sign in November 2016. That is, he was until the Dolphins took a chance on him. But even they were only half-sold on him; Miami signed Davis to its practice squad at the time, not its active roster.
Safe to say that he will be on the Dolphins’ 53 for the foreseeable future.
Davis has started the last four games in place of an injured Bushrod (whose career may be over). Not coincidentally, the Dolphins are averaging 108 rushing yards per game and 4.3 yards per carry during that stretch.
“I think he’s done a good job of allowing himself to be put in his position because when he got here,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase explained. “I don’t know if you guys remember, he wasn’t as big as what he is now. He really spent a lot of time in the weight room with [strength coach Dave] Puloka and he continued it, not only through the end of last year, but all through the offseason, all of training camp, through the season. You can see his strength is one of his assets that we really, really like. When he gets his hands on guys, he really can tie a guy up for a while.”
Gase credited Chris Grier and his personnel department for seeing something in Davis that others did not last year.
“When opportunities come up, they have to have a list ready to go,” Gase continued. “‘Hey, this is a guy I like,’ and when we have a spot open, they go and try to get that guy on our team.”
The Dolphins like Davis enough that they see him as a potential (if not starter) in 2018 — even though he was not their first (or second) choice in 2017. He has gotten starts at both guard and tackle, and the Dolphins could have needs at both, if they elect to let Ja’Wuan James walk. James is due $9.3 million in base salary next year, but the Dolphins could cut him with no salary cap pain (assuming he’s healthy by the start of the league year).
The Dolphins believe they have seen enough from Davis at both right guard and right tackle this year that they can make a fair evaluation on his best position.
“We’ll look at that at the end of the year,” Gase said. “It’s one of those things where we’ll probably put film together and sit there and watch both at the end of the season.”
It should be noted that not everyone is sold on Davis. Pro Football Focus ranks him 66th out of 73 NFL guards, although gave him an excellent grade for his performance against the Bills in Week 15.