Miami Dolphins

Offensive line woes persist for Miami Dolphins

During Sunday afternoon’s practice, the Dolphins gave-first team reps to journeyman Jacques McClendon at right guard.
During Sunday afternoon’s practice, the Dolphins gave-first team reps to journeyman Jacques McClendon at right guard. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Mike Pouncey would be a great weatherman.

No Dolphins player has a better barometer of the team, and he’s not afraid to share it.

The latest example: Pouncey told reporters Sunday that the offensive line is “obviously” Miami’s biggest concern.

Then Pouncey added (mostly) in jest: “I’m just encouraging those guys every day so I don’t have to move back to guard.”

That would be the nuclear option for a team that has invested three draft picks on the position in the past three years.

But considering the Dolphins might currently be on Plan C (or possibly even D), the idea of moving Pouncey from center again doesn’t seem that absurd.

They clearly aren’t sold on Billy Turner.

During Sunday afternoon’s scorching practice, the Dolphins gave first-team reps to journeyman Jacques McClendon at right guard.

Just last week, McClendon was third string. But that was before Friday’s scrimmage. McClendon played well that night; Turner did not. Turner was barely a speed bump for Ndamukong Suh, who was in the backfield seemingly every third play.

Dolphins guard Jacques McClendon speaks to reporters about being called in to practice with the starters during the 9th day of training camp on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015. Video by Carl Juste/Miami Herald Staff

Joe Philbin called the guard situation a “wide-open” competition. What he left unsaid: The eventual starter might not currently be on the roster.

For the second time in a week, Dolphins football czar Mike Tannenbaum and agent Drew Rosenhaus huddled after practice Sunday. Rosenhaus represents available guard Evan Mathis; the Dolphins and Mathis have mutual interest, but a deal is not imminent.

But if Turner (and McClendon and Jeff Linkenbach) all struggle Thursday in Chicago, site of the Dolphins’ first preseason game, Mathis’ leverage could grow.

Most saw McClendon as a backup when he signed a one-year, veteran-minimum contract in April. He’s on his sixth team in as many years. He did little to distinguish himself as a spot starter in Jacksonville last year. And he was just as surprised as anyone when coaches sent him in with the starters Sunday.

“I have no expectation whatsoever,” McClendon said. “I just put my head down. I’m a guy who didn’t come in here with any guarantees or anything. I just come in here and try to fight and claw for a roster spot.”

Said Philbin: “He played kind of stout [Friday]. I know that he was physical, didn’t get pushed back much, and I thought that he had pretty good awareness in there as well.”

Adam Beasley reports from Day 9 of Miami Dolphins Training Camp in Davie on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015. Video by Carl Juste/Miami Herald Staff

Let’s be clear: It’s not a good thing that Turner still has competition. The Dolphins talked up the former third-round pick all offseason, and most assumed he would be the clear-cut starter.

But Turner has been exposed each and every day by Suh, arguably the best defensive lineman in football. The Dolphins don’t want to spend the $5 million that Mathis wants on a guard but might be forced to if Turner doesn’t improve or McClendon doesn’t emerge.

Some have cut Turner slack by pointing out (correctly) that most every offensive lineman would struggle in practice against Suh.

But Ja’Wuan James, the team’s starting right tackle, isn’t one of them. When asked if success (or lack thereof) against Suh is a fair assessment, James replied: “It has to be. We all are in the NFL, we’re all players, we all got to make plays. It might take a longer process, or it might not look like it right now with Billy or whoever’s going against him. At the end of the day, we’ve go to make plays.”

THIS AND THAT

▪ Dallas Thomas returned to practice after missing Friday’s scrimmage with a shoulder injury. Rookie Jamil Douglas still got the majority of first-team work at left guard. Left tackle Jason Fox also returned after sitting out Friday with an undisclosed issue.

▪ Several Dolphins remained sidelined by injury: linebacker Koa Misi (calf), receiver Kenny Stills (calf), running back Jay Ajayi (hamstring), defensive back Shamiel Gary (shoulder) and receiver Christion Jones (hamstring).

▪ With Misi out, Spencer Paysinger got work with the starters. Undrafted rookie Mike Hull also appears to climbing the depth chart; he picked off Josh Freeman Sunday.

▪ Defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, who has had a solid camp, had a free run at Ryan Tannehill during team drills.

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