Shelley Smith was the first free agent guard the Miami Dolphins signed to help rebuild their gutted interior line.
Weeks later, the Dolphins moved up in the third round to draft Billy Turner, a tackle out of North Dakota State they projected as a guard.
And yet, neither has panned out as expected — yet. Smith has appeared in just two games this year and was a healthy scratch in Sunday’s win against the Bears. Turner is still waiting to see the field for the first time as a professional.
Furthermore, the Dolphins elected to play a career center (Mike Pouncey) the past two weeks rather than use Smith or Turner, who have both dealt with injuries in the first third of the season.
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Turner was hobbled by a foot issue late in training camp, but he hasn’t appeared on the team’s injury report in nearly a month. Smith, who signed a two-year, $5.5 million contract in the spring, has had a sore knee the past few weeks, but the Dolphins listed him as probable on their final injury report before the Bears game.
Turner said not playing would be “difficult to anyone,” but has kept a mature perspective. He’s a rookie playing behind a nine-year veteran in Daryn Colledge, an eight-year veteran in Samson Satele and a Pro Bowler in Pouncey.
“Obviously, I want to be on the field,” Turner said. “Who doesn’t? My role is to help the team. Obviously, not in a team setting, on game day, but to help the team in practice or whatnot and continue to learn and get better every step that I can.”
Turner finds himself in the same situation as Dallas Thomas, another third-round pick who was a rookie in 2013. Thomas appeared in just six games last season and was barely used even after the team lost two starting linemen to its bullying scandal.
But it’s not like coach Joe Philbin is against playing rookies on the offensive line, if they’re the best option. Ja’Wuan James has participated in the most snaps of any Dolphins player — offensive or defensive — in 2014.
“When I was the [Packers’] offensive line coach in ’06, I think we had 38 starts out of rookies, which I think is the highest, you can go back and check, but it’s about as high as there is,” Philbin said. “I personally don’t have any hesitation. I’ve done it before. I would do it again.”
▪ The thigh injury that knocked cornerback Brent Grimes out of Sunday’s game didn’t him keep from him practicing Tuesday, at least on some basis, allaying concerns that the issue is more serious than originally thought.
Grimes was a bit gimpy when he reported to team headquarters for treatment Monday, but he warmed up and did individual drills during the portion of practice open to the media.
Grimes is remarkably resilient. He made a full and impressive recovery from a torn Achilles that cost him all but one game of the 2012 season. Not counting that year, he has missed just four games since 2009 — and none with the Dolphins.
Grimes was injured late in Sunday’s win in Chicago. Jamar Taylor replaced him and played 18 snaps from scrimmage. Will Davis, meanwhile, wasn’t on the field for a single defensive play Sunday.
Defensive back Jimmy Wilson, meanwhile, remains hampered by the hamstring injury that kept him out of the Bears game. He did not participate in the portion of practice open to the media Tuesday.
Tight end Charles Clay was also apparently limited in practice. The team will release its first injury report of the week Wednesday.