For Mike Pouncey, the Dolphins’ coaching change didn’t truly sink in until the first time he saw Dan Campbell’s truck in Joe Philbin’s old parking space.
It took Campbell a little time to adjust too.
“I would say probably like Day 2 [or] 3 I was like, ‘OK, what just happened here? What have I just gotten into?’ ” Campbell said. “I remember at one point everything just hit me at once.”
Campbell eventually got his bearings and focused on the task at hand.
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But Sunday — his first game as a head coach — will be another shock to the system.
What’s his biggest concern on the sideline Sunday against the Titans?
“Not throwing up on my shoes,” Campbell joked.
Nothing will settle his stomach more than a fast start — particularly on the ground.
And that starts with an offensive line that expects to at last have the five starters the team envisioned in the spring.
It’s Billy’s time to step up. He was [competing] for the job in the preseason, he got beat out. Now he has everything in the world to prove. I can’t wait to see the kid play.
Billy Turner will start at right guard instead of Jamil Douglas, Turner and Pouncey all but promised Friday. And Branden Albert should play for the first time since straining his hamstring in Week 2.
Albert, who practiced all week, is formally listed as questionable on the team’s final injury report. Although Campbell wouldn’t commit to either Albert or cornerback Brent Grimes (also questionable with a knee injury) playing against the Titans, the tea leaves all suggest they will.
“Any time you have a Pro Bowl left tackle come back and play, it kind of avoids having to worry about that spot at all,” Pouncey said of Albert. “It’s Billy’s time to step up. He was [competing] for the job in the preseason, he got beat out. Now he has everything in the world to prove. I can’t wait to see the kid play. I’m happy for him.”
This was supposed to be the plan all along.
Turner was a third-round pick in 2014, and this was the year it was supposed to all come together for him. The Dolphins did everything they could to hand him the starting job in the spring.
Then came the summer. And pads. More specifically, Ndamukong Suh in pads. Suh exposed Turner on a near-daily basis in training camp. The first three preseason games were little better.
So Philbin decided to go with Douglas, the rookie, at right guard. The results were not good. The Dolphins rank 31st in rushing (69.3 yards per game) and Douglas was among the lowest-rated guards in football, according to Pro Football Focus. Turner, meanwhile, wasn’t even active the past three games.
But with Philbin out and Campbell in, Turner on Sunday will finally get a second chance to make a first impression. Turner said that he learned Friday that he’ll be in the lineup.
“I just play physical football,” Turner said. “That’s how I played in college and that’s how I still play right now. I think that’s more along the lines of what Coach Campbell is trying to throw out there against football teams. I think he just wants to have that physical edge over teams.”
Added Pouncey: “We’re just excited to go back to what we do best, and that’s attack the running game. That sets up the rest of our offense. We’re going to put a big emphasis on running the football. We’re going to put all the weight on the shoulders of the offensive line this week.”
▪ Along with Albert and Grimes, defensive tackle A.J. Francis (back) is also questionable for the Titans game. Four Dolphins are probable: corner Zack Bowman (shoulder), linebacker Chris McCain (shoulder), tight end Dion Sims (concussion) and defensive end Cameron Wake (hamstring).
▪ Campbell said all Dolphins replay decisions will flow through assistant special teams coach Marwan Maalouf, who sits in the coaching booth. “I’m not listening to anybody but him,” Campbell said.
▪ Campbell had high praise for safety Reshad Jones: “He’s a stud. … He’s a hell of a player. Talk about a player doing everything right. … He’s one of the guys we’re going to put a saddle on and ride into the playoffs with.”
▪ As of Friday morning, the coaching staff still hadn’t decided where new defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo will be located during games, but Campbell said Anarumo will likely coach from the field.