Armando Salguero

The Miami Dolphins’ plan for backing up Mike Pouncey and what that means for Nick Mangold

Kraig Urbik filled in for Mike Pouncey last year and he’s the leading candidate to do it again if necessary.
Kraig Urbik filled in for Mike Pouncey last year and he’s the leading candidate to do it again if necessary. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

I’ve explained to people within the Miami Dolphins organization the fundamental difference between them and me when it comes to thinking about talent acquisition.

(Yeah, jokers … I know. They’re smart and I’m dumb. Very funny.)

The difference is that with practically no exceptions I’ve encountered in the 27 years I’ve covered the NFL, coaches and personnel men plan for success. They make moves with the expectation that things will work out. They set up rosters believing the men on that depth chart are going to work hard, stay healthy and play well.

Me? I approach it from a different mind-set. I consider plans for failure.

I take disasters into account. I think about what happens if guys are busts. If guys get injured. If injured guys fail to heal. And considering the real possibility that everything scripted in the team’s offices will not go as planned, I think about what could be done to address the trouble before it happens.

Hey, I’ve lived in Florida most of my life. NASA is just up the road. So I believe in a fundamental NASA credo: Redundancies are good.

That’s one reason a couple of weeks ago I wrote about how the Dolphins still needed to address the center and running back postions. And a couple of days ago I circled back to the running back position as needing better depth.

Well, I can now report to you the Dolphins still think I’m dumb.

Mike Pouncey, Miami Dolphins center, talks about defeating the Steelers and his brother, Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey.

That’s why the team is going forward with plans to stay the course at the center position, and sources say Miami has no intention of signing free agent center Nick Mangold at this time.

Now, I don’t pretend to know what has gone into this Mangold decision. I know the Dolphins studied the possibility. I know he has said he’s getting healthy and wants to play.

But I don’t know where Mangold’s health is currently or to what degree he still has the fire to compete. I do not know if he’s waiting for an opportunity to be a starter again, which obviously would not be the case in Miami.

Whatever the answers, the Dolphins are not going in the otherwise obvious Mangold direction because they think their current set-up — with Kraig Urbik and Anthony Steen and perhaps even Ted Larsen figuring in as possible backups to starter Mike Pouncey — is the better answer.

And what’s the question?

What happens if Pouncey, who hasn’t started 16 games in a season since 2012 and missed 11 games last season with not one but two hip injuries, goes down again in 2017?

This is trouble on wide-open ground. It’s obvious. It should be a known concern for the Dolphins.

When a player who has been injured in the recent past and today still isn’t 100 percent is being counted on to start, you have a possible problem. You cannot count on that player to play the entire season. You can hope the player stays healthy, but the trend is undeniable.

The Dolphins have a plan for addressing this trend.

Coach Adam Gase has joked he is going to wrap Pouncey in bubble wrap. He was kidding, but only to a small degree.

Pouncey is expected to practice sparingly during training camp and play sparingly, if at all, during the preseason. And then during the regular season, Pouncey’s going to practice sparingly during the week so he can play on Sunday and be available for as many games as his hips will allow.

Adam Gase, Miami Dolphins coach, talks about his post-game speech after their loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He told the players to enjoy this moment, some of the players would not be on the team next year, "that's the fact of the NFL".

That’s the plan.

“I know we kind of joked about this in the past about how I’m going to handle him this coming season, but our goal is to make sure that he plays every game plus more,” Gase said. “So if that means that he doesn’t practice as much, I have no issues with that.”

And what happens when Pouncey isn’t practicing? What happens if the 1A center isn’t available to play?

It basically means Kraig Urbik, Anthony Steen and Ted Larsen are going to be competing to become the 1B center — the guy who takes the starting snaps and plays when Pouncey doesn’t.

Urbik, who finished last season as the starter, is the favorite to win the job. Steen had experience doing it as a rookie, and the team hopes he improves as many second-year players do. Larsen is more likely headed to the starting left guard job.

This plan would be better if it included a healthy Mangold, but that’s obviously not in play now.

At least the Dolphins have a plan they can implement if things go wrong.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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