Armando Salguero

Taking the next step: Laremy Tunsil trying to raise the play of his younger teammates | Opinion

Dolphins OT Laremy Tunsil on trying to get better

Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil speaks to the media after practice at Dolphins training facility in Davie.
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Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil speaks to the media after practice at Dolphins training facility in Davie.

The next step for Miami Dolphins left tackle Laremy Tunsil is to become a leader, too.

He’s already a very good player. He’s the team’s best offensive lineman. He’s probably the most accomplished player on offense. One could even argue he and cornerback Xavien Howard are the only two elite players on the roster.

So the outside world has moved on from stuff such as pass sets and technique and one-on-one matchups to Tunsil’s evolution as a leader.

That’s the reason when Tunsil greets a group of reporters and asks why they want to talk to him on this day, one of the first topics that comes up is his leadership.

A media type asks how Tunsil’s work on improving his leadership is coming along?

“Pretty good,” Tunsil bellows, raising his baritone voice so loud that half the room takes notice.

The offensive linemen milling behind him are looking at him now and wondering what’s going on,

“Hey, guys clean up now!” Tunsil mockingly orders very, very loudly.

And the linemen get it. They smile and turn away or kid with Tunsil as this becomes a skit that shows this is a very loose portion of the locker room.

“It doesn’t work, it doesn’t work,” Tunsil says smiling. “We’re still trying, we’re still getting there.”

This is funny. It’s cool.

It is unforced.

And it shows Tunsil’s is in a good place as he puts the finishing touches on his preparation for the 2019 season. The man who came to the Dolphins worried about what he was going to say, worried about where he was going to play, trying to find direction from older teammates because he needed it, is relaxed and primed for something good to happen this season.

“I’m as ready as I can be,” Tunsil says as if welcoming the start of the regular season. “I come in every day and try to prepare and improve and work my [butt] off and provide for this team. That’s my mindset: to come in here every day and work and get better.”

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Of course, it will be about more than that. Tunsil, you have already seen, will be judged on more than his individual performance this year. Yes, it’s important the Dolphins are able to leave him on the proverbial island and let him handle a pass rusher one-on-one.

But for the team’s sake it’s also important he help the younger guys on that line to grow up quickly.

The Dolphins selected Wisconsin guard Michael Deiter in the third round of this year’s draft. He’s starting at left guard now, right next to Tunsil. It’s interesting because Tunsil spent his rookie year in 2016 starting at left guard next to Branden Albert. And Albert became something of a mentor.

So now Tunsil has to serve that role for Deiter.

“It was a fun time. I had a great time with those guys,” Tunsil says of his teammates from years ago. “Now I’m the vet in the room and I’ve got to bring the rookies up. Mike Pouncey and Branden Albert helped me out a lot, and I know what to do from that point.”

He’s only in his fourth season. He’s only 25. So maybe asking Tunsil to be a leader and the voice of the offensive line room is unfair.

But life is not fair.

The NFL is not fair.

So the mantle is on Tunsil. Because he’s the best the Dolphins have in that offensive line room. And someone that good is obviously doing something right. So he should be showing everyone else the way it’s done in much the same way he was shown years ago.

“... One of the biggest things for me is maturing,” Tunsil says. “Having guys like, Josh Sitton, ‘D.K.’ [Daniel Kilgore], Branden Albert, Mike Pouncey and seeing how those guys operate, I just took some tips from them and started doing it my own way and leading from that point.”

There is no doubt one piece of advice Tunsil is imparting on his young teammates is how to prepare for games. How to study opponents. Ask him what he knows now that he wishes he knew as a rookie and it is all about prep work.

“How to watch film,” Tunsil says. “That’s one thing some of the guys taught me, how to break down film – especially Sam Young – how to break down the film, what to look at, and what this player is doing and what that player is doing.

“I wish I would’ve watched film a little bit more when I was a rookie.”

The regular season is two weeks away. We know Tunsil says he’s ready. But is he ready to make it a big year?

“A big year?” he repeats. “Yeah. [We’ve got to] keep improving. Not just me, just the whole team. We’re underdogs. We want to prove some people wrong.”

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