Sleeper Watch: Mike Pouncey

The AFC East blog continues its series this week on under-the-radar players who can make a big impact in 2012. Next up is a look at the Miami Dolphins’ starting center.

Sleeper player: C Mike Pouncey

Why we like him: Centers rarely get much attention, but we respect players in the trenches. Pouncey had a solid rookie season that included 16 starts. Miami's running game was the strength of the offense, in large part thanks to Pouncey. Tailback Reggie Bush had his first 1,000-yard season in Miami in 2011. Pouncey, similar to his twin Maurkice in Pittsburgh, is very athletic for a 300-pounder and packs a good punch. Pouncey could be one of the league’s top centers in a couple years.

Reasons for concern: The sophomore slump hits a lot of players, and Pouncey is entering his second year. Rookies often enter the NFL extremely motivated and with something to prove. Pouncey was a first-round pick who had to prove he’s as good as his twin brother. Mike Pouncey proved that last year and may not have the same edge.

Outlook: Barring injury, Pouncey should only get better. Pouncey is working with three different quarterbacks this summer – David Garrard, Matt Moore and Ryan Tannehill – and that could be a problem for a center. But Pouncey’s athleticism and run blocking will be consistent up the middle, regardless of the quarterback. Miami tailbacks Bush, Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller should be happy about that.