The Miami Dolphins have mostly ignored one of their biggest holes this offseason. The team needed an upgrade at both guard positions and, so far, made one risky move to add competition.
Miami signed veteran offensive lineman Jermon Bushrod in free agency from the Chicago Bears. Bushrod played nine years as an offensive tackle and says he has zero experience at guard. Yet, the Dolphins view him as a viable option to compete.
The Dolphins missed out on a good opportunity to fix the position in free agency. Top-level guards such as Kelechi Osemele (Oakland Raiders), Alex Boone (Minnesota Vikings) and Evan Mathis (Arizona Cardinals) signed with other teams while the Dolphins attempted to fix other positions. Free agency was the easiest way for Miami to address the need with proven and productive veteran players.
Now the Dolphins probably will look to the draft to fix their holes at guard. However, is the team capable of properly evaluating the position?
Let’s examine the recent track record:
Guard: Dallas Thomas
Round/Year: Third round in 2013
Stats: 25 career starts
Analysis: The Dolphins drafted Thomas out of Tennessee and liked his versatility to play both guard and tackle. But the versatility has been mostly a minus as Thomas has failed to lock down and master either position. Thomas has had plenty of opportunities to improve and find his niche in Miami. But after three years and 25 starts at multiple positions, he hasn’t looked like a capable full-time starter, especially in pass protection. Thomas is entering the final year of his rookie contract and could be down to his final chance.
Guard: Billy Turner
Round/Year: Third round in 2014
Stats: 12 career starts
Analysis: Expectations were high for Turner when the Dolphins drafted him two years ago. He had a strong pedigree and plenty of starting experience at North Dakota State. But Turner played left tackle in college and needed to make the adjustment to guard. So far that adjustment hasn’t gone well. Turner barely played as a rookie while learning the NFL game and was inconsistent in Year 2.
Guard: Jamil Douglas
Round/Year: Fourth round in 2015
Stats: Six career starts
Analysis: Douglas hasn’t received as many chances as Thomas and Turner. He started six games his rookie season between guard and center. Turner looked decent in training camp and won a starting job at guard but couldn’t carry that momentum into the regular season. He eventually got benched in favor of Turner. Center also was a disaster for Douglas, who tried to fill in for injured Pro Bowler Mike Pouncey later in the season. Douglas struggled with the position change and the snap, which landed him back on the bench. The new Dolphins coaching staff, led by Adam Gase, has to make sure Douglas doesn’t lose his confidence moving forward.
This trio, along with Bushrod, will compete for two starting jobs this summer in training camp. However, there isn’t much optimism that Miami’s group of guards will make significant improvement unless it lands a quality prospect in next month’s draft.