Heading into camp, the Miami Dolphins greatest concerns were making sure all players stay healthy, finding the solution to protecting Ryan Tannehill, having a defense that stops the run, and creating a stronger running game.
With the recent surgery and near admission by the Dolphins that Mike Pouncey could miss as many as 8 weeks, the Dolphins have a void at the position of center.
Just recently, the Dolphins coaches have shown patience with free agent signee Shelley Smith who has started at center in camp on a few occasions. As of yesterday, Smith, Nate Garner, and Sam Brenner have split time at the position in an attempt to fill the void left by Mike Pouncey. Shelley Smith, whom was brought in to play offensive guard hasn’t played a down at center in the NFL.
Said Joe Philbin yesterday about his thoughts on the center position and Nate Garner getting the job:
“Absolutely. As we’ve said, we’re looking at a number of different combinations. We don’t have a rock-solid, solidified…These are our five starters at this position. And so that’s part of the process at training camp. We wanted to get him (Nate Garner) exposure at playing inside and outside. That will continue I would imagine for a while longer as well.”
At this point, the question remains how much longer will the Dolphins run with this positional competition. Nate Garner, the most experienced at the position could fill in admirably and show more consistency than Shelley Smith. Sam Brenner on the other hand, who has a foot injury and was off of the practice field today, has at times, flashed strength, but has shown a lack of quickness and mobility.
The solution for the Dolphins is simple, get out there and start trying out capable veterans. For one, Samson Satele (ex-Dolphin, Raider, and Colt) is out there and available. His blocking skills and ability to stay low give him an advantage in the Dolphins offensive scheme. For a short time, someone like Satele could come in and do a better than average job. In fact, Pro Football Focus, dating back to last season rated Satele as -12.0 overall, but had positive results versus Denver (1.3), Tennessee (3.0), Kansas City (1.3), and New England (1.3). These aren’t great grades, but Sam Brenner, Nate Garner, and Shelley Smith don’t do what Satele can do with a new start in Miami.
While the numbers don’t exactly add up, in speaking with Pablo Knowles, an analyst at FinDepth.com, he mentions that Satele may not actually be quite as an enticing quick-fix pickup as he might initially seem.
Knowles noted, “Satele has really fallen off a good amount in Indianapolis, to the point where he was released even with a relative unknown in 2nd year player Khaled Holmes due to start at center for the Colts. He has especially struggled in his run blocking. Anytime you lose a Pro Bowl caliber player you’re gonna have a hole to fill, but Nate Garner, although he’s probably best described as just serviceable, is at least comparable to Satele in both the run and pass game and he’s already on the team.”
Finally, while the Dolphins have a myriad of other issues and various positions. However, being productive, efficient, and minimizing turnovers at the snap needs to be the one that receives pinpoint focus from the coaching staff, GM, and front office.