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Hope and Concern: Dolphins' offensive line

6/12/2014

Training camps are less than two months away. In the meantime, ESPN.com’s Miami Dolphins page examines key questions with the team heading into an important season.

Next we take a look at Miami’s offensive line, which was inconsistent last season.

Biggest reason for hope: Talent upgrade

The Dolphins desperately needed a talent upgrade, and first-year general manager Dennis Hickey put much of the focus and resources in that direction. Hickey signed Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert and veteran guard Shelley Smith in free agency and drafted right tackle Ja’Wuan James and guard Billy Turner in the first and third round, respectively. This group is much better on paper than last year’s offensive line, which set a franchise record with 58 sacks allowed and ranked 26th in rushing. Albert and center Mike Pouncey are a pair of Pro Bowlers. James has a high ceiling and the Dolphins hope Smith can be a solid guard. The left guard position is open with Turner competing with second-year guard Dallas Thomas. The Dolphins are giving Thomas the first shot to start this spring and he’s taking advantage. Thomas, a third-round pick a year ago, looks much improved during organized team activities. The competition should make both young players better.

Biggest reason for concern: Continuity

With so many new pieces, the Dolphins are taking a risk this season with continuity. Miami is implementing a new offense under Bill Lazor, and it will be vital for the offensive line to quickly get on the same page. There is a combination of veterans (Albert, Pouncey, Smith) and young players (James, Thomas/Turner) who need to get up to speed. I’ve seen some early issues with pass protection in OTAs, particularly with communication and missed assignments. Depth also is a concern. The Dolphins have their starting lineup mostly set. However, they are searching for backup positions all across the board.