The Miami Dolphins, and more directly, their coaching staff are in a playoffs or bust mood going into the 2014 NFL season. Losing center Mike Pouncey puts a serious dent into their chances of playing January football.
Pouncey is out for 3 months after tearing the labrum in his hip. Without him Miami will have a new starter at every position on the offensive line to begin the season.
Last year was bad. Ryan Tannehill took more hits than Barack Obama last year. Having 5 new linemen isn’t a terrible idea considering, but replacing Pouncey wasn’t something they needed or wanted to do. Pouncey will likely be out until week 6. Miami plays Oakland in London week 4, and has their bye the following week. The Dolphins may even choose to put him on the PUP list and keep him out until week 7.
Why does that hurt? First, Pouncey is a really good player. Pro Football Focus graded him out as the 8th and 13th best center in each of his last two Pro Bowl seasons.
Second, Miami has a new offensive coordinator and is installing a completely new system. Throwing a back-up into that situation is a recipe for disaster. The Eagles had one of the best centers in the NFL last in year Jason Kelce running Bill Lazor/Chip Kelly’s uptempo offense. The Dolphins start to the season could be a rough one.
Miami has numerous in-house and free agent options they could look at, but with 4 other new starters along the line, and two of them potentially rookies, losing your leader is a bad start.
The Dolphins cannot afford a bad start. The schedule is manageable, but they can’t lose games they’ll need to win if they want to get over the hump from being an average team to a playoff team. Miami opens vs. Pats, at Buffalo, vs. KC, at Oakland, and play Green Bay after the bye week at home.
After that, the Dolphins play 5/7 on the road, where it will be hard to make up for a slow start.
For a team in need of good news, they’ll have to wait for that. Mike Pouncey will be a hard player to replace.