Everyone expects big things from the Miami Dolphins offense in 2015.
Bill Lazor, in his second year as the offensive coordinator, has a unit that should be coming into its own because the system is familiar and most of these folks are familiar to one another. The quarterback is improving. The slot receiver is expected to make a sizeable jump in his second season.
But not perfect things. Not yet.
I asked Lazor if the problem everyone has seen and talked about the entire offseason -- the offensive line -- remains a concern to him after training camp and the preseason. And less than a week before the regular-season begins, Lazor admitted there are concerns.
“Well, I think there are concerns when you have unknowns," Lazor said. "I am hoping that we answered most of those. The best teams I have been on typically have had the same five guys play the majority if not all of the games, maybe not every snap. That’s just a fact in football. When you can have five solid guys that play together and learn to work together and communicate, that’s when I’ve been on teams that are at their best."
What Lazor leaves unsaid here is the Dolphins have not had cohesion on the offensive line. The team used multiple line combinations in training camp and the preseason. Left tackle Branden Albert didn't play at all in the preseason and will play for the first time since suffering a knee injury in November of 2014 on Sunday. So that is a bit of an unknown. Rookie Jamil Douglas beat out Billy Turner at right guard (for now) but that happened only last week. Dallas Thomas is the starting left guard but played at left tackle rather than left guard in the so-called rehearsal game two weeks ago, which is the last time he played.
So this group has not played together and worked together very much at all. That makes things, well, unpredictable.
"We can’t predict what is going to happen in the future," Lazor said. "I know we’ll have a great plan for Sunday and coach (Joe Philbin), I’m sure will announce it later and off we go. If things happen and you have to rotate, then I have pretty good confidence that we’ve done a good job of getting a bunch of guys ready to go."
The Dolphins haven't announced their starting offensive line. Let me do it for them:
LT Branden Albert, LG Dallas Thomas, C Mike Pouncey, RG Jamil Douglas, RT Ja'Wuan James.
Douglas is very intriguing because he's a rookie and was competing for a starting job on the left side practically the moment camp began. But as Thomas settled in at left guard while Billy Turner struggled on the right side with inconsistencies in both pass protection and run-blocking, the team moved the rookie over.
And the rookie beat out the second-year vet Turner.
"I think that Jamil probably outplays his age at times," Lazor said. "He looks surprisingly well, the very first snap of a young guy being out there and has improved every single game without a doubt and that’s an impressive thing. It’s a fun thing to say as a coach that a guy improves every day. I feel pretty confident that we are going to have a good group out there."
The only way that will happen is if the group settles in and remains the same group -- game after game. And by sheer fact the Dolphins are not committing to Douglas over Turner for the long-term, but rather for right now, suggests there is a plan ...
But the team reserves the right to change directions from the plan.
(I really wanted to end this post right there. Period. Over. You decide. But I simply feel the need to state the Dolphins went through weeks and weeks of camp seeing Turner not play up to standards. And they kept waiting for that to happen. And in doing, they turned away from the idea of signing veteran Evan Mathis to play left guard and have Dallas Thomas, Jamil Douglas and Turner compete for the spot on the right side. The Denver Broncos signed Mathis two weeks ago. Two teams. Two different approaches. I'm not saying Denver was right. I'm not saying Miami was right. I'm simply stating what happened for the record. We'll see how it plays out.)