When the 2015 NFL season ended, Dallas Thomas was the Miami Dolphins' starting left guard.
And, right or wrong, Dolphins fans hated that because Thomas embodied some of what was wrong with the offensive line. He had good moments in 2015, but not enough of them. He gave up sacks, part of an offensive line that has allowed more sacks of quarterbacy Ryan Tannehill the past four years than any other NFL offensive line has allowed of their quarterback.
He wasn't particularly strong. Or particularly physical. Or particularly good as a technician. Or particularly impressive in any one area -- run blocking or pass protection. Thomas was merely the best the Dolphins had of a group that wasn't good enough.
So fans expected a change at left guard.
Except that the first two day of mandatory minicamp -- a full six months, a draft and free agency period after the end of last season -- Dallas Thomas has remained the Dolphins starting left guard.
So where's the change fans seem to so desperately crave?
Dallas Thomas would tell you it is in Dallas Thomas.
Thomas says he's bigger, stronger, better now. He even says he has a different attitude now.
Stronger? The Dolphins new coaching staff demanded Thomas get in the weight room and improve his core, upper body and base strength.
"It wasn't just [the coaches]," Thomas said Wednesday. "It was for myself. I wanted to get stronger. I've gained a little bit of weight but mostly more muscle more than anything."
Thomas has been a quiet guy his first three seasons with the team. He's been quiet on the field as well. He hasn't been aggressive despite playing a violent position. He certainly hasn't been an Alpha type player. So what has changed in that regard?
"Attitude," Thomas said. "I have a totally different mindset in everything I do."
So, I ask, does that mean he's going to push people around this year?
"Yeah," he said.
Interesting. Thomas will be competing with first-round pick Laremy Tunsil for a starting job this year. I suppose you can say Tunsil, Thomas and Billy Turner -- the Three Ts -- will be vying for two spots.
So far, without pads, Thomas and Turner are holding serve on their spots while Tunsil is running mostly second team. (Tunsil has gotten first-team reps the past two days but not as many as the other two, which can change at any moment).
"Right now I'm learning the system and working on my technique," Thomas said. "There's not one single area where you have to get better. So far, so good. [Coaches] have been real positive with me, telling me I've been doing a good job."