The Miami Dolphins are in the process of patching up the weakest unit on the most troublesome side of the team.
With Ja'Wuan James likely sidelined for couple of games because of a left leg injury suffered in last week's 27-24 loss to the Raiders and Ted Larsen making his return from the biceps injury he suffered in training camp, the Dolphins coaches are working to revise the offensive line.
Larsen spent Thursday's practice taking snaps as the team's starting left guard, which is the position the Dolphins originally had in mind when they signed him to a three-year, $5.65 million deal.
Larsen practiced last week, attempting to work the rust off, but Miami's medical staff didn't think it was wise for this eight-year veteran to be thrown into the action immediately, so he sat out the Raiders game.
"It was tough," Larsen said, referring to his biceps injury, which typically sidelines players for a full season. "It was so early in training camp, and I missed a lot of reps. I really just tried to stay good shape and stay strong with my legs, and have a plan knowing I'd be coming back midseason."
The Dolphins hope Larsen's veteran presence will help stabilize Miami's inconsistent offensive line, which is paving the way for 77.6 rushing yards per game (ranked 30th) and ranking 11th in sacks per passing play (16th allowed).
Jesse Davis, who had started the past two games filling in as the starting left guard after Anthony Steen suffered a season-ending foot injury, returns to the tackle spot he played in college at Idaho. Davis is accustomed to switching sides on the offensive line because that's how he was used at Idaho, consistently lining up on the strong side of the play, so going from the left to the right side of the line won't be an issue.
"Wherever I can get a spot, that's where I want to play," said Davis, a practice squad player in 2016 who progressively works his way up Miami's depth chart. "I've played [tackle] before. This is nothing too crazy in my wheelhouse."
Davis admits that working with Miami's starters the past two games helped him adjust to the speed of the NFL. But now he'll be responsible for mirroring quicker defensive ends like Julius Peppers, who has produced 7.5 sacks on the season, instead of anchoring against less athletic, but more forceful defensive tackles.
According to coach Adam Gase, the Dolphins are merely experimenting at this point, trying to find the best combination to start Monday night's game against the Carolina Panthers.
"Everyone is assuming it's automatic that [Larsen] just jumps back in there," Gase said, referring to Larsen, who has started 65 NFL games. "How quickly will he get adjusted to the speed of the game?"
With James sidelined by what was initially diagnosed as a hamstring injury the Dolphins are running out of options for viable starters, and proven reserves.
The only other option is rookie tackle Zach Sterup, who the Dolphins claimed off the Cleveland Browns' practice squad on Tuesday to address the team's lack of tackle depth. But he'll likely need a few days to master Miami's playbook and line camps before he can become a factor.
Larsen sat in all the team and individual meeting this season, so he won't need to get caught up. But to get the green light to play, Gase said he'll need to prove he can physically handle the workload and must serve as a calming presence for the unit.
"I've played a lot of ball with [Laremy[ Tunsil in the spring. I don't think it will take long," Larsen said when asked how long it will take Miami's new-look offensive line to develop chemistry. "If everyone does their job things will start to flow."
Like us on Facebook
On Twitter @omarkelly