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The Dolphins kept intact their streak of selecting an offensive lineman in every draft in franchise history when they picked guard Isaac Asiata in the fifth round. The selection of Asiata was the latest in a series of moves designed to fulfill one objective: creating more competition in the interior of the line.
Asiata joins a group of interior offensive linemen that includes four players who started games for the Dolphins last season — three-time Pro Bowl selection Mike Pouncey, former Pro Bowl tackle Jermon Bushrod, Anthony Steen and Kraig Urbik — plus former Ted Larsen, who joined the team as an unrestricted free agent.
Provided he’s healthy, Pouncey will start at center, but there should be intense competition for the starting jobs at guard, just the way Offensive Coordinator Clyde Christensen wants it.
“At guard, I think we really wanted to get some depth in there,” Christensen said. “We don’t want to necessarily do it by committee, but we want to have enough bodies in there, like last year, that you have to fill in and be able to do some different things. Last year we had even ‘Bush’ (Jermon Bushrod) who could play left tackle in a pinch. (He) has played a lot of football in the NFL at left tackle. I think this will give us some flexibility. Now we have a bunch of guys who can swing inside and play center. We added Larsen, who’s one of those guys who can swing inside for short periods of time and give us some center help, if we need it, and compete at the guard position.
“I feel good. I think we’ve got some good, solid players in there. I think the competition will be high, which always makes people better, and we’ll come out of the thing with, I think, a good, deep inside bunch, which will be great. I can’t stress enough that (with) the good teams, you have competition. That’s the deal. The more competition, the hungrier … All those things add to some intensity to practice being better, to all those things. I think we’ll have a ton of competition in there for that backup center, the starting guard, playing time — all the above in there.”
One of the starting guards last season was Laremy Tunsil, but the 2016 first-round pick will be sliding over from left guard to left tackle, the position for which he was selected.
Christensen said the year playing guard while veteran Branden Albert manned the left tackle spot can only benefit Tunsil in his transition.
“The confidence level is extremely high that he can excel at tackle,” Christensen said. “It’s his natural position. I think it’ll be a much quicker learn for him than last year at this time. Now he has the benefit of going back to his natural position — his most experienced position — and whatever you learned inside, which does teach you some skills you can’t learn outside, where guys are a little tighter on you in the run blocking and bigger guys, etc. So, I think all those combined will put Laremy way ahead.
“It gives us a lot of confidence in him and I think he’ll have a lot of confidence going into the thing. It doesn’t make it an easy position or an easy job. It still is a tough job out there and you still catch the best pass rusher and you’re still on the edge and all those things. But I do think his comfort level going into it will be really good, really high.