Last year, the Miami Dolphins' offensive line was an absolute mess. Ravaged by injuries and the fallout from the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin affair, no team in the NFL allowed more sacks in 2013.
The Dolphins took big steps to address the problem in the offseason, adding a high-priced free agent in tackle Branden Albert and a first-round rookie in tackle Ja'Wuan James.
Things were looking up. That is, right up until the one good thing about last year's line was yanked away, leaving the Dolphins in scramble mode yet again before training camp has even started.
As Adam Schefter of ESPN was among the first to report, Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey underwent hip surgery and is expected to be sidelined for up to three months:
Mike Garafalo of Fox Sports passed along some additional details:
Given Pouncey's alleged involvement in rookie hazing and his recent off-the-field missteps, there are those who think the 24-year-old got his just desserts:
With that said though, it's the Dolphins who are going to be punished, as this is a devastating blow to their attempts to retool up front.
Granted, Pouncey's 13th-place ranking among NFL centers at Pro Football Focus (subscription required) in 2013 wasn't eye-popping, but compared to the way the rest of the line played, Pouncey was a worldbeater.
As Schefter pointed out, Pouncey was also the only returning starter from last year's unit:
Adam Beasley of The Miami Herald tweeted that second-year pro Sam Brenner, who started seven games (mostly at guard) for the Dolphins a season ago, would seem to be the next man up at center.
Brenner ranked outside the top 100 guards at PFF last year, but if there's a silver lining, it's that at least Brenner knows his teammates a little.
|Miami Dolphins Starting O-Line 2014|
|Pos.||Player||NFL Exp.||2013 Team||PFF Rank*|
|* Per Pro Football Focus|
In fact, among the presumed Week 1 starters up front for the Dolphins, only Brenner and fellow second-year pro Dallas Thomas were in Miami at all last year.
It doesn't get any better behind them. The depth chart along the offensive front is a combination of journeymen, untested youngsters and undrafted free agents. The "elder statesman" of the group, reserve tackle Jason Fox, a fifth-year pro, has only career three starts, all of them occurring last year as a member of the Detroit Lions.
There isn't much there as free agents are concerned either, although the cupboard isn't completely bare.
Bengals center Kyle Cook, who started all 16 games in four of the past five seasons, was released by Cincinnati back in March. Granted, Cook ranked a very so-so 24th among centers last year at PFF, but at not quite 31 years old the seventh-year veteran would appear to have another year or two left in his tank.
Besides, any port in a storm, right?
And it's raining big time in Miami right now.
Assuming the 12-week timetable, Pouncey would (hopefully) return around the end of September, leaving the Dolphins one month's worth of storm to weather.
Unfortunately, that's exceedingly hard to do when the boat keeps springing a leak at the bow.
Gary Davenport is an NFL Analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPManor.