James Walker does a great job examining the Dolphins' contingency plans to soften the blow of losing Mike Pouncey for the 3-4 months following major hip surgery. Says Walker, "Pouncey was probably the player the Dolphins could least afford to lose early in the season. According to his timeline, Pouncey could miss the first couple of games or even be put on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list and miss the first six games, depending on his progress.
"Either way, it's horrendous news for a Dolphins team trying to end a five-year playoff drought."
The Dolphins do have options, but the fact is that none of those options compare to what Pouncey brings to the table. The somewhat less heralded of the Pouncey twins, Mike is actually the superior player, in my opinion, and frankly, the case could be made that he is the top pivot in the game today.
Even if Pouncey does not miss regular-season playing time, this injury could be quite a setback for the Dolphins' offense. Miami's offensive line was simply dreadful a year ago; wisely, the team used much of its offseason resources to improve the front five. Most likely, the Dolphins would have had four new starters upfront, with just Pouncey returning to his starting position from a year ago. Assuming that was the plan, Pouncey would have been counted on to be the rock of that group both as a blocker and as the brains of the operation, which is an extremely important aspect of playing the center position.
In case you didn't notice, the Dolphins quickly went away from heavier and more powerful linemen and brought in more athletic types. The reason for this is simple: new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor (who came over from Philly) wants to run a much more uptempo offense, and can't have bigger linemen bogging down in the Miami heat and holding things back.
So not only are the Dolphins breaking in four new starters, which is a chore in its own right, but they are also implementing new offensive principles. Continuity and being mentally prepared can be as important to an offensive line as physical strength or overall talent. Pouncey also would have been learning this new system, but as the center, he would "quarterback" the two men to his left and right. Finding immediate continuity could prove extremely challenging for the Dolphins, and once Pouncey does return, how well does he handle his new mental responsibilities without having the benefit of practice time and preseason games?
A strong argument can be made that this is the worst player for Miami to lose, outside of Ryan Tannehill.