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The Miami Dolphins' revamped offensive line had a shakeup in Friday's opening practice of training camp. The interior was manned by center Shelley Smith, right guard Dallas Thomas and left guard Daryn Colledge.
The Dolphins ended mini-camp with center Mike Pouncey, Thomas at left guard and Smith at right guard.
Everyone knew change was coming because Pouncey had hip surgery to repair a torn labrum after mini-camp. Pouncey and running back Knowshon Moreno (knee) were placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list Friday.
But few expected Smith to get the first shot at center, a position he's never played in a NFL game.
"I played a little bit in college, a little bit in high school," Smith said, "but I haven't had the opportunity yet in the NFL. So it will be a new challenge for me and I'm looking forward to it."
Coach Joe Philbin said Friday's offensive line change was purely on an experimental basis.
"I will tell you that we're going to be looking at a number of combinations," he said. "This is practice number one and this is the way that we wanted to look at it today, we'll take a look at the film and go from there. But we will be moving some guys around, and taking a look at guys and how they respond."
The Dolphins, of course, allowed a NFL-worst 58 sacks last season.
Left tackle Branden Albert, the Pro Bowl selection acquired from Kansas City during free agency, and right tackle Ja'Wuan James, the first-round pick from Tennessee, are still in the spots they had during offseason workouts.
The interior of the line is a bit of a mess, however.
Sam Brenner, the backup center who also plays guard, was expected by many to get the first shot at starting center. And there was thought backup left tackle Nate Garner might get the second chance. Those changes would have been easier than moving the starting right guard (Smith) to center, and moving the starting left guard (Thomas) to right guard.
Smith got some work at center during OTAs (Organized Team Activities) and mini-camp.
"We certainly think he has the ability to play the position," Philbin said. "As you know, that's a critical position in the offense. It's hard to play that position if you don't get a number of quality repetitions in there. So we wanted to get him in there today and let him get to work at the center position."
On the first 11-on-11 play in Friday's practice quarterback Ryan Tannehill had a bad exchange with Smith. Tannehill also was sacked a few times even though players weren't wearing pads.
The offensive line seemed to do well in run blocking as running back Lamar Miller made several impressive runs.
The Dolphins will find out more about the offensive line Sunday when they'll be in full pads for the first time.
Still, the bottom line is the Dolphins will take the field with five new starters during their Sept. 7 season opener against New England. And even Colledge admitted it's rare for an offensive line to enter a season with five new starters.
"Almost never happens anymore," Colledge said. "It's tough. It's hard out there. But again, the great offensive lines are the ones that can keep five, six guys that play the entire year. You don't need always to have best offensive line or a bunch of Pro Bowlers. You need to find guys that can consistently play and line up for you every single week."
Players reported: July 24
First practice: July 25