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The right side of the Miami Dolphins offensive line just got a whole lot better. And isn’t that exactly what they needed?
The name is Ja’wuan James. The school is Tennessee. He is 311 pounds well distributed over a 6-foot-6 frame. But it’s not the size or the school that got the Dolphins’ attention. This is a player that produces, a player that dominates, a player so reliable he started a school record 49 games in college.
Think about that. Forty-nine games! Over four years! In the Southeastern Conference! All at right tackle. How much more consistency do you need? How much more credibility?
So smile. Relax a little. Take a deep breath. The first round is in the books and the Dolphins made a smart, logical move.
This was more than a need pick; it was a must pick.
The Dolphins are in the midst of a major makeover on the offensive line. The left tackle spot was secured early in free agency with the signing of Kansas City’s Branden Albert. But now it was time to take care of the right side. Now it was time to find a bookend for Albert.
I know Joe Philbin and Dennis Hickey will say all the appropriate things about James, that he still must prove himself in competition against his teammates, that there are no guarantees and that the starters won’t be determined until well into training camp. I understand that. There is a process that must take place, a process that plays out over time.
But the way I see it, James was drafted to start at right tackle. Barring something unforeseen, that’s where I believe he will be on opening day. And the Dolphins will be better off for it.
“I’m a smart, tough offensive lineman,” said James.
The perfect combination. Smarts and toughness. Two essential qualities for an offensive lineman.
Hickey really did his homework on this one. He first met James at the Senior Bowl. Then at the combine. He brought him in for a visit. He got to look into his eyes, digest every word. “You learn so much when you stand there face-to-face,” Hickey told me recently.
Hickey made it clear that James was the top-rated available player on the Dolphins board. “He was always a targeted player for us,” he said.
I’m convinced that if Hickey didn’t believe that James was first-round talent, if he didn’t have a real conviction in the skills and upside of this player, he would have gone in a different direction. He was not bound to taking a right tackle in the first round, but this right tackle was too good to pass up. It didn’t hurt any that he also happened to fill a significant need.
Nobody has to be reminded about the problems on the offensive line a season ago, problems both on and off the field. It was clear major changes had to happen. Upgrades were needed. More depth was essential. The sacks had to stop.
And that’s been one of the primary missions of this offseason, a process that started with the signing of Albert, continued with the signing of veterans Jason Fox and Shelley Smith and was punctuated shortly before 10:30 Thursday night with the drafting of James.
“We’ve got to keep (Tannehill) up,” James said. “I’ve got to do my job to keep him up.”
You think Ryan Tannehill likes this selection? You bet he does.
Where do the Dolphins go from here? Another offensive lineman? Maybe a linebacker? Perhaps a defensive back? A receiver? There are plenty of options and some crucial decisions that must be made over the next few days.
But you can now check one of the most glaring needs off your list. You can now put a name next to right tackle. The name is Ja’wuan James. And he represents real hope for a new-look offensive line.
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.