- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins will produce a rarity in the NFL when they take the field Sept. 7 for their regular-season opener against the reigning AFC East champion New England Patriots. Miami will boast five new starters on the offensive line, which has raised some concerns in South Florida.
Granted, last year’s offensive line struggled mightily and set a franchise record for quarterback sacks allowed in 2013 with 58. But wholesale changes at every position present new concerns about continuity.
Although things could change due to injuries and competition, Miami’s new starting five is rookie right tackle Ja'Wuan James, right guard Dallas Thomas, center Shelley Smith, left guard Daryn Colledge and left tackle Branden Albert.
After three days of practices, Miami’s new offensive line has struggled against its veteran defensive line in team drills. There have been multiple sacks allowed. Sometimes the running game is inconsistent. On the first day, there were two fumbled snaps between Smith and starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
The Dolphins have about five weeks and four exhibition games to iron things out before the regular season.
“We’re always attempting to get the five best players that we possibly can out on the field at one time,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said over the weekend. “I will tell you that we’re going to be looking at a number of combinations.”
The Dolphins are without Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey, thanks to hip surgery this summer. He's expected to miss anywhere between four-to-eight games. Pouncey was the only holdover from last season’s starting lineup.
But perhaps the biggest concern is the inexperienced right side of the offensive line with Thomas and James. They are former college teammates at the University of Tennessee, but neither player has started an NFL game. Opponents certainly will attack this area to see if they can rattle Miami's offense.
"No concern," Albert said bluntly of the right side of the line. "We’re professionals. I don’t care how young you are, we’re professional athletes. Each and every day they’re getting better, we’re getting better, and that’s all we need to worry about."