Dolphins Star OT Terron Armstead Out Week 1: Offensive Line Questions Abound for Miami

The Miami Dolphins are set to face a fearsome Los Angeles Chargers pass rush without their best offensive lineman, as Terron Armstead is out for Week 1.

Not since the days of Mike Pouncey, Branden Albert, Laremy Tunsil, and Ja’Wuan James have the Miami Dolphins had consistently reliable play up front on offense. The team has been desperate for better offensive line play for more than five straight seasons, and despite numerous attempts to beef up the unit, any QB wearing aqua and orange has seen consistent pressure under center.

The team was hoping that the return of Austin Jackson, some free agent additions, and the steadying presence of Terron Armstead would help the unit build off of a moderately improved showing in 2022, but the specter of injuries is rearing its ugly head before Week 1 even begins.

Dolphins Rule Terron Armstead Out Against Los Angeles Chargers

Ahead of Miami’s Week 1 game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Miami’s top offensive lineman, Armstead, has been ruled out. Armstead has struggled to stay healthy coming off of a season in which he played 13 of 17 games. He’s listed on the Dolphins’ injury report with back, ankle, and knee ailments and has barely logged a practice rep for several weeks.

That said, Armstead has played without taking practice reps before, and according to head coach Mike McDaniel, it sounds like he was relatively close to giving it a go on Sunday.

“I know [Armstead’s] expectation has been the entire time to play Week 1,” McDaniel said. “And if [Armstead] has the final say, if [general manager] Chris Grier and the boys decided to fire me and make him the head coach today, he’ll definitely be playing … the only reason there’s even a debate is because it’s my job to protect players from themselves.”

The 32-year-old four-time Pro Bowler is one of the best offensive tackles of the past decade — there’s no debate about it. But he’s never played a full season (a trend that now will continue into 2023), and his injury woes followed him from New Orleans to Miami when he joined the Dolphins on a five-year, $75 million contract in March 2022.

Last year, Armstead battled a litany of injuries, including toe, back, and knee issues, and he underwent offseason surgery to help remedy the knee problem.

Veteran tackle Kendall Lamm is expected to take Armstead’s place at left tackle.

Lamm has plenty of experience (though he’s no Armstead by any stretch of the imagination), having spent time with the Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans, and Detroit Lions before landing in Miami in November of last season. He’s played in 87 games with 29 career starts.

Last season, Lamm started Miami’s Week 17 victory over the New England Patriots and played 32 snaps before getting hurt and forced from the game. But he impressed the coaching staff enough to earn a one-year deal with the team in March, and he’s continued to make a positive impression since then.

“[Lamm] is a core piece of the locker room at this point, which says a lot. So my confidence is high,” McDaniel told reporters on Friday.

On why the team felt confident enough in Lamm to bring him back this offseason, McDaniel explained, “[Lamm] did one of the harder things that players do in this league — play in a regular-season game a couple of weeks after arriving to a team.

“I think we kind of hedged our bet. We felt pretty confident in the person that he’d be able to have an offseason like he has, and he has only exceeded expectations. I’m fired up for his opportunities whenever they arise.”

That opportunity has arrived.

Miami’s Offensive Line Questions Stretch Beyond Left Tackle

McDaniel and the rest of the coaching staff have chosen to stay silent about who will start at left guard. Liam Eichenberg is the incumbent, and he’s listed first on the team’s initial depth chart, but newcomer Isaiah Wynn, who signed with Miami in free agency, has been battling Eichenberg for the spot.

“Who we’re going to deploy on Sunday will be a surprise to [the Chargers] but not to us, as we’ve been working all offseason and working on getting better,” offensive coordinator Frank Smith said on Thursday.

Eichenberg hasn’t lived up to his second-round billing since being selected by the Dolphins in the 2021 NFL Draft. Plenty has been put on his plate, as he’s played multiple positions on the offensive line in his short career. But he hasn’t been able to cement a starting role in any of them.

The former Notre Dame star and Jacobs Blocking Award winner missed time over the past few weeks due to a rib injury suffered on Miami’s first play of the preseason. “[It was a] brutal situation,” Eichenberg told reporters on Thursday. “But I’m back now. I feel a lot better. I’m still working back, getting in the groove of things. But I’m just happy to be back and help the team.”

At center, the Dolphins will start Connor Williams, who exceeded expectations after signing with the team in free agency last March. He was one of the league’s better centers, save for a couple of high snaps, and he was looking for a new contract this offseason.

While a deal wasn’t agreed to, he reported to training camp after skipping mandatory minicamp and is set to play out the final season of his two-year deal.

MORE: Why the Dolphins’ Defense Has a Fighting Chance Against Justin Herbert This Time Around

Behind Williams, Miami has more questions than answers. There’s no true backup center on the team, and the coaching staff has had Eichenberg — who’s never played at center in college or an NFL game — and guard Lester Cotton practicing snaps should the Dolphins lose Williams to injury at any point.

“That was it. That was my first time snapping the ball, and I kind of ran with it,” Eichenberg said Thursday.

At right guard, incumbent Robert Hunt returns for his contract year with the team. After being selected in the second round out of Louisiana, Hunt has been a steadying presence on the Dolphins’ right side of the offensive line. He’s played both right tackle and right guard, but McDaniel chose to keep Hunt at guard last season, believing that the then third-year player has the most potential inside.

Hunt delivered, sporting a strong season for Miami. He’ll likely be one of the top players Miami looks to extend next offseason when his contract expires.

Hunt is joined on the right side by RT Austin Jackson, Miami’s second first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, who missed all of last season with an ankle injury. Jackson had a rough first couple of seasons, both in terms of performance and injuries. But McDaniel has spoken highly of him, and Jackson himself is itching to get back on the field and prove that he can be a reliable blindside protector for QB Tua Tagovailoa.

“I think I’m back to where I was at with the ankle, if not better, just with all the rehab and stuff,” Jackson said on Wednesday. “Took a big mental observation of last season to see where I really needed to be at. I’m really excited. No rust here, just ready to go.”

Dolphins Week 1 Injury Report

Aside from Armstead, who missed all three practices this week and will not play on Sunday, the Dolphins will also be without DB Elijah Campbell (knee).

CB Justin Bethel (knee) was limited all week and is listed as questionable, as is TE Julian Hill (ankle).

RBs De’Von Achane (shoulder) and Salvon Ahmed (back), DT Raekwon Davis (elbow), G Eichenberg (ribs), safety Brandon Jones (knee), WR Jaylen Waddle (abdomen), and C Williams (knee) were all listed without game-day designations and are ready for Week 1.

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