It must gnaw at the Dolphins, knowing they have the talent they do on the offensive line but cannot maximize the benefits.
The ideal offensive line for this team has started just one-third of the time — four of 12 games. It’s no coincidence that those were four very successful games for the offense, including consecutive 200-yard rushing days by Jay Ajayi. And four victories.
With a playoff push going on, the question now is when Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey will return from issues with his surgically repaired hip to make this unit whole again.
Coach Adam Gase said he expected to learn more about Pouncey as this week goes on.
“We’re going to take a look at where he’s at and we’ll move on from there,” Gase said. “But I don’t have a definite answer right now.”
Pouncey, who has played only five games, has missed the Rams, 49ers and Ravens games. At the time his hip problems flared up again, the Dolphins had the choice of keeping him on the active roster or devoting the slot to someone else by putting him on injured reserve. Of course, they chose the former.
With this being the final quarter of the regular season, Gase was asked about his confidence Pouncey will return in ’16.
“Everything that I’ve heard is there’s a great chance he could come back,” Gase said. “It’s going to be what they tell us. Obviously, if we didn’t think he was going to come back, he wouldn’t be on the roster; he’d be on IR.”
Of the ideal five linemen, only right tackle Ja’Wuan James and right guard Jermon Bushrod have played all 12 games. Left tackle Branden Albert was kept on the sidelines of late with a wrist injury and left guard Laremy Tunsil had a shoulder injury, although both returned for the Ravens game.
All that remains now is for those four to get healthier (or stay healthy, as the case may be) and hope Pouncey can hurry back.
“Knowing Mike, he’s one of those guys that — like he always says — ‘I’m a quick healer,’ ” Gase said. “We’ll see what happens.”