(Note: This continues a series in Daily Dolphin spotlighting members of the team individually. In addition to reliving highlights and lowlights of the past season for each, we’ll provide analysis and criticism, plus take a look at how each player fits — or doesn’t fit — into the team’s plans for 2017.)
C Mike Pouncey
Height, weight: 6-5, 299
Experience: Entering seventh season, all with Dolphins
Acquired: First-round pick of Dolphins in 2011
Contract: Signed through 2020 season; earned $10 million in 2016; due to make $8.98 million in 2017
Pro Football Focus rank: Unranked due to injury
Stats: Started and played in career-low five games
Notable moments: In the second and third games since Pouncey returned to the lineup, Jay Ajayi rushed for a total of 418 yards.
Straight talk: You knew Pouncey is a valuable member of the Dolphins’ offensive line.
But did you know he’s this valuable?
We broke down Jay Ajayi’s outstanding 1,272-yard season into games in which Pouncey played (five) and games in which he did not (10). The results are startling:
Five games with Pouncey: 650 total yards for an average of 130 yards per game.
Ten games without Pouncey: 622 total yards for an average of 62.2 per game.
This isn’t to suggest Pouncey’s presence is totally responsible for Ajayi doubling his output, but it does indicate a strong correlation between Pouncey being on the field and Miami’s offensive line performing the way everybody hoped.
The Dolphins were wise to lock up Pouncey with a five-year, $44.7 million contract that runs through the 2020 season — potentially assuring he never wears an NFL uniform other than the Dolphins’.
Both sides can only hope his recent string of bad luck with injuries — especially his hips — is behind him, because a center who has made three Pro Bowls is indispensable.
Pouncey expressed doubts about his future in October, saying, “You start questioning how long you can play in this league.” Thankfully, although he finished the year on injured reserve, Pouncey said he felt “great” by season’s end. “I ain’t retiring for 10 years,” he said.
Likewise, the Dolphins have witnessed a transformation in Pouncey’s maturity in recent seasons, culminating with them making him their nominee for the 2016 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. Both in an emotional news conference announcing his contract extension and in a frank interview with The Post in October, he expressed misgivings over off-field missteps made when he was younger.
“It’s the kind of stuff that could have been prevented,” he said. “Being young, dumb, still things I wish I could take back. But I don’t regret any of it. It gave me the opportunity to tell young guys to do it a different way.”
Prospects for 2017
You have to go back to 2012 for the last time Pouncey played all 16 games. Given that the Dolphins could line up a new guard on both sides of him next season, having a healthy Pouncey in 2017 is critical to the interior line.
The Dolphins know this, which is why they’re being ultra-cautious in bringing Pouncey back for this season.
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