DAVIE — Zach Sterup is in line to make his first NFL start on Sunday.
It will be easy to notice Sterup, and not only because he’s playing left tackle for the Miami Dolphins, where players tend to be trusted to block the opponents’ best pass rusher one-on-one.
It would be hard to miss Sterup (#71 in your final Dolphins game program of 2017) because he’s 6-foot-9, 318 pounds.
“I don’t think I’ve been around a guy that tall and long,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said Friday.
Veteran defensive lineman William Hayes is on injured reserve now. But when he was practicing against Sterup, he told Gase something that might be a bit encouraging for Miami on Sunday.
“He’s got really good punch,” Hayes said of Sterup. “He’s hard to get around.”
Last season, Sterup spent time on the practice squads of the Chiefs, Jets and Browns. Before this season, the Dolphins found another diamond-in-the-rough who had appeared on the Jets practice squad in similarly gigantic guard/tackle Jesse Davis.
Davis has performed so well he has staked his case for a starting spot next season. Sunday is a great opportunity for Sterup, the undrafted first-year player from Nebraska.
“We felt good, especially early, and (Sterup) has kept learning about everything that’s going on,” Gase said. “When he has been up (active), we’ve had those bigger packages to try to get him involved slowly. He has just been working, taking quite a few reps in practice.”
Miami has utilized Sterup as an extra lineman in a few games this season. He is projected to start because Laremy Tunsil has not practiced at all due to an ankle injury. And Sam Young is playing right tackle. And Jesse Davis is playing right guard. And Eric Smith is more focused on right tackle than left tackle right now.
“I think that’s the only guy we’ve got left,” Gase said of Sterup.
This was not in any way a derogatory remark. Gase was simply stating a fact.
But it is intriguing to take a look at Miami’s offensive line on Sunday, featuring both Sterup and Jesse Davis (6-foot-6, 321 pounds).
In the Dolphins locker room on Friday, the consensus was that Davis would win a steel-cage wrestling match among all the offensive linemen. Others receiving votes included Laremy Tunsil and Ted Larsen.
These are the sorts of things that are discussed in a locker room on a Friday before the season finale.
In a humorous interview with colleague Hal Habib earlier this season, Sterup noted that when you’re 6-foot-9, it’s hard to find pants that fit and you sometimes have to wear socks to sleep because your feet hang off the bed.
Anyway, count Dolphins center Mike Pouncey is also interested to see how Sterup does.
And yes, he’s noticed Sterup is towering, mountainous and colossal.
“Huge,” Pouncey said. “Huge. He’s a big body. It’s hard to get around him. He’s good in pass pro. I just hope he does well when he gets his opportunity. Because he’s worked from the bottom all the way to the top. He’s got the right mindset each and every day to get better as a football players. These opportunities don’t come often and whenever you get them you have to make the most of them. I think he’s going to do that.”