The Miami Dolphins have recently signed offensive tackle Zach Sterup in wake of Ja’Wuan James’ hamstring injury. Sterup was acquired through Cleveland’s practice squad. This recent signing gives indication that James’ injury could be serious. So what does that mean for the Dolphins going forward?
That would depend on James’ level of production, the severity of his injury, the pass-rushing ability of upcoming opponents, and the abilities of the reserves at the offensive tackle position.
First, let’s take a look at James’ production. James was taken in the first-round (pick 19) of the 2014 NFL Draft. Since that time he has started in all 47 games that he has appeared in. During that span of time he has given up 14.75 sacks and committed 27 penalties for a total of 226 yards. Those stats may not sounds good at first, but they roughly translate to James giving up one sack every three games and one penalty every two games. What’s even more impressive is the fact that he has only allowed two sacks so far this season and has not been penalized for holding once.
Pro Football Focus graded him as the top offensive lineman on Miami’s roster for the 2016 season with a grade of 78.0 (good for 32nd in the league). Through eight games this season PFF has him graded at an 80.
James stands at 6’6” and weighs 307lbs. He is still young and has played well so far in his short career, justifying the decision by the Dolphins to select him nineteenth overall back in 2014. If his injury turns out to be serious it could be a huge blow to Miami’s offense. One that they cannot afford to take.
James’ replacement is Sam Young. Young entered last week’s game against Oakland to replace James after his hamstring injury. Young immediately allowed for quarterback Jay Cutler to be pressured on the ensuing play. If Young starts against the Carolina Panthers he will have to be well prepared, as the Panthers feature top-end talent in their front seven.
According to PFF, last season Carolina defensive ends Mario Addison and Charles Johnson both finished in the top ten for 4-3 defensive ends in terms of pass-rush productivity. The Panthers also feature Luke Keuchly, Julius Peppers and Kawaan Short as key players in their front seven that was ranked fourth overall by PFF headed into the season.
Miami’s upcoming opponents are Carolina, Tampa Bay, New England and Denver. This group is a mixed bag in terms of strength of the defensive line, with Carolina and Denver grading as top ten units according to PFF. Meanwhile Tampa Bay sits at 22 and New England was ranked twelfth before linebacker Dont’a Hightower’s injury.
Head coach Adam Gase has not made a public statement regarding James’ injury, so the situation regarding the right tackle spot remains to be seen. All that is known right now is that Miami went and acquired Sterup, so it must be serious enough to warrant a move like that. Be sure to be on the lookout for more updates regarding this situation going forward.