Ask the Miami Dolphins who participated in the offseason program, and had to develop the stamina not only to cope with the South Florida warmth, but also the heat of an increased play load, and the demand for more athletic pulls.
The left side of the offensive line appears solid, but the right side has plenty of questions that need answering.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters – LT Jake Long, LG Richie Incognito, C Mike Pouncey, RG Artis Hicks, RT Jonathan Martin. Backups – OT Lydon Murtha, OG Nate Garner, OG John Jerry, C Ryan Cook, OG Ray Feinga, OT Will Barker, OT Andrew McDonald, OT Dustin Waldron, OG Derek Dennis, C Josh Samuda
BY THE NUMBERS: The Dolphins offensive linemen helped Miami finish 11th in the NFL in rushing, averaging 124.2 yards per game, including 1,987 for the season. That includes paving a path for running back Reggie Bush en route to his first 1,000-yard season of his NFL career.
ON THE HOT SEAT: Jerry, a 2010 third-round pick, was penciled in as the starting right guard, but weight concerns have prompted the Dolphins to explore other options, including placing Artis Hicks into the rotation, as well as looking at free agents such as former Tennessee Titans guard Jake Scott.
THE KEEPERS: Long, Incognito, Pouncey, Hicks and Martin, the team's second-round pick, are locks. Questions remain regarding Murtha, Jerry, Garner, Cook and Feinga. The Dolphins will carry at least eight offensive linemen on the 53-man roster, and maybe two on the practice squad.
BREAKDOWN: This is the sixth straight season the Dolphins offensive line is a work in progress. The entire right side is being rebuilt, and Miami’s searching for capable guards and tackles who can fortify a unit that features Long, a Pro Bowler, and Pouncey, a center taken in the first round of the 2011 draft.
The Dolphins are searching for offensive linemen who excel in the team’s new zone blocking scheme, which doesn't necessarily fit Incognito's skillset. But considering Incognito is coming off his best season, and appears fit, it is possible he could adapt.
Hicks, a 10-year veteran who has started 71 games, unseated Jerry as the front-runner to man the right guard spot during the offseason program. Martin has more status than Murtha, which should give him the edge for the starting right tackle spot. But considering Martin played left tackle his entire college career at Stanford the transition to the right side has been rough on the rookie, especially when the coaches unleashed Cameron Wake on him during minicamp.
Martin will likely be given the entire exhibition season to gain footing at the right tackle spot. It is possible Murtha, who fits the desired athletic mold, might get tried at guard if he doesn't win a tackle spot.