Dolphins left tackle Laremy Tunsil hasn’t had a very good season this year. Not according to the folks at Pro Football Focus, where his overall grade stands at 51.9, which currently ranks 54th among 80 qualifying tackles.
Given that Tunsil leads the Dolphins in penalties with 10 and has often looked either overmatched or unsure of what it is he’s supposed to be doing at what is supposed to be his natural position, the Dolphins probably don’t disagree with PFF’s findings.
The Dolphins, though, do see something in their 2016 first-round draft pick that few others do. Even as he continues to struggle at times (Tunsil earned a season-worst grade of 39.0 for his efforts against the Broncos last week, per PFF), the Dolphins see signs of progress.
One of the most obvious came during running back Kenyan Drake’s 42-yard touchdown run last week when Tunsil mauled and just kept on mauling Broncos end Adam Gostis to help spring Drake loose. Coach Adam Gase says there are a lot more that others may not see.
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“I think he’s played better (the past few weeks,’’ Gase said of Tunsil. “His practice habits keep getting better each week and I think he’s got a better understanding of the bigger picture now, which is really (important) for a young player.
“I’ve seen a different look in his eye the last three or four weeks where it’s kind of like the lightbulbs are going off for him as far as understanding everything as a whole. I think it’s really making sense to him more and more as the season is going on.’’
It’s critical that it does, because Tunsil is the player the Dolphins intend to build their line around. That’s why he was moved from left guard to left tackle, and while the Dolphins knew the transition wouldn’t be seamless they surely hoped it would be more seamless than it’s been.
The good news is that it has more or less been the mental aspect of the game that Tunsil has struggled with. Sure, he’s had some moments where he’s looked out of place physically, too, but that’s to be expected with a second-year player.
And of course it didn’t help that Tunsil spent a year playing the position he wasn’t destined to play. That stunted his growth and that of the Dolphins, too, but in the eyes of Gase at least it seems the cornerstone of the Dolphins O-line is back on an upward trajectory.
“With a guy like him, you’re looking for that improvement week in and week out because he is one of those guys where you can really see what we have in him as far as his talent goes,’’ Gase said.
“We just need to keep bringing him along, and he needs to keep maturing as a player, too, but I think he’s heading in that direction.’’
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