With the 2022 NFL season fast approaching, the South Florida Sun Sentinel takes a look at 10 storylines to watch for in a 10-part series ahead of the Miami Dolphins’ first day of training camp, which is set for Wednesday.
Terron Armstead has had an accomplished nine-year NFL career, but the one thing he’s missing is a football legacy.
While Armstead was a three-time Pro Bowler and an extremely important cog in Sean Payton’s New Orleans Saints offense, he wasn’t the straw that stirred the drink. He was one of many ice cubes in New Orleans.
In Miami, he has the potential to do — and be — so much more because this Dolphins offensive line belongs to him now. If things go right, that unit will serve as the foundation for the entire team.
That’s why it shouldn’t be too challenging for Armstead to imagine himself as the player who turned one of the NFL’s weakest offensive lines into one of its most feared units, and part of the change needed to help Miami win its first playoff game since the 2000 season.
That’s what the 6-foot-5, and fit 304-pounder’s legacy could be.
Armstead, who has started 93 of the 97 games he’s played, is an offensive linemen in the Trent Williams-mold. He’s a talent new coach Mike McDaniel can build the Dolphins’ entire running game around, much like McDaniel built the San Francisco 49ers’ rushing attack around Williams.
That type of 300-pound athlete, who can dominate the man lined up across from him for 50 snaps a game, is exactly what the Dolphins have been missing since Laremy Tunsil was traded to Houston for a treasure chest of draft picks before the 2019 season.
And what’s even more fitting is that Armstead, who owns the NFL combine record for running the fastest 40-yard dash time (4.71) of any offensive linemen, is perfect fit for this scheme, and he knows it.
“This scheme. I think it fits my skill set pretty well, so I’m excited,” said Armstead, who has been rehabbing a knee injury that forced him to miss the final four games of the 2021 season, and all of Miami’s offseason field work. “I’m going to keep saying that word because I truly am. Just ready to get out there and show what I can do in that fit.”
For the Dolphins to transform their West Coast offense into a top-10 unit they’ll need the wide-zone running scheme to work, and best chance of that happening is if Armstead can dominate for 17 games, like Williams has in San Francisco.
“When you’re running the wide zone, and its 11 people moving on one accord, and the running back isn’t rushing his read,” Williams has said about the scheme. “He’s reading it one gap at a time and then exposing a hole in the defense. It’s damn near impossible to stop if run properly.”
And if a team has athletes on the offensive line, look out.
That’s what Williams is, and what Armstead brings to Miami.
“The only way to stop it is to put six down linemen down and doing that you restrict your coverage and then we pass because all the tight ends and fullbacks are like receivers. They run the same routes,” Williams said explaining the 49ers style of offense McDaniel is bringing to the Dolphins.
“Then you got a Deebo [Samuel],” Williams added (Miami will just substitute Tyreek Hill in his place).
“We can look like we’re in a five wide and then run an I-formation,” Williams continued. “That dynamic, and when you add all that to it, it makes it extremely hard to guard. That’s why no matter who we go up against we have success.”
The goal is for Miami to mimic that same style and it’s Armstead who will serve the foundational piece because when healthy he’ll open up running lanes, take on second-level defenders to produce big runs, and often block the opposition’s best pass rusher one-on-one, potentially easing the load placed on the other four offensive linemen.
We’ll discover if Armstead, who turned 31 recently, still has the athleticism to do so when he’s cleared to practice on his surgically repaired knee.
That’s when his career-defining decision to leave New Orleans for Miami gets tested because Armstead’s the type of talent who should help everyone around him perform at a higher level.
That type of player is critical to Miami’s success this season because it’s time to raise the bar, and time for Armstead to cement his legacy.