On Guard

Now that rookie sensation Donald Thomas is out for the season, the next order of business for the Dolphins is finding someone to replace him at right guard in the starting lineup. Ikechuku Ndukwe got the chance in practice on Wednesday, but there will be two other guys getting a shot as well.

Coach Tony Sparano said he also would take a look at post-cut waiver pick-up Andy Alleman and newly signed Evan Mathis before deciding on a replacement for Thomas.

Of the three contenders, only Mathis has ever started a game in the NFL. He started 15 games for the Carolina Panthers in 2006, a year after being the team's third-round pick.

Mathis, incidentally, is the nephew of former Dolphins nose tackle Bob Baumhower and he will be wearing his uncle's number 73.

Mathis also is a former Alabama teammate of starting left guard Justin Smiley, and he is staying with him for the time being.

Those connections, however, won't necessarily get Mathis the starting job, nor will the fact he played for Dolphins offensive coordinator Dan Henning while in Carolina.

They will, however, make it less of a task for a player to join a team and try to have an immediate impact.

Ndukwe has the longest tenure with the Dolphins, having joined the team last December. He also has the most versatility of the three, having lined up everywhere in the offensive line at one time or another.

Alleman, finally, played guard in college and his first season in the NFL with New Orleans in 2007, but he was switched to center by the Saints a few weeks back and that's where he has been working with the Dolphins since being claimed off waivers on Aug. 31.

As for Thomas, Sparano indicated the rookie sustained a mid-foot injury in the first half but continued to play because he didn't know the severity of it. The injury will require surgery.

"It's an injury that takes a lot of courage to play with for three quarters," Sparano said. "We knew he was a tough guy."

Sparano also dismissed the notion that Thomas' injury played a role in the Dolphins' ineffectiveness in the running game against the Jets.

"The guy graded out pretty well," Sparano pointed out.


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