MIAMI GARDENS — If it’s a Thursday at the Armstead home, there’s a chef on call.
And if you’re a Dolphins’ offensive lineman, you’re invited.
“Stuffed salmon,” Miami left guard Robert Jones said with a grin. “The sea bass is amazing. We haven’t always come together to build a chemistry like this.”
“Chicken and sausage pasta,” Terron Armstespand recalled this week of a recent success. “Everybody loved it. You get a chance to know guys, really get invested in guys and learn more about their personal life. It’s great for when you go out there and battle and compete with them.”
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Armstead hosted similar dinners in New Orleans. He cited camaraderie and cohesiveness. Miami’s offensive line has greatly improved since Armstead, a three-time Pro Bowler, signed this offseason.
The dinners, and an offensive line group text chat he created, are just two examples of how his impact extends beyond excellent pass-blocking at left tackle.
“We’ve been working on team-building as an offensive line,” right tackle Austin Jackson said this week. “We didn’t the last couple of years.”
Armstead, 31, has played 10 seasons in the NFL.
“He’s pretty much like an extra coach,” right guard Robert Hunt said.
Miami has improved because of the additions of Armstead and center Connor Williams. And also because of the additions of coach Mike McDaniel, offensive coordinator Frank Smith and offensive line coach Matt Applebaum.
This week, Applebaum, who has coached in college since a role with the Jaguars in 2014, did not shy away from crediting Armstead for helping everyone – including Applebaum.
“I think it’s important as a coach to learn from your players, especially at this level, especially if you have veteran players like a Terron Armstead,” Applebaum said. “Whether it be nuance to a technique in run or pass, that may be something he either learned along the way from a different coach or just learned along the way as a player. I’ve learned quite a few things from Terron. He’s awesome in every way possible.”
In the NFL, players are off on Tuesdays. But Armstead has always considered that particular day a great opportunity to put in work.
“I like to make those my hardest days of the week,” Armstead said. “You know, try to put in as much work looking to improve my technique.”
Terron Armstead leads extra practice on Tuesday off days
Armstead has missed a lot of practice time this season due to a toe injury. But for much of the season, he has sent out a message inviting any or all of the linemen to meet him on the practice field on Tuesdays.
“Probably everybody has shown up at some point throughout the season,” Armstead said.
What Armstead wants is an opportunity for the players to walk through their steps, together.
“It’s not anything we’re forced to be doing,” Jackson said. “But well, we all want to be around each other. We all want to work together.”
Hunt, a guard, said Armstead has specifically worked with him on mirroring linemen.
“Pass protection,” Hunt said. “Look at the defender and where he is relative to your body. And know that no matter where he is, if you’re right, there’s nothing he can do. He can’t get by you.”
Tackle Brandon Shell said Armstead shows him wily veteran tricks.
“We get tips from coaches,” Shell said. “But it’s also good to get it from one of your teammates who’s been playing for a while. They know kind of like the ins and outs and like what you can get away with and what you really can’t get away with. It’s good to pick the mind of a guy that’s been playing for 10 years.”
The Dolphins linemen say Armstead has sound advice on footwork, hand placement and angles.
Jackson learning to use his speed from Armstead
“The main thing I learned that he talked about was just first step, first step, the angle that you take,” Jackson said. “And then really the second step, too. First step down fast. Second step down fast. Because that’s really where you generate your power. Speed. He’s a fast guy, too. I am as well. So I feel like that kind of stuck with me.”
Armstead has also made himself available for feedback during film work, including some extra sessions.
“You’ve got to watch to learn from mistakes from the past game, how to correct those,” Armstead said. “And you’ve got to understand the opponent for this week and what they’re trying to do and what you’re trying to take away from him. But you’ve got to go out on the field and practice those steps you have to do in real time, real speed.”
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Only three Dolphins have more NFL experience than Armstead. That would be punter Thomas Morstead, pass rusher Melvin Ingram and special teams standout Justin Bethel.
Jackson and Hunt are in their third seasons and Jones is in his second.
Armstead is in the first year of a 5-year, $75 million contract. In no way would he be expected to be as approachable, selfless and humble as his teammates say he is.
“These things Terron’s been doing for years have helped him be who he is,” Hunt said. “So a couple of guys have migrated over and started doing the same things.”
“He’s seen a lot,” Jones said. “Terron’s played at a high level for many years. And so having him be able to be out there it just help us see the game from a different perspective. And that helps a lot.”