Satele is the starting center of the Miami Dolphins.
simple statement is really quite remarkable when you consider that he is the first and only rookie in team history to
pull this off.
Langer couldn’t do it, biding most of his rookie season on the taxi squad. Neither could the incomparable Dwight
Stephenson, regarded by many as the finest center ever to play the game.
men are in the Hall of Fame.
and truly, and this is not a knock on those who haven’t pulled it off, the simple
reason why rookies generally aren’t trusted to start at center is because of the
tremendous mental demands of the job.
is the center’s responsibility to read the defensive front and make the
appropriate line calls. It’s a massive responsibility, even for a seasoned
veteran. To expect a green rookie to take on that job, given the complexity and
clever deception of NFL defenses, borders on the unreasonable.
Satele has beaten the odds. It’s really something because the Dolphins didn’t have to start him. They could have taken the
easy way out and kept Rex Hadnot at center and instead played Satele at guard.
Dolphins coach Cam Cameron and line boss extraordinaire Hudson Houck became
convinced early on that Satele was up to the job.
Satele hasn’t disappointed them, despite his extreme baptism by fire.
good about this”, said Satele. “I’m happy that I started. One goal that I had
was to start against Washington
(in the season opener) and not lose my spot after that.”
defensive coordinators have had some success in taking advantage of Satele’s
inexperience. We’ve seen him whiff, we’ve seen him block the wrong guy, and
we’ve seen him mess up blitz pick-ups.
None of this
is surprising, of course, because the orientation to the pro game can be rude.
But here is where the old football axiom of “making mistakes at full speed” means
always playing at full speed, a very good thing. Now, the challenge for him is
to learn to play under control more
sometimes I am too aggressive and need to set off the ball more”, admitted
Satele. “I need to do what Hud (Houck) tells me to do, not what I want to do.”
to Dolphin ears because it shows that Satele is tremendously self-aware of what
he needs to do to get better. That’s not as common a quality with young players
as some might think.
common, however, is periodic loss of confidence by young players when facing
seasoned veterans. After all, it’s a humbling thing to take one’s lumps as an
NFL rookie in front of a national audience and 75,000 attendees.
The only way
to get through it is to be mentally tough and to focus on continuous
improvement. Some rookies get this straight away. Others figure it out after a year
or two. Some never make the leap.
to have made the leap.
“It all starts
with the guy, and every rookie in this league is different”, noted Cameron. “Not
only with the positions they play, (because) some positions are more demanding
as a rookie than others, (but) not many are more demanding than a starting
unique guy. He’s very mature, he loves football, and he plays football for all
the right reasons. He’s doing a tremendous job.”
So how did the
Dolphins uncover this gem of a rookie, taken in the second round with the pick
obtained from New England for Wes Welker?
Assistant Director of Player Personnel, explains.
unique because he played guard his junior year and then going into his senior
year played center”, Baugh recalled. “So we went back and looked at his games
at guard and center and tried to figure out what (best) to do with him.”
thing for offensive lineman is that you have to be intelligent, especially at
the center position. You have to be able to grasp volumes of information.
Physically, you’re looking for a guy with balance and knee-bend. If you watch
when Samson comes off the ball, he’s always got his knees bent and his feet
underneath him. It’s a hard quality to find.”
was the first offensive line coach I worked with in Seattle”, said Baugh. “He used to tell me
that one of his fundamentals with offensive line play was ‘first touch’. If you
look at a defender and an offensive lineman, whoever establishes that ‘first
touch’ and controls the chest area of the opponent first, is probably the
indicator of who is going to win the battle.”
some of the things you can look for when you see Samson (play).”
looking for evidence of what Baugh is talking about, just watch Satele on one
of those screen passes that Ronnie Brown has been tearing people up with. You’ll
see Satele pulling out in front, using his nimble athleticism, leverage, and
power to crush linebackers flat.
All in all, he’s
off to a pretty good start. But don’t expect him to be satisfied with just not
“losing his spot”.
knows that there is very high standard of play set by Dolphin centers in the
past. And he wants to get there someday, in the rarefied air alongside Langer
toward it”, said Satele. “It’s not something that just going to be handed to
me. Dwight Stephenson was the best center there ever was here, a Hall of Famer.
I want my name to be with him, to be greater. I’m just working at it, taking it
one day at a time. I’m no All-Pro yet.”
“I still have
a lot of things to work on. I love this game.”