Sometimes, it just takes a year of adjustment before everything fits into place. That is what Dallas Thomas is hoping was the reason he could not crack the Dolphin starting lineup in his rookie season last year. The former Tennessee Volunteers linemen is hoping for another opportunity, especially with all the changes the team has made to improve a unit that gave up 58 sacks last season.

As was the case in the early days of training camp last summer, Thomas practiced with the first-team offensive line throughout this spring.   But now he’s looking for a different outcome.

His goals for the 2014 season are simple: “To be a starter, for one,” he said on miamidolphins.com. “And just keep working on my technique and get better and better.”

Going by the OTA and minicamp practices that were open to the media and, more importantly, by Head Coach Joe Philbin’s comments, it seems obvious that Thomas has made great strides since the end of what became a frustrating rookie season.

At the conclusion of the offseason program, Philbin was asked to name players who had shown the most improvement, and Thomas was among the five he listed.

“He’s a lot further ahead than he was a year ago,” Philbin said earlier. “If you look at Dallas Thomas, who was able to participate only on a limited basis last offseason, he’s been one of our hardest workers throughout the offseason program.”

Thomas is also a bit more excited to play on the same line as his close friend Ju’Wuan Jones, the team’s first round pick in this year’s draft. Both linemen were fixtures in Knoxville and SEC play.

When the 2013 season ended, Thomas made sure he set himself up for success as much as possible.

That meant doing a lot of work, both on his body (with a new diet) and his mind (hitting the playbook).

It also meant he would stay in South Florida before the start of the offseason program.

“For one I wanted to get some rehab with our training staff for my shoulder and stuff like that, to keep on working it,” he said. “You’ve just got to keep on building it because it’s a nagging injury. You want to keep the healing process going on it and just to get better with the coaches and all that and just get in with everybody because we had (new coaches) coming in. I got in, got the playbook and just going over everything. Just repetition over and over.”

Thomas was a third round pick of the Dolphins last season and hopes to show versatility on the line – being able to play both tackle and guard. The team used the offseason to retool the line, which include not only drafting James, but using free agency to bring in tackle Branden Albert and guard Shelley Smith.