AFC East: Branden Albert

Walker's Fab 40 finale: Nos. 1-4

January, 31, 2015
Jan 31
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We're concluding our series ranking the Miami Dolphins' top 40 players this season.

Finally, we have Miami's best four players.

[+] EnlargeMike Wallace
Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsVeteran Mike Wallace led all Dolphins receivers in touchdowns this season with 10.
No. 4: Mike Wallace

Position: Wide receiver

2014 stats: 67 receptions, 862 yards, 10 touchdowns

Analysis: It's difficult to appreciate how dynamic Wallace is in Miami. He's arguably the fastest player in the NFL, and I've rarely seen a player get as open as he does. However, the Dolphins' offense and quarterback Ryan Tannehill are not a match for his talents. Still, Wallace did all he can to develop into a possession-type receiver and led the team in receiving yards and touchdowns. His longest reception of the season was 50 yards. Frustration eventually boiled over in Week 17 when Wallace was benched after a verbal altercation at halftime. It remains to be seen if the Dolphins will bring Wallace back next season, but I doubt Miami will be able to easily replace his production.

No. 3: Cameron Wake

Position: Defensive end

2014 stats: 36 tackles, 11.5 sacks, three forced fumbles

Analysis: Wake, 32, is still playing a high level. He posted double-digit sacks for the third time in his career and made it to his fourth Pro Bowl. Wake did have a few slow stretches during the season but few offensive tackles can handle his fastball. Wake's dedication to fitness and taking care of his body is a testament to his strong play despite his age.

No. 2: Brent Grimes

Position: Cornerback

2014 stats: 57 tackles, five interceptions

Analysis: Due to his modest demeanor, Grimes may never get the credit he deserves for being one of the NFL's best cornerbacks. Those who watch Grimes on a weekly basis knows how good he is. Grimes had another good year in Miami by leading the team in interceptions for the second year in a row. His best play last season was a one-handed, leaping interception against Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson. Grimes further showed his stuff in the Pro Bowl, when he intercepted a pass and made a strong push for MVP honors.

[+] EnlargeBranden Albert
AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeThe Dolphins' offensive line was clearly not the same without its star left tackle in Branden Albert.
No. 1: Branden Albert

Position: Left tackle

2014 stats: Nine starts

Analysis: I was wrong about Albert. I thought he was a very good -- but not elite -- left tackle. So when the Dolphins invested $47 million on the former Pro Bowler, I wasn't completely sure it was the best move to make. But after watching Albert play in Miami over the course of the past season, he's clearly one of the league's top left tackles -- when healthy. Albert shut down opposing defensive ends and his contributions were even more noticeable in his absence. With Albert, the Dolphins allowed 2.5 sacks per game. Without Albert, those numbers escalated to 3.5 sacks per game. He was definitely my MVP in the first half of the season. Albert is trying to recover from a torn ACL -- which is a concern -- but according to Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey, he's progressing well and appears ahead of schedule.

That concludes "Walker's Fab 40" for 2015.

Here are my complete and updated rankings of Dolphins players:

1. LT Branden Albert
2. CB Brent Grimes
3. DE Cameron Wake
4. WR Mike Wallace
5. QB Ryan Tannehill
6. S Reshad Jones
7. P Brandon Fields
8. G Mike Pouncey
9. WR Jarvis Landry
10. LB Jelani Jenkins
11. DE Olivier Vernon
12. RB Lamar Miller
13. TE Charles Clay
14. RT Ja'Wuan James
15. LB Koa Misi
16. C Samson Satele
17. WR Brian Hartline
18. LS John Denney
19. QB Matt Moore
20. DT Randy Starks
21. DT Jared Odrick
22. S Louis Delmas
23. DT Earl Mitchell
24. LB Dannell Ellerbe
25. CB Cortland Finnegan
26. RB Knowshon Moreno
27. S Jimmy Wilson
28. DE Derrick Shelby
29. DE Dion Jordan
30. LB Jason Trusnik
31. TE Dion Sims
32. G Daryn Colledge
33. WR Brandon Gibson
34. CB Jamar Taylor
35. LB Philip Wheeler
36. OT Jason Fox
37. G/OT Dallas Thomas
38. DE Terrence Fede
39. CB Will Davis
40. DE Chris McCain
DAVIE, Fla. – It wasn’t the best sight this week for the Miami Dolphins.

Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert, who is responsible for protecting quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s blind side, hobbled slowly into the locker room with a walking cane. Albert is off crutches following season-ending knee surgery to repair a torn ACL and MCL. But he looks nowhere near ready to return to the field, where he was arguably Miami’s MVP through the first half of the season.

Albert
Albert
Albert expressed optimism about his return to the Dolphins in 2015.

“I got every confidence [I will bounce back],” Albert said as players cleaned out their lockers Monday. “I got a good training staff. We’re working every day and I’m going to keep pushing.”

Albert is one of Miami’s major keys to success going forward. Not only is Albert Miami’s best offensive lineman, but he just signed a $47 million contract in free agency.

The Dolphins made a significant investment to protect Tannehill and it paid dividends through the first 10 games, before Albert went down. The offensive line struggled with pass protection after that point, which included seven sacks allowed in Miami’s loss to the New York Jets in the season finale.

The injury took place in November. That means the usual 9-12 month recovery timeline for ACL tears puts Albert’s return between August and November.

Miami certainly needs Albert on the field at the start of the regular season. But Albert said it’s too early in the rehabilitation process to think that way.

“My goal is to be healthy to help this team,” Albert said. “I don’t know when. I’m not going to set myself up for anything like that. Whenever it’s time to step up, I will step up.”

Albert was playing at a Pro Bowl level through 10 games. His injury forced rookie Ja’Wuan James to move from right tackle to left tackle. The right tackle position rotated between Dallas Thomas and Jason Fox.

The Dolphins went 1-3 in the final month of the season and missed the playoffs for the sixth straight year.

“It was rough watching the games and just knowing you couldn’t be there to help your team and you can’t do nothing about it,” Albert said. “It took a toll on my, but things happen in football and I couldn’t be with my team. But I still got a future ahead of me to help this team out next year and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Vikings vs. Dolphins preview

December, 18, 2014
12/18/14
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When: 1 p.m. ET Sunday. Where: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens. TV: Fox.

Two teams out of playoff contention will meet in South Florida on Sunday when the Miami Dolphins (7-7) host the Minnesota Vikings (6-8).

These are two clubs who represent the up-and-down middle class in the NFL. Despite good moments, neither team has been able to reach the consistency it takes to make the postseason.

Who will come out on top? ESPN Dolphins reporter James Walker and NFL Nation columnist Kevin Seifert breakdown the matchups:

Walker: Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is a South Florida native with plenty of interest out of Miami. How is his development in his rookie season?

Seifert: He has really come on, via a steady ascendance that makes him without question the best of the rookie quarterbacks in 2014. The Vikings' major goal for Bridgewater's first season was to keep him from getting beat up and beat down. Coach Mike Zimmer was especially cognizant about not ruining him behind a bad offensive line or on a bad team or putting him on the field before he was ready to succeed. That's why the Vikings began the season with Matt Cassel as the starter.

Bridgewater got on the field earlier than they expected because of Cassel's Week 3 injury, and after some expected early struggles -- most notably on deep accuracy -- Bridgewater has gotten on a nice little run. The Vikings are 4-3 in his past seven starts, he has completed at least 70 percent of his passes in his past three starts and thrown for at least 300 yards in his past two. Most recently, the Vikings trusted him in a pass-first game plan against the Detroit Lions' stout defense. He completed 31 of 41 passes for 315 yards, the highest completion percentage for a rookie in a game when throwing at least 40 passes in NFL history. People in South Florida know Bridgewater has a calm personality that allows him to navigate pressure situations well. The early returns are that the Vikings have found their starter for a long time to come.

The Vikings are protecting Bridgewater with three backups on their offensive line, at right tackle, right guard and left guard. Are the Dolphins still as strong up front defensively as they were earlier this season?

Walker: It's an interesting question, because a month ago I would have pegged this as a huge advantage for Miami. However, its defensive line has mostly disappeared the past several games. It has been a mystery here in Miami, because that was the strength of the team in the first half of the season. The Dolphins got zero sacks on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady last week and he put up 41 points. Before that, Miami allowed 661 rushing yards in a three-game stretch from Weeks 12-14. Teams have pretty much done what they wanted against Miami's defense, which at one point was ranked as high as No. 2 in the NFL. The Dolphins are running on fumes, and it is most evident on the defensive line. On paper, it's still an advantage for Miami, but the group must prove it on the field.

Although it doesn't always show in the standings, the Vikings are playing solid football in the past month. What's led to their recent surge?

Seifert: A few things, with Bridgewater's development being the most significant. When you're getting production from that position, everything else is a little easier. It took some time for the Vikings to recover schematically from the suspension of tailback Adrian Peterson. They've used a backfield-by-committee system, getting 538 yards from rookie Jerick McKinnon, who is now on injured reserve, and 421 yards (and seven touchdowns) from Matt Asiata. Dolphins fans can expect to see a mix of Asiata, veteran Ben Tate -- claimed off waivers from the Cleveland Browns -- and Joe Banyard. Bridgewater has benefited from the emergence of receiver Charles Johnson, who was signed off the Browns' practice squad earlier this season. Johnson has replaced the disappointing Cordarrelle Patterson in the starting lineup and has 19 receptions for 355 yards in his past five games. Finally, the Vikings' defense has begun taking the form Zimmer wanted to see when he took over the team this year. Zimmer still calls the defensive signals, and he has helped mold a pair of youngsters -- defensive end Everson Griffen (12 sacks) and cornerback Xavier Rhodes -- into frontline players. The Vikings' three losses over the past two months have all been by one score or less. Even after losing Peterson and Cassel in the first month of the season, they've got a chance to finish .500.

How should we expect the Dolphins to respond emotionally in this game? They're all but eliminated from the playoffs. Do you think they'll pack it in? Will they fight for Joe Philbin's job? Or has the decision already been made?

Walker: I will start with the last question. The decision has not been made officially on Philbin, but the gears are beginning to click in motion. The past two weeks were an eye-opener for the decision-makers in the organization. The team didn't show up in two huge games against the Baltimore Ravens and Patriots. Philbin now has a three-year record of 22-24 and hasn't made the playoffs. His teams play their worst football when it matters most, in key games late in the season. That's not good enough for Miami owner Stephen Ross.

The best Philbin can do is prove he can motivate the Dolphins to play well in these final two games when nothing is at stake. That will be a challenge in itself. A 9-7 season at least gives Philbin a leg to stand on, although I'm not sure that will be enough without making the playoffs. I expect Miami to play for Philbin because he is well-liked in the locker room. But if things get really difficult in this game -- like it has the past two weeks against the Patriots and Ravens -- I'm curious to see how the players respond.

I would be remiss if I didn't ask about the Peterson controversy. Has that worn off on the team, even with new details emerging?

Seifert: I think it did hang over the locker room and the coaching staff for a long time, mostly because there were several stops along the way when it seemed as if Peterson's return was imminent. There were some genuinely shocked players and coaches when the final ruling came down that Peterson would not return this year. Now, I think everyone is past it. The appeals, accusations and lawsuits are all essentially irrelevant to the Vikings' 2014 season. Peterson isn't going to be on the field this season, and he might never be in a Vikings uniform again. My perception is that most of the players and coaches who will decide the outcome of this game Sunday are well beyond worrying about it.

The Vikings are tied for sixth in the NFL with 38 sacks but Ryan Tannehill has taken the sixth-fewest sacks in the league. What has been the key for the Dolphins' pass protection, and do you think it'll hold up against the Vikings?

Walker: The numbers are a bit skewed due to a stellar first half of the season. The Dolphins' pass protection was very good when Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert was healthy and guarding Tannehill's blindside. A strong case can be made that Albert was Miami's first-half MVP. However, a season-ending knee injury to Albert exposed some holes on Miami's offensive line. Rookie Ja'Wuan James moved from right tackle to left tackle and the struggling Dallas Thomas was put at right tackle. Since Albert went down in Week 10, Miami has allowed 21 quarterback sacks in five games. That's a little more than four sacks per game. The Patriots and Ravens registered 10 combined sacks. I do expect the Vikings to get pressure on Tannehill.

The Film Don't Lie: Dolphins

November, 18, 2014
11/18/14
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A weekly look at what the Miami Dolphins must fix:

The Miami Dolphins (6-4) have done a lot of things correctly while posting a 5-2 record in the past seven games. But an area of concern that could derail them next week against the Denver Broncos is pass protection, particularly at right tackle.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked a season-high five times in Thursday’s 22-9 victory over the Buffalo Bills, and starting right tackle Dallas Thomas allowed Buffalo defensive end Mario Williams to register 2.5 of his 3.5 sacks.

The Dolphins weakened their right-tackle position after moving first-round pick Ja'Wuan James to left tackle to replace injured Pro Bowler Branden Albert (knee), who is lost for the season. They had several options at right tackle but chose Thomas, who started this season at guard, over backups Nate Garner and Jason Fox.

Thomas looked out of place in his first start at right tackle this season in terms of his footwork, lack of quickness and overall strength against Williams. The competition only gets stiffer Sunday against Denver pass-rushers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware.

Thomas must step up his game if he wants to remain the right tackle for the final six games. He also could use more help from “chips” and double-teams from running backs and tight ends. All of Thomas' 2.5 sacks against Buffalo were allowed in one-on-one situations.
DAVIE, Fla. – Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been limited in practice this week after suffering ankle and right shoulder injuries in Sunday's loss to the Detroit Lions. However, Tannehill will play in Thursday's primetime game against the Buffalo Bills.

"I'm good," Tannehill said when asked about his health. "Obviously, a little sore, but I’m good."

Tannehill
Tannehill has never missed a start in three seasons. But Tannehill is running the ball more with Miami’s read-option and has taken more sacks in recent weeks. Tannehill is Miami’s second-leading rusher with 245 yards on 33 carries. He also has been sacked 20 times this season, and the wear and tear is adding up.

Another concern for Tannehill and Miami is the loss of Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert, who was lost for the season with an ACL and MCL tear on Sunday. The Dolphins will move rookie right tackle Ja’Wuan James to left tackle Thursday against a talented Bills defensive line.

Tannehill certainly will not be 100 percent playing in his second game in four days.

“Anytime you play a Thursday night game, physically, it’s tough to get your body recovered and then ready to go again,” Tannehill said. “Not to mention coming off a physical game going into another physical game, this could be a real challenge for us. The coaches took care of us this week in practice and let our bodies recover.”

The Film Don't Lie: Dolphins

November, 11, 2014
11/11/14
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A weekly look at what the Miami Dolphins must fix:

The Dolphins have greatly improved their pass protection from a year ago. But Miami's offensive line is starting to show signs of wear and tear at the midpoint of the season, and that is concerning going into Thursday night's AFC East rivalry game against the Buffalo Bills.

Miami's offensive line allowed three sacks on quarterback Ryan Tannehill in Sunday's 20-16 loss to the Detroit Lions. It was the third time in four games Tannehill has been sacked three times or more. The Dolphins have allowed 10 sacks total over that span.

Fixing this problem will be even more difficult after Miami lost starting left tackle Branden Albert for the season with a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee. Albert was the Dolphins' best and most consistent offensive lineman this season.

The Dolphins' offense must get back to what made them successful in the season's first half. That includes establishing a running game early as the foundation.

Miami's rushing attack has done a good job most weeks of keeping defenses off balance. That keeps defenders guessing and helps the Dolphins' offensive line pass protect.

Replacing Albert won't be easy. Miami rookie first-round pick Ja'Wuan James has been solid at right tackle. But expect some growing pains on the left side for James. He will face the opponent's top pass-rusher on most weeks.

Dallas Thomas must also step up as the Dolphins' new right tackle, and Miami needs Shelley Smith or a healthy Daryn Colledge at guard to be stable.

DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins lost Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert, arguably their most consistent offensive player, on Sunday. Miami will put Albert on season-ending injured reserve; according to a source, he has dual ACL and MCL tears in his right knee.

Albert's recovery time is expected to be nine to 12 months. But the Dolphins (5-4), who are battling for a playoff spot in the AFC, cannot afford to sulk. They have the Buffalo Bills (5-4) visiting Sun Life Stadium on Thursday in a big game for both teams.

James
The spotlight now is on first-round pick Ja'Wuan James. He thrived at right tackle in the first nine games and developed into one of the NFL's top rookies. But James' responsibility becomes even greater as he protects Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill's blind side for the remainder of the season.

James must make some important adjustments while going from right tackle to left tackle. For starters, he will face most opponents' best pass-rushers on the left side. There are also subtle things mechanically that James must adjust to on a short week.

James' playing style fits at left tackle, although he played mostly on the right side in college at Tennessee. James' pass protection is ahead of his run blocking at this stage in his career. Coach Joe Philbin also described James on Monday as a "good athlete" and "smart guy." Miami will need all those traits to show in the final seven games.

Miami's entire offensive line will be remade with Albert sidelined for the season. In addition to James moving to left tackle, Dallas Thomas moved to right tackle and Shelley Smith moved to left guard. Philbin said that is the lineup you will likely see Thursday against Buffalo, with perhaps a wild card being the health of Daryn Colledge, who missed the past two games with a back injury.

But the most important piece on Miami's offensive line is James, who must rise to the occasion if the Dolphins expect to make a playoff push in the season's second half.
The Miami Dolphins (5-4) saw their three-game winning streak come to an end Sunday in a 20-16 loss to the Detroit Lions (7-2).

Here are five additional thoughts and observations:

The Lions might have provided the first blueprint for stopping Miami's read option. Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill had a lot of success running that play this season and entered the game averaging 7.9 yards per carry. But Detroit made sure to keep a defender on Tannehill, which often forced the handoff to the running back. Tannehill had 0 yards on two carries. Detroit also did a good job of constantly hitting Tannehill during the read option and when passing. That took a physical toll on Tannehill and made him think twice about running.

Grimes
Grimes
It was a lot of fun watching the game within the game between Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes and Lions receiver Calvin Johnson. Both players brought their “A” game and made big plays. Johnson beat Grimes deep for a 49-yard touchdown catch in the first half, and Grimes responded with a one-handed interception against Johnson in the third quarter. Still, I’m not sure how you stop Johnson unless a defense constantly double- and triple-teams. Grimes played Johnson about as well as you can, and Johnson still finished with seven receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown.

Branden Albert’s knee injury means Dolphins rookie first-round pick Ja'Wuan James now is in the spotlight at left tackle. James has been one of the NFL’s top offensive rookies with nine straight starts at right tackle. He has done a good job of plugging the spot right away to protect Tannehill’s front side. But moving to the left side means James must handle the opponent’s top pass-rushers each week. The pressure on James will be higher moving forward.

Dolphins starting running back Lamar Miller didn’t look himself on Sunday. Miller, who has a shoulder injury, gained just 10 yards on four carries. It was clear he was playing hurt. The Dolphins ran the ball just 19 times total, and rookie free-agent pickup Damien Williams led the team with 34 yards on seven carries. It is doubtful Miller will get close to 100 percent before Thursday’s game against the Buffalo Bills.

Speaking of the Bills, Thursday’s game will mark the third different Buffalo quarterback Miami has faced in the past three games. Last season, Miami native Thad Lewis led the Bills to complete a season sweep over the Dolphins. EJ Manuel led Buffalo to a Week 2 win over the Dolphins in September. This week veteran Kyle Orton will face the Dolphins. Orton has added stability and good decision-making to Buffalo’s offense. He has a 98.4 passer rating with 10 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

Branden Albert could be out long term

November, 9, 2014
11/09/14
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DETROIT -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Miami Dolphins' 20-16 loss to the Detroit Lions:

Albert
Albert
Albert concerns: Several Dolphins players expressed concern for the health of starting left tackle Branden Albert, who was carted off the field due to a second-quarter knee injury and did not return. Although there is no official timeline, the feeling in the Dolphins' locker room is that this is not a short-term injury and Miami will have to adjust its offensive line going forward. Albert was not in the locker room when the media arrived. But Miami rookie offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James said he talked to Albert and he's "in high spirits."

Finnegan optimistic: Albert wasn't the only Dolphins player who couldn't finish the game. Starting cornerback Cortland Finnegan injured his left ankle in the second half and didn't return. Finnegan said after the game that he is hopeful he can play Thursday but isn't sure.

Next game up: The Dolphins were disappointed about Sunday's loss. But players in the locker room realized they couldn't sulk for long. Miami (5-4) will play the Buffalo Bills (5-4) on Thursday in what could turn out to be an elimination game for these AFC East teams. "This has got to be a quick turnaround," center Samson Satele said. "It sucks right now, but as soon as we land [in Miami] we have to focus on Buffalo."

Rapid Reaction: Miami Dolphins

November, 9, 2014
11/09/14
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DETROIT -- A few thoughts on the Miami Dolphins' 20-16 loss Sunday to the Detroit Lions:

What it means: Miami has been very competitive on the road but had its three-game win streak snapped on the final drive when Lions running back Theo Riddick caught the winning touchdown over safety Reshad Jones with 29 seconds left in the game. The Dolphins couldn't do enough to hold a lead in the fourth quarter. The defense kept getting stops, but the offense couldn't score or put up long drives with consistency. The Dolphins gained just 236 yards of total offense. Similar to the last-second loss to the Green Bay Packers in Week 6, this is another loss Miami could look to at the end of the season and wish it had back. The Dolphins are now 5-4 and two games behind the first-place New England Patriots (7-2) in the AFC East.

Stock watch: In terms of rising stock, Miami's defense did its job to hold the Lions' high-powered offense to just 20 points. The defense cleaned up a lot of messes from the offense, which struggled to sustain drives and had two turnovers. Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes had a tough assignment against Lions receiver Calvin Johnson; Grimes grabbed an astounding one-handed interception defending Johnson and also gave up a 49-yard touchdown. It was another hot-and-cold day for Miami's special teams. The Dolphins' third phase gave up a fake punt on the opening drive that led to three points for Detroit. Miami also tried a fake punt and failed because of an illegal shift. But a blocked field goal in the third quarter and subsequent 50-yard return by Dion Jordan gave the Dolphins second-half momentum.

Big loss of Albert: Dolphins starting left tackle Branden Albert suffered a potentially serious right knee injury in the second quarter and did not return to the game. Teammates looked on with concern as the medical staff called in a cart to take Albert off the field. He could not put any weight on his knee as he was being helped on the cart and taken into the tunnel. Miami signed Albert to a $47 million contract, and he was its biggest free-agent signing this past offseason.

Game ball: Defensive end Cameron Wake was a headache for the Lions. Wake recorded two sacks of Matthew Stafford and had two additional quarterback hits and a tackle for loss. With his pair of sacks, Wake moved into fifth place on Miami's all-time sack list with 60 in his career.

What's next: The Dolphins have a short turnaround in Week 11. Miami has just four days to prepare for its next game against the Buffalo Bills at Sun Life Stadium. Buffalo (5-4) has had the Dolphins' number the past two years. The Bills are 3-0 against Miami in the past three meetings and have won four of the past five games in this divisional matchup.
The Miami Dolphins (2-3) will play the Chicago Bears (3-3) Sunday in a big game for both teams.

Here is the final injury report for Miami:

Doubtful: S Jimmy Wilson (hamstring)

Questionable: C Samson Satele (hamstring)

Probable: LT Branden Albert (elbow), RB Lamar Miller (knee), QB Ryan Tannehill (ankle), CB Cortland Finnegan (neck), WR Brandon Gibson (hamstring), WR Brian Hartline (finger), LB Koa Misi (ankle), G Shelley Smith (knee), G Dallas Thomas (shoulder), LB Philip Wheeler (shoulder, thumb),

Analysis: The Dolphins are going into this game relatively healthy. Wilson is the only player not expected to play in Chicago. He has missed practice all week with a hamstring injury and will leave a void as the nickel cornerback. Young corners Will Davis and/or Jamar Taylor must step up in sub packages and could see more reps this week when the Bears use three-receiver sets. Satele will be a game-time decision, but the Dolphins have options. If Satele can’t go, Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey will go back to his natural spot after playing guard last week in his first game back. I always thought Pouncey should play center anyway, where he is most comfortable. Minor injuries to Miller, Tannehill and Albert will not impact their playing status. All three will play.

Dolphins-Packers injury report

October, 9, 2014
10/09/14
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The Miami Dolphins and Green Bay Packers are getting closer to their Sunday showdown at Sun Life Stadium.

Here is Thursday's injury report for both teams:

Dolphins (2-2)

Limited participation: RB Knowshon Moreno (elbow), LB Koa Misi (ankle), CB Cortland Finnegan (neck), WR Brandon Gibson (hamstring), C Samson Satele (fibula), G Shelley Smith (knee), DT Randy Starks (back), WR Mike Wallace (foot), LB Philip Wheeler (shoulder)

Full participation: LT Branden Albert (shoulder), LB Jelani Jenkins (abdomen), TE Charles Clay (knee), RB Lamar Miller (foot), G Dallas Thomas (shoulder)

Packers (3-2)

Did not practice: WR Jarrett Boykin (groin), DE Datone Jones (ankle)

Limited participation: OT David Bakhtiari (back), LB Sam Barrington (hamstring), DT Josh Boyd (knee)

Analysis: The Dolphins had perfect attendance for the first time this week after Finnegan and Gibson both joined practice as limited participants. Miami should be nearly at full strength in this game. The only real question mark is Moreno, who is still trying to feel his way through wearing an arm brace. I asked Moreno in the locker room Thursday what's complicated about the brace, and he responded "everything." His status most likely will be determined Sunday.
DAVIE, Fla. – Miami Dolphins starting offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James is getting the biggest test of his career on Sunday. He must block Pro Bowl pass-rushers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers.

Welcome to the NFL, rookie.

James, Miami's No. 19 overall pick, will have his hands full when the Dolphins (2-2) host the Green Bay Packers (3-2) at Sun Life Stadium. Peppers will start opposite James at left outside linebacker. But Matthews also moves around in Green Bay's defensive scheme and will get playing time against Miami's rookie right tackle. Peppers and Matthews have combined for 171 career sacks.

James
It will be up to James to see that those sack numbers don't increase this week.

“I see that as a great opportunity. I’m a competitor," James said of facing Peppers and Matthews. "That’s what I love to do. As offensive linemen, we don’t catch touchdowns. We compete against each other [in the trenches]."

Miami drafted James because general manager Dennis Hickey and his staff believed he was NFL-ready. James had 49 career starts at the University of Tennessee and has answered the call in Miami so far.

James played in all four games for the Dolphins and hasn't missed a snap. According to Pro Football Focus, James allowed just one sack and three quarterback hits this season. PFF rated James the No. 26 offensive tackle (right and left) in the NFL, which is a solid number for a rookie. Dolphins teammate and left tackle Branden Albert was rated the third-best tackle.

Miami has only allowed nine sacks in four games.

“He’s got good poise for a young player,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said of James. “I think he’s been good on the sideline. When he comes off the field, I think he can communicate what’s happening. If he did make a mistake, he can fix it.”

Peppers, 34, continues to make big plays in his 13th season. Last week, Peppers returned an interception 49 yards for a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings in one of the most impressive defensive plays of the season.

James, 22, is a dozen years younger than Peppers but looks forward to the challenge of keeping him off Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill this Sunday.

“It’s really amazing. That’s one of the people I watched a lot growing up,” James said. “He’s a great player. I always thought he was a great player and very athletic -- even watching him as a basketball player at North Carolina.

“It’s going to be fun to compete against him. But at the same time, it’s kind of cool to think I’m going to be going against Julius Peppers.”

Miami Dolphins injury report

September, 17, 2014
9/17/14
6:28
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DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins (1-1) completed their second practice of the week in preparation for the Kansas City Chiefs (0-2).

Here is an update of Miami’s latest injuries:

Did not participate: LB Koa Misi (ankle), DL Terrence Fede (knee), RB Knowshon Moreno (elbow), G Shelley Smith (knee)

Limited participation: LT Branden Albert (shoulder), TE Charles Clay (knee), S Louis Delmas (calf), LB Jelani Jenkins, C Mike Pouncey (hip), LB Jordan Tripp (chest), G Billy Turner (foot), LB Philip Wheeler (thumb)

Full participation: WR Brian Hartline (back), S Walt Aikens (hand), DT Randy Starks (toe)

Analysis: The Dolphins added several new injuries following their Week 2 loss to the Buffalo Bills. Albert, Delmas and Jenkins are among the starters who were banged up in that game. Pouncey practiced for the second day in a row and appears to be making progress. If he doesn’t return Sunday, Miami’s following game on Sept. 28 against the Oakland Raiders looks like a possibility. Moreno will not play and Misi’s chances aren’t looking good. For Kansas City, star running back Jamaal Charles (ankle) and safety Eric Berry (ankle) did not practice Wednesday.

Ryan Tannehill preps for nemesis Bills

September, 11, 2014
9/11/14
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DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill owns career wins over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts and even Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks.

Tannehill
But, surprisingly, the one team Tannehill has struggled most against throughout his NFL career is the Buffalo Bills. Tannehill is 1-3 against Buffalo, completing just 48 percent of his passes in those four games and averaging only 136.7 yards per contest.

Tannehill’s most recent outing against Buffalo was arguably his worst game. He was 10-of-27 passing for 82 yards in a 19-0 loss to the Bills in Week 16.

Tannehill will get to meet his personal nemesis when the Dolphins (1-0) travel to face the Bills (1-0) on Sunday. Tannehill knows he wasn’t his best in Week 1 against the Patriots but still put together a winning performance. He completed 18-of-32 passes for 178 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

“We left a lot of plays out there. I left a lot of plays out there, personally,” Tannehill admitted. “Location of throws, missing throws, [I] had a couple of dropped passes. Details like that where we left a lot of yards and a lot of touchdowns out on the field. ... But you can’t leave that many plays on the field consistently and expect to win week-in and week-out. Definitely, we want to clean those details up this week.”


Tannehill will have to play better this week. Buffalo has found a way to batter Tannehill and force Miami's offense to be one-dimensional in the past. That was especially the case during last season's season sweep when the Bills' defense registered nine quarterback sacks on Tannehill in two games.

Those two contests helped convince Miami to do a major makeover of its offensive line via free agency and the draft. The Dolphins signed veteran left tackle Branden Albert to a $47 million contract, drafted rookie right tackle Ja’Wuan James in the first round and added center Samson Satele and veteran guards Daryn Colledge and Shelley Smith in free agency.

Miami had five new starting offensive linemen in Week 1, and the unit thrived against New England. The Dolphins had impressive balance with 191 rushing yards and 169 passing yards, which caught the attention of Bills head coach Doug Marrone.

“As far as just a unit, in general, they’re working extremely well together and I think that’s the most impressive thing,” Marrone said in a conference call with the Miami media. “They’re knocking people off the ball.”

Both teams enter this game with momentum. That sets up this interesting matchup of surprise undefeated teams where the winner will be 2-0 and in first place in the AFC East.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, 63 percent of teams that start 2-0 since 1990 have gone on to make the playoffs. Whoever wins Sunday will be well-positioned to end a lengthy postseason drought. The Dolphins haven’t made the playoffs since 2008, and the Bills have the NFL’s longest playoff drought dating back to the 1999 season.

“Very important just because we need to get this lead. We don’t need to be playing catch up,” Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace said. “We’ve been there before. We need to see how it feels to play as the division leaders the whole time. We can do that. We have the team to do it. We just have to continue to put in the work every single week, every single day."

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