Miami Dolphins: Earl Mitchell

The Miami Dolphins (5-3) will travel Sunday to play the Detroit Lions (6-2) in a big game for both teams.

Here is a look at Miami’s final injury report:

Out: TE Dion Sims (toe)

Doubtful: G Daryn Colledge (back)

Questionable: RB Lamar Miller (shoulder), LB Koa Misi (ankle), DT Earl Mitchell (abdomen), S Jimmy Wilson (hamstring), LB Kelvin Sheppard (hip/groin)

Probable: TE Charles Clay (knee), G Mike Pouncey (hip), LB Jordan Tripp (ankle), DT Anthony Johnson (back), LB Chris McCain (foot),

Analysis: The Dolphins had good participation in practice this week, and most are expected to play. The biggest concern is Miller, who has been limited throughout the week with a shoulder injury. Miller is a big part of Miami’s offense, and backups Daniel Thomas and Damien Williams would share the load if Miller cannot play Sunday. Colledge most likely will miss his second straight game, and backup Dallas Thomas expects to start at left guard. The Dolphins will have two games in four days, which will be taxing physically and mentally for the team. Miami will play its next game Thursday against the Buffalo Bills.

The San Diego Chargers (5-3) will travel to face the Miami Dolphins (4-3) in an important game with early playoff implications. Both teams could be fighting for a wild card in the AFC, which would make owning the head-to-head tiebreaker important.

Who will prevail in this matchup? ESPN Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams and ESPN Dolphins reporter James Walker discuss:

Walker: Miami has won two in a row and San Diego has lost two in a row, so momentum may be a factor in this matchup. Where are the Chargers in terms of confidence and ending their losing streak?

Williams: The Chargers are a veteran-led group that understands the ebb and flow of an NFL season, so confidence will not be an issue traveling on the road to face the Dolphins. Two of San Diego's three losses have come on the road, against teams that have one loss apiece (Denver and Arizona). San Diego's other loss was a three-point setback to AFC West rival Kansas City at home.

The Chargers don't make a lot of mistakes and generally force opponents to beat them. Coach Mike McCoy is meticulous in his game-day preparation and his staff is skilled in making in-game adjustments. I expect San Diego will be ready for whatever the Dolphins plan to do scheme-wise on both sides of the ball.

The Dolphins are doing a nice job of running, ranked No. 6 by averaging 138 rushing yards per game. How has new coordinator Bill Lazor turned things around on offense?

Walker: Most people expected Lazor to come in and quickly fix the passing game, but he has made his biggest contribution with the running game. Miami's ground game has been consistent, whether it was Knowshon Moreno early, Lamar Miller lately or even quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has three runs of 30 yards or more in the past three games. Lazor has done a good job of spreading out defenses and calling run plays at the right time. His read-option with Tannehill and Miller has been a huge success. Miami's passing game still needs work, but there is progress.

West Coast teams often don't look the same in Miami; San Diego hasn't won here since the 1981 season. How are the Chargers combating that and will the 10-day layoff help?

Williams: Although West Coast teams traditionally struggle in early games traveling east, the Chargers have been relatively successful of late, posting a 7-5 record in 10 a.m. PT games since 2012. The extra days off have given this banged-up team a chance to get some players healthy, and with Philip Rivers controlling the offense, the Chargers are competitive more times than not. One of the keys for San Diego will be the possible return of running back Ryan Mathews. Out for the past six games with an MCL sprain, the Fresno State product could help provide some much-needed balance to San Diego's offense if healthy and cleared to play on Sunday.

After starting 1-2, the Dolphins have won three of their past four games to get back into the AFC playoff race. What has been the difference?

Walker: Part of it is the schedule. The Dolphins cannot hide from that fact. All three of Miami's victories during this stretch have been against the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7), Oakland Raiders (0-7) and Chicago Bears (3-5). Those are bad teams the Dolphins must beat if they want to be considered playoff contenders, and to their credit they took care of business.

The Dolphins are 1-3 against teams with winning records. That is why this game against San Diego is such a good measuring stick of where the Dolphins stand. Miami's next four opponents have a combined record of 22-9 (.709 winning percentage), so we are going to find out quickly whether the Dolphins are contenders or pretenders.

San Diego was banged up before its previous game against the Broncos. Where are the Chargers injury-wise heading into Sunday's game?

Williams: The Chargers should be in a better place health-wise. Four weeks ago against Jacksonville, the Chargers barely had enough healthy bodies to fill 46 spots on the active roster. Along with Mathews, cornerback Brandon Flowers and running back Donald Brown are possibilities to return from concussions. Pass rushers Jeremiah Attaochu (hamstring) and Cordarro Law (ankle) also should have a chance to make it back on the field on Sunday. Offensive linemen D.J. Fluker (ankle) and Rich Ohrnberger (back) have been playing with injuries, so the extra time should work in their favor as well.

The Dolphins are No. 3 in passing defense, holding teams to just 212 passing yards a game. How does the front seven set the tone?

Walker: Miami's front four are the strength of the entire team. The Dolphins have waves of good players, starting with defensive ends Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon and defensive tackles Jared Odrick, Earl Mitchell and Randy Starks. Miami also is getting contributions off the bench from Derrick Shelby, Chris McCain and Dion Jordan, who recorded a couple of tackles in his first game off suspension. This group sets the tone for the defense. The Dolphins' linebackers have been inconsistent with the exception of Jelani Jenkins, who leads Miami in tackles (53) by a wide margin.

Here are the most interesting Miami Dolphins stories Wednesday from around the Web:
  • Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald writes receiver Mike Wallace is frustrated by the offense.
Morning take: Wallace is bothered by the offense's inconsistency. There are a lot of Dolphins fans who feel the same.
  • Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post writes defensive end Dion Jordan is pleased with his debut.
Morning take: Jordan had two tackles and a quarterback pressure. He played well for a player who missed the first six games of the season.
  • Alain Poupart of the Dolphins team site writes numbers don’t tell the full story for defensive tackle Earl Mitchell.
Morning take: Mitchell is an effort player who has done well with his assignments. It’s his job to collapse the pocket and stuff the run.
  • Dolphins rookie returner Jarvis Landry talks to the Sun Sentinel about returning kicks.
Morning take: Landry picked up the slack and is doing a tremendous job on kickoffs. He leads the NFL with more than 31 yards per return.
Here are the most interesting Miami Dolphins stories Thursday from around the Web:
  • Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post grades the Dolphins' free-agent signings.
Morning take: The season is not over. But it appears Miami hit on some veteran signings. Defensive linemen Randy Starks and Earl Mitchell are having fast starts.
  • Greg Cote of the Miami Herald makes his Dolphins-Jaguars prediction.
Morning take: This game won't be the blowout some expect. The Jaguars (1-6) are playing their best football of the season, and the inconsistent Dolphins (3-3) still have things to work on.
  • Alain Poupart of the Dolphins team site writes receiver Mike Wallace is finding the end zone.
Morning take: Wallace has five touchdowns in six games, which is an astounding clip. He’s on pace for a career-high 13 touchdowns.
  • Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel writes Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is finally using his legs.
Morning take: It took more than two years for Miami to finally get the most of Tannehill’s mobility. This is another weapon to add to Tannehill’s arsenal.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The talk of the NFL this week is the recent video obtained by TMZ showing former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice striking his then-fiancée and current wife, Janay Rice.

On Tuesday, the Miami Dolphins' locker room was open for the first time since the video was released.

"Obviously, it's unfortunate," Dolphins defensive end and locker-room leader Cameron Wake said. "You never want anything like that to happen. I still haven't seen the video. I heard some guys talking about it. From what I've heard, it was pretty disturbing."

Dolphins defensive tackle Earl Mitchell called it an "ugly" situation. Several other Dolphins players didn't want to comment on Rice on Tuesday.

Tthe NFL has been heavily criticized for its handling of this domestic incident. The league all but admitted it botched Rice's two-game suspension and updated its player policy on domestic abuse. Also, the NFL suspended Rice indefinitely once TMZ released the recent footage.

"I'm in full support of the policy that the NFL has implemented," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said Tuesday of the updated rules, which include a six-game suspension for the first offense. "I think it's the right thing to do."

The Dolphins dealt with their share of controversy with last season's bullying scandal. Similar to bullying, domestic abuse is an important, hot-button issue in our society.

"Obviously, you don't want anything like that to happen, not only on your own team, but anywhere in the league," Wake said. "My thoughts are with everybody who's involved."
Here are the most interesting Miami Dolphins stories Wednesday from around the Web:
  • Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald writes Dolphins defensive tackle Earl Mitchell is proving to be a free-agent gem.
Morning take: The Dolphins signed Mitchell to add hustle and to be a playmaker in the middle of the defense. Mitchell has added energy to players around him, as well.
  • Chris Perkins of the Sun Sentinel writes receivers Damian Williams and Marcus Thigpen are on edge.
Morning take: Both have a strong chance to make the team. But of the two, Thigpen may be more on the bubble. Miami is looking to see if Jarvis Landry can take over return duties.
  • Kevin Patra of NFL.com writes the Dolphins offense wants to go faster.
Morning take: Obviously Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin didn’t show all of his hand in the preseason. The tempo is one thing Miami wants to ramp up this season.
  • Alain Poupart of the Dolphins site writes rookie right tackle Ja’Wuan James is making the most of every rep.
Morning take: James is playing more reps than any starting offensive lineman. That is by design to get James ready for the regular season.
The Miami Dolphins kick off their 2014 exhibition season Friday against the Atlanta Falcons at 7 p.m. ET. It is no secret that this is a big year for many within the Dolphins' organization. This is the first step to what should be an interesting journey. The Dolphins believe this is the season they make the playoffs and end a five-year postseason drought.

SportsNation

What are you most looking forward to in the Dolphins' preseason opener?

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Discuss (Total votes: 1,238)

Here is our latest "Poll Friday" question: What are Miami fans most looking forward to in the Dolphins' preseason opener?

Is it watching Bill Lazor's new offense? The Dolphins' first-year offensive coordinator is bringing an up-tempo scheme to Miami. Friday's game will be the first time Lazor's offense is put to the test against another team's defense.

What about the development of starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill? He is 15-17 as a starter and enters a big third season to prove he's the long-term solution. A good preseason debut would be a step in the right direction.

Are Dolphins fans looking forward to watching the defense? This is the third season under defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle. The Dolphins added a few new pieces on defense, such as cornerback Cortland Finnegan, safety Louis Delmas and defensive tackle Earl Mitchell. The Dolphins believe they could have a top-10 unit.

Finally, do not forget about the rookies. This will be the first NFL action for first-round pick Ja'Wuan James, second-round pick Jarvis Landry and the remainder of Miami’s rookie class. How will they respond? Friday’s game in Atlanta will be a good introduction to the pros.

Using our SportsNation poll, vote on what you’re most looking forward to watching in Miami's preseason opener against the Falcons. You can share your thoughts in the comment section below or send a message via Twitter to @JamesWalkerNFL.
Training camp is a time for optimism around the NFL. Every team believes it has a legitimate shot at the playoffs -- and some teams even believe they are Super Bowl bound.

SportsNation

What is Miami's biggest reason for optimism?

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Discuss (Total votes: 2,235)

The Miami Dolphins, coming off an 8-8 season, have reason to believe they can end their five-year playoff drought. But what is the biggest reason for optimism?

Is it first-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor? The Dolphins hired Lazor to jumpstart Miami’s 27th-ranked offense from a year ago. Lazor is speeding up the tempo and adding new concepts to Miami’s offense. The Dolphins only averaged 19.8 points per game last season.

What about starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill? He is 15-17 as a starter but has shown flashes throughout the past two seasons. Many quarterbacks make the leap in their third season. Will Tannehill do the same?

Finally, could it be Miami's offseason additions? The Dolphins signed free-agent left tackle Branden Albert, defensive tackle Earl Mitchell and cornerback Cortland Finnegan, in addition to draft picks such as right tackle Ja’Waun James and receiver Jarvis Landry. Will these pieces get the Dolphins over the hump?

Using our SportsNation poll, vote on Miami’s biggest reason for optimism. You can share your thoughts below or send a message via Twitter @JamesWalkerNFL.
The Miami Dolphins have several question marks heading into the 2014 season. Fortunately for them, the defensive line is not one of them.

Vernon
Vernon
Miami has steadily built a strong collection of talent on the defensive line the past few years, via the draft and free agency. The Dolphins have one of the NFL’s deepest groups of defensive ends with Pro Bowler Cameron Wake, 2013 sack leader Olivier Vernon, valuable backup Derrick Shelby and former first-round pick Dion Jordan, who is suspended four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Miami also has a strong rotation of defensive tackles with Randy Starks, Jared Odrick and free-agent pickup Earl Mitchell.

The Dolphins must rely on this deep group for production as well as leadership this season.

“All of us defensive linemen talked to each other, and we pretty much know what we have to do, especially when it comes to game-time situations,” Vernon said recently. “When it comes down to it, the D-line is the heart and soul of the defense. If we’re not doing what we have to do, then things start falling apart. So that’s one thing we’re trying to focus on now going into the season.”

Vernon was Miami’s biggest breakout star last season. The 2012 third-round pick made a significant jump in Year 2 from a rookie backup to leading the Dolphins with 11.5 sacks. He followed up by having a strong offseason and looks primed for another solid year.

Wake, Starks and Odrick have been consistent producers for Miami. Mitchell signed a four-year, $16 million contract this offseason after the Dolphins lost Paul Soliai in free agency. The defensive line, on paper, should be one of Miami’s strengths.

“I would say just wait for the pads to come on,” Vernon explained. “I know what kind of group we have, but I’m not going to just talk about it. I’m not the type of person [that] I don’t want to show what we have. I think all of us on the D-line will show what we have.”

Miami’s defense faces a new challenge this year in training camp. The Dolphins are implementing a new offense under first-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Miami aims to use an up-tempo style with a lot of motion and formations to confuse and dictate to the defense. The Dolphins’ defense will see plenty of these elements in training camp, which starts on Friday.

“They’re doing a lot of things I’ve never seen before,” Vernon said. “They’re moving fast. [Quarterback Ryan] Tannehill is taking control and he’s showing his leadership ability, and a lot of guys are impressive.”

Miami Dolphins' projected roster

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Examining the Miami Dolphins’ roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)


The only question here is whether Devlin can hold off undrafted rookie Brock Jensen for the No. 3 quarterback job. Neither quarterback stood out in the offseason, but Devlin has the slight edge because of experience.

RUNNING BACKS (3)

The Dolphins would like to have someone step up and challenge Thomas. Undrafted rookie Damien Williams from Oklahoma could be a sleeper to watch. But it's too premature to put Williams on the 53-man roster over the veteran Thomas before the pads come on.

RECEIVERS (6)

This is a deep group with a lot of competition. Williams will be pushed for the final spot by Armon Binns and rookie Matt Hazel, who is practice-squad-eligible.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

New Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor uses some two-tight-end sets. So there might be room for a fourth player such as Dion Sims. But we are sticking with three for now.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)
Pouncey’s hip injury puts a major dent in this much-maligned group to start the season. Miami will have five new starters in Week 1.

DEFENSIVE LINE (8)

This is the strongest area of the team. The Dolphins can come at opponents in waves in the trenches.

LINEBACKERS (7)

This group must improve its play from 2013. The Misi experiment at middle linebacker is particularly important to watch.

CORNERBACKS (6)

This is a solid mix of youth and experience. As long as second-year players Taylor and Davis come of age and Finnegan stays healthy, the depth will be improved from a year ago.

SAFETIES (4)

This group is all about position flexibility. All four players must be able to play back in coverage and closer to the line of scrimmage in defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle’s scheme.

SPECIALISTS (3)

This trio will remain the same for the second straight year.
With the 2014 offseason officially in the books, it’s time to look ahead to training camp and games being played in the exhibition and regular season.

Odrick
This week ESPN.com’s Dolphins blog is taking a look at Miami’s best bargains. Next up we have a Dolphins’ defensive lineman.

Bargain player: DT Jared Odrick

2013 stats: 42 tackles, 4.5 sacks

2014 salary: $1.64 million

Analysis: Odrick, who is entering his fifth season, is hoping for a contract extension with the team. But it doesn’t appear that will happen this year. Odrick started last year, but was still a rotational player. His playing time will be the same this year, as he splits reps with fellow defensive tackles Earl Mitchell and Randy Starks. Still, Miami is getting a starting defensive tackle entering his fifth season for under $2 million. That is a bargain for a coveted position. By comparison, the Dolphins are paying Mitchell ($5 million) and Starks ($5 million) much higher salaries this season.
DAVIE, Fla. -- To a man, there is still doubt within the Miami Dolphins' locker room that the high-profile scandal involving former offensive linemen Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito was a result of poor leadership. The NFL's investigation detailed in the Ted Wells report only furthered that national view of the team.

That has put leadership as one of the top items that will help make the Dolphins successful in 2014. The roster has talent. But last year's scandal and late-season collapse cost Miami a playoff berth.

According to Dolphins Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake, lack of leadership isn't an issue.

"Obviously, it's unfortunate what happened [last season] and we're not going to dive too deep into that," Wake said. "But, as a whole, you look around this team [and] there are guys that may be vocal or guys that maybe do it by example. We have leaders all over the place."

Wake is part of a defensive line that must provide leadership on and off the field. In addition to Wake, arguably the team's best player, Miami's defensive line also has 2013 sack leader Olivier Vernon, dynamic second-year player Dion Jordan and veteran defensive tackles Randy Starks, Jared Odrick and Earl Mitchell.

On paper, defensive line is the deepest area of the team and will be expected to set the tone on a weekly basis.

"When it comes down to it, the D-line's the heart and soul of the defense and, if we're not doing what we have to do, then things start falling apart," Vernon said. "That's just one thing we're trying to focus on now and make sure it goes into the season."

Many in South Florida and around the country will be monitoring the Dolphins' locker-room leadership this upcoming season. It will still take the team coming together and leadership if Miami wants to end its five-season playoff drought.

"I was never of the impression that [leadership] was lacking. But, just like I don't feel like my strength is lacking or my conditioning is lacking, I'm going to work on that as well," Wake said. "Working on leadership, making it a more prominent part of our organization, I don't see anything wrong with that."
Here are the most interesting Miami Dolphins stories Thursday from around the Web:
  • Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill likes the increased accountability under new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.
Morning take: Lazor is demanding a lot of Miami's offensive players, and that's the best way to make them better. The Dolphins' offense will either thrive or fold under the pressure.
  • Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel writes the Dolphins are hoping for a quick start with new defensive tackle Earl Mitchell.
Morning take: The Dolphins signed Mitchell in place of Paul Soliai in an effort to be more dynamic at defensive tackle. Mitchell has the potential to pick up sacks, particularly late in games when the offense wears down.
  • John Congemi of the Dolphins team site writes kicker Caleb Sturgis looks ready to take the next step.
Morning take: Sturgis was the most productive member of the 2013 draft class. However, Sturgis must work on consistency and make clutch kicks in big moments.
  • Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post writes Dolphins returner Marcus Thigpen has a lot of competition.
Morning take: Damian Williams, rookie Jarvis Landry and others will compete to take over Miami's return duties. This is the most competition Thigpen has had in years.
The results are in from Miami Dolphins fans.

Earlier this week, ESPN.com’s Dolphins page asked which player is most likely to be the team’s breakout candidate. There were several good choices, such as running back Lamar Miller, linebacker Koa Misi and defensive tackle Earl Mitchell.

But the clear-cut choice from Miami fans was second-year defensive end Dion Jordan. In a landslide, the former No. 3 overall pick received about 68 percent of the vote. Jordan only recorded 26 tackles and two sacks last season.

Jordan packed on about 17 pounds of muscle compared to last spring and is aiming to develop into an all-around player. He will begin the year as a backup behind Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake and 2013 sack leader Olivier Vernon.

Still, Jordan has a chance to make a sizable impact. Rushing the quarterback is paramount in the NFL and that is the biggest skill Jordan brings to the table. If Jordan is better against the run, he could put up solid numbers in 2014.
Minicamps, organized team activities and training camps are an exciting time for NFL reporters. We get to see things materialize before the general public.

Last summer I remember watching young defensive end Olivier Vernon come into his own. Practice after practice, Vernon beat then-starting left tackle Jonathan Martin on a regular basis. It was duly noted by myself and the rest of the Miami media that Vernon was a name to watch during the 2013 regular season. Vernon went on to lead the Miami Dolphins with 11.5 sacks in his first year as a full-time starter.

SportsNation

Who will be the Dolphins' breakout player in 2014?

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Discuss (Total votes: 2,604)

That brings us to our latest poll question: Who will be year's breakout player for the Dolphins? There are several good candidates to choose from.

Will it be Dion Jordan? The former No. 3 overall pick had a redshirt rookie season as he tried to play through offseason shoulder surgery. Jordan finished with just 26 tackles and two sacks, but he put on added muscle this year to become an every-down player.

What about running back Lamar Miller? He struggled in his first year as a starter. But Miller did not have many holes running behind a porous offensive line. Can Miller hold off free-agent pickup Knowshon Moreno and put up big numbers?

New defensive tackle Earl Mitchell is another intriguing name. The Dolphins signed Mitchell from the Houston Texans and Mitchell believes he was overshadowed by defensive stars in Houston such as J.J. Watt and others. Will Mitchell prove he can be a stud in Miami this year?

Finally, there is veteran linebacker Koa Misi. He is being moved this year to middle linebacker, which brings on added responsibility. Will Misi put up huge numbers in his new role?

Using our SportsNation poll, vote on Miami’s breakout player for 2014. You can also share your thoughts in the comments section below or message me via Twitter @JamesWalkerNFL.

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