NFL Nation: Daniel Thomas

Observation Deck: Miami Dolphins

August, 28, 2014
8/28/14
10:10
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MIAMI – If something happens this season to Ryan Tannehill, the Miami Dolphins have reason to feel secure in their backup quarterback. Eight-year veteran Matt Moore capped a strong preseason Thursday in a 14-13 victory over the St. Louis Rams.


Moore was 5-of-8 passing (62.5 percent) for 38 yards in just one quarter of play. But most importantly Moore finished the exhibition season 30-of-46 passing (65.2 percent) for 368 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in three games.

Tannehill and many other starters did not play Thursday as they rest for Miami’s regular-season opener Sept. 7 against the New England Patriots. Tannehill is durable and started all 32 games his first two seasons. But Moore also showed this preseason that he’s capable and ready this year if called upon.

Here are some other thoughts on the Dolphins' final preseason game:
  • Thursday was a huge game for Miami backup running back Daniel Thomas. The former second-round pick is on the roster bubble after suffering a hamstring injury, and other rookie running backs (Damien Williams and Orleans Darkwa) have shown flashes. Thomas rushed for 38 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown against St. Louis' backups. The Dolphins will have an interesting decision to make on whether Thomas did enough to make Miami’s 53-man roster. The Dolphins have to make their final cuts by Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.
  • Dolphins kick returner and receiver Marcus Thigpen was another player who was injured this preseason and needed a good showing while on the roster bubble. He produced a mixed bag. First, Thigpen had an awful bobbled punt in the second quarter; he fumbled it twice and nearly turned over the ball. Then, Thigpen had a nice 32-yard punt return in the second half. Backup receivers Jarvis Landry and Damian Williams are both capable of splitting the return duties, which will make the roster decision with Thigpen interesting.
  • Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan started his first preseason game, one that marked his final game action until October following a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Jordan recorded two tackles against the Rams. Rookie linebacker Chris McCain registered two sacks and should make the 53-man roster after a strong preseason and training camp.
  • Injuries are always a concern in this final preseason game. Miami rookie linebacker Jordan Tripp, who has been a bright spot in training camp, suffered a chest injury in the first quarter. He was taken to the locker room with trainers and did not return to the field. Other than that, the Dolphins exited the game in good health.

W2W4: Miami Dolphins

August, 28, 2014
8/28/14
12:00
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The Miami Dolphins (2-1) will host the St. Louis Rams (1-2) on Thursday night (7 ET) at Sun Life Stadium.

1. Bubble watch: This will be an important game for several key Dolphins who are on the roster bubble. Running back Daniel Thomas, receiver/kick returner Marcus Thigpen and defensive back Don Jones are among the bigger names who should be nervous entering Thursday’s game. Miami still needs to cut 22 players before Saturday and these three must prove themselves against St. Louis to avoid the chopping block.

2. Special teams: After last week’s poor performance, the Dolphins have a lot of questions on special teams. For starters, Miami kicker Caleb Sturgis is expected to return from a groin injury. Sturgis must prove he’s ready for Week 1. The Dolphins' coverage teams also gave up big returns and Brandon Fields had a punt blocked that was called back due to a penalty. Miami's third phase, as a whole, needs a much better showing in the final preseason game.

3. Quiet homecoming: Partially because it's preseason, there has been virtually no fanfare for Jake Long's first return to Miami since leaving in 2013 as a free agent. Long was a former No. 1 overall pick for the Dolphins in 2008 and had six productive years in Miami. But Long suffered through various injuries the past few years, and the Dolphins no longer believed he was worth the price tag. Thursday will mark Long’s first game in Miami since departing as a free agent.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins finished their final practice in preparation for Thursday’s preseason final against the St. Louis Rams at Sun Life Stadium.

Sturgis
Here are some notes and observations:
  • Dolphins kicker Caleb Sturgis returned to practice on Tuesday. His kicks looked strong and he didn’t show any ill effects from his groin injury. Miami has had injury issues at the kicker position, but it appears Sturgis is on his way back to the field. “All initial reports are positive,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said. “We’ll see once he warms up [Thursday] if we can get him out there.”
  • Philbin was not as forthright with the playing time of his starters Thursday, particularly his starting offense. It remains unknown if starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Co. will play against the Rams. Last year, Tannehill did not play in the final preseason game. But last week, Miami’s offense struggled to put points on the board against the Dallas Cowboys in the third preseason game as the Dolphins’ starters scored just three points in six possessions. Miami may want to get its first-team offense some confidence before its Week 1 showdown against the rival New England Patriots.
  • Miami backup running back Daniel Thomas said he’s ready to make his preseason debut against St. Louis. Thomas missed some of training camp and the entire preseason with a hamstring injury. Since then, Miami rookie running backs Damien Williams and Orleans Darkwa have stepped up and played, which has put Thomas’ roster spot in jeopardy. Thursday’s preseason game may be Thomas’ last chance to impress. “It’s pretty important,” Thomas admitted. “I haven’t gone out there in a while. So I just want to show coaches that my hamstring is good, I’m feeling good and I’m ready to play good.”
  • There were dual “Play of the Day” candidates in practice. The first big play was Tannehill throwing a 30-plus-yard touchdown to speedy receiver Mike Wallace in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. There has been a lot of chatter about Tannehill and Wallace’s inability to connect on big plays, and that was a nice connection. The second play of the day was a pick-six by safety Reshad Jones off quarterback Brady Quinn in team drills.
  • The Dolphins are currently at 86 players. They have to make 11 cuts to get down to 75 players by 4 p.m. ET Tuesday. ESPN.com’s Dolphins blog will provide a cut-down analysis Tuesday evening once the team makes it decision.

Dolphins Camp Report: Day 10

August, 5, 2014
8/05/14
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DAVIE, Fla. – A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Miami Dolphins training camp:


  • There were questions coming into the season with how much veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan has left in the tank. Miami’s free-agent pickup signed a two-year contract after a pair of down years with the St. Louis Rams. But Finnegan has had a solid training camp and Tuesday was his best day. He had three interceptions -- two off quarterback Ryan Tannehill and one off Matt Moore – to cap a strong practice. Finnegan is solidifying a starting cornerback job opposite Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes. “He got a lot left in the tank,” Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace. “He’s a really smart guy. He knows how to play the combinations of routes. He’s seen every combination you can possibly bring. He’s a smart guy and takes chances.”
  • It was another rough day for Miami’s offense overall. Tannehill and Moore combined for five interceptions. Tannehill was picked by Finnegan (twice) and Grimes (once). Moore's picks also were to Finnegan and Grimes. Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said the turnovers are not what the team wants, but he’s trying not to get too high or too low with practices. On the flip side, the defense was terrific and easily won the practice against the offense.
  • The Dolphins added several key players to their injury list on Tuesday. Starting defensive end Olivier Vernon (back), running back Daniel Thomas (hamstring) and tight end Michael Egnew (concussion) all will miss multiple practices, according to the team. It’s also unlikely any of these players will participate in Friday’s exhibition against the Atlanta Falcons.
  • With Vernon out, Miami 2013 first-round pick and backup defensive end Dion Jordan has received first-team reps this week. It appears Jordan most likely will get his first career start -- albeit in the preseason -- Friday against the Falcons. This is a good opportunity for Jordan, who had a non-descript rookie year and will be suspended the first four games of the regular season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Still, Jordan is having a solid camp and continues to make plays in practice.
  • The Dolphins will return to practice Wednesday at 8 a.m. ET for their final practice of the week. Miami will have a travel day on Thursday and take the field Friday for its preseason opener against the Falcons.
The Miami Dolphins invested $3 million this season in tailback Knowshon Moreno to boost their 26th-ranked running game. Due to his production last season and experience, Moreno is projected to be the Week 1 starter in Miami.

Moreno
But former longtime Indianapolis Colts general manager and ESPN analyst Bill Polian is not impressed with the signing. Polian graded Moreno as a “C” free agent.

Here were Polian’s comments on ESPN.com’s free-agent tracker:
“Solid contributor, but not a No. 1 back. I think most of his success from 2013 was a function of the system. His acceleration to the hole is the reason for the speed minus. The rest of his game is good, he just doesn't hit the big plays you need from a No. 1 RB.”

As Polian mentioned, many believe Moreno was a product of Denver Broncos’ system. He was a former first-round bust until future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning arrived in Denver. Those same large running lanes will not be there in Miami.

The Dolphins are expecting Moreno to be their No. 1 option to help third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas could not get the job done last season. Miami is hoping at least one of those two players will improve their game in a complimentary role.

It was a tough free-agent market for running backs. Moreno is coming off a career year where he rushed for 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns. But Moreno said he only talked to the Dolphins before signing a one-year contract last week.

Draft options for Dolphins at RB

March, 7, 2014
3/07/14
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The Miami Dolphins have several well-defined needs entering free agency and the draft. Getting a running back who can handle the load should be on the team’s radar. Miami was 26th in rushing last season and Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas were not the answer.

One potential solution is for the Dolphins to wait until the second round of the NFL draft to select a running back. This is not a top-heavy class at the position. But there are some opportunities to get good value at tailback after the first round.

Miami holds the No. 50 overall pick in the second round. Here are several quality college tailbacks who could be available in May:

1. Carlos Hyde, Ohio State

2013 stats: 1,521 yards, 15 TDs

Analysis: Hyde is the highest-rated tailback in this draft, but he’s not projected to go in the first round. In terms of production and ability, I think he’s a steal for any team that selects him in the second round. Miami’s second-round pick may not be high enough to get the Ohio State product. But Hyde fits the Dolphins because he’s a burly back who is tough inside the tackles. He also has soft hands for a power runner.

2. Tre Mason, Auburn

2013 stats: 1,816 yards, 23 touchdowns

Analysis: Auburn has had a long line of successful tailbacks, and Mason is the next Tigers rusher entering the draft. His production is off the charts, and he nearly led Auburn to a national championship. On the flip side, one concern is Mason ran the football a lot in college and lost some tread on the tires. Mason has shown good vision and acceleration as a runner. The Dolphins need more big plays from their running game.

3. Jeremy Hill, LSU

2013 stats: 1,401 yards, 16 TDs

Analysis: Like Hyde, Hill is another big bruiser who has ideal size for the next level. He's durable, competitive and runs hard -- all things the Dolphins need in their backfield. However, Hill enters the draft with a lot of character issues that will drop his stock. He is reportedly on probation until next January. That may be enough to scare new Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey away, unless Hill drops to the middle rounds.

Walker's Dolphins Draft Watch: 1.0

January, 23, 2014
1/23/14
1:30
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The NFL draft is months away. But it's never too early to discuss how the Miami Dolphins must improve their roster.

There will be months of evaluations, workouts and stocks going up and down among college players. But here are ESPN.com's Dolphins page's early top five matches for Miami with the No. 19 overall pick.

1. Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama

Analysis: Miami starting offensive tackles Tyson Clabo and Bryant McKinnie are both free agents. Jonathan Martin, a 2012 second-round pick, also is not expected back following Miami's recent bullying scandal. That makes a first-round tackle like Kouandjio a target for Miami. It's hard to go wrong with an Alabama offensive lineman. Alabama's run blocking and pass protection has been arguably the nation's best for the past three years, and Kouandjio was part of that.

2. Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State

Analysis: Miami's running game was 26th in the NFL last year. Hyde is the top running back prospect in the draft. It's a natural link. Hyde was productive for Ohio State last season with 1,521 yards and 15 touchdowns. He is a big, physical runner, which Miami lacked last year. Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas were not the answer for the Dolphins last year.

3. Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame

Analysis: Martin doesn't have the physical gifts of Kouandjio. But Martin gets the most of his ability and fits the mold of a "Joe Philbin guy." He's a hard worker and former team captain at Notre Dame. Martin may have position versatility to play guard at the NFL level, as well. The Dolphins' coaching staff values players who are good at multiple positions.

4. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

Analysis: Miami starting safety Chris Clemons is an unrestricted free agent and replaceable. The Dolphins need a playmaker on the back end to pair with Reshad Jones, and Clinton-Dix has that potential. Clinton-Dix has good instincts, awareness and also can cover well, which the Dolphins lacked at safety last season. Re-signing corner Brent Grimes and drafting Clinton-Dix would make for a stronger secondary for Miami in 2014.

5. Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia

Analysis: If you can't tell by now, the Dolphins need offensive tackles. Moses is another prospect with potential, but he's more of an unfinished product than Kouandjio and Martin. Moses may be better suited at right tackle than left tackle. But it doesn't hurt that Miami offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was part of the coaching staff that recruited Moses to the University of Virginia.

Periodically, we will update this with our 2.0 list as we continue to get closer to the NFL draft.
The Miami Dolphins hired former Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor last week. While the initial hype included Lazor’s experience working with quarterbacks and the passing game, a big question is whether he can improve Miami’s 26th-ranked rushing attack.
Thomas
Lazor helped previously unknown Nick Foles go from a backup quarterback to a Pro Bowler this season. But a little-known stat is Philadelphia’s offense actually led the NFL in rushing last year under Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. Lazor certainly picked up some pointers from Kelly’s offense and the successful running game that he hopes to bring to Miami.

“When you come off of a season like we did where we were the leading rushing team in the NFL. We had the leading rusher. We had the highest-rated passer. We were able to be an explosive offense,” Lazor said last week. “Certainly a lot of things that led to that are going to have a great impact on what I believe works going forward.”

Miller
The Dolphins can do a better job in personnel this year to help Lazor. Miami relied on inexperienced former draft picks Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas to carry the load. In fact, the Dolphins only spent $2.412 million of their cap last year on running backs with Miller, Thomas and 2013 fifth-round pick Mike Gillislee. Miami ranked 30th in the NFL last season in money spent on running backs, according to the Roster Management System.

Miami has resources in both the draft and free agency to upgrade the running-back position. Big names in free agency include Ben Tate of the Houston Texans and Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Potential draft targets include Carlos Hyde of Ohio State and James White of Wisconsin. White will play in the Senior Bowl this weekend.

Miller and Thomas were not the answer in 2013. It will be interesting to see if the Dolphins upgrade at running with a new offense and offensive coordinator in 2014.

Miami Dolphins inactives

December, 29, 2013
12/29/13
12:00
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MIAMI -- Here are the Miami Dolphins (8-7) players you won’t see in Sunday’s regular-season finale against the New York Jets (7-8).
The Dolphins will start Nate Garner at guard over Sam Brenner this week. Miami backup tailback Daniel Thomas will play this week. Thomas was questionable with an ankle injury.

Miami Dolphins' inactives at Buffalo

December, 22, 2013
12/22/13
11:49
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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Here are the Miami Dolphins (8-6) players you won't see in Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills (5-9):
Miami tailback Daniel Thomas (ankle) is active and will provide relief for starter Lamar Miller. Thomas was questionable this week and only practiced on Friday.

Dolphins practice report: Grimes returns

December, 20, 2013
12/20/13
12:00
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DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins wrapped up their final preparation for Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills.

Here are several notes from Friday’s practice:
  • Grimes
    Grimes
    Miami long snapper John Denny was not present at practice. The reason is unknown, but we should get clarity on Denny’s status this afternoon. Miami does not have a backup long snapper listed on its roster.
  • The good news is starting cornerback Brent Grimes returned to practice Friday and had a spring in his step. Grimes missed Wednesday’s practice because of a groin injury. He participated in individual drills open to the media and looked fine. All indications are Grimes expects to play Sunday against the Bills.
  • Miami backup running back Daniel Thomas (ankle) and Paul Soliai (ankle) were limited in the portion open to the media. Thomas returned to practice for the first time this week.

The Dolphins will travel to Buffalo on Saturday in an attempt to split the season series. The Bills beat the Dolphins in Week 7.
DAVIE, Fla. – Tyson Clabo was downtrodden after the Miami Dolphins’ Week 7 loss to the Buffalo Bills. Miami’s starting right tackle allowed two sacks to Buffalo defensive end Mario Williams in the fourth quarter that led to the Dolphins’ 23-21 upset loss.

Clabo
The loss wasn’t completely on Clabo, but his postgame demeanor said as much. Clabo took on the responsibility and admitted he was pushed around by Williams down the stretch.

Clabo struggled mightily in the first half of the season. He allowed the most sacks on the team through the first six games, which was capped by Clabo’s two sacks allowed against the Bills. Clabo was later benched for a week before returning to the starting lineup.

Now, Clabo is playing some of his best football of the year two months later. He’s motivated to have a better performance against Buffalo in a big game.

“I’m doing the same things I was doing, I’m just doing it better,” Clabo said in the locker room Wednesday. “I’m going to continue to try to do that. These guys are good, so there’s definitely a challenge. I’m going to show up.”

The Dolphins (8-6) will be favored to beat the Bills (5-9). Miami is the hotter and more talented team. But one way the Bills can pull the upset is by getting to the quarterback.

Miami’s pass protection has been inconsistent all season. The Dolphins allowed four sacks last week on quarterback Ryan Tannehill in a 24-20 win over the New England Patriots.

Clabo admitted after the Buffalo loss that Williams is one of the toughest matchups in the NFL and is difficult to block one-on-one. Clabo gets a return date against Williams on Sunday.

“I’m not going to hide or dance around the fact that guy is really good,” said Clabo, who stood by his prior comments of Williams. “So obviously it’s going to be a challenge for anybody he lines up against. He’s good. I have no regrets. I’m just being honest.”

Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes (groin) and backup running back Daniel Thomas (ankle) did not practice Wednesday. In other Dolphins notes, Miami claimed corner back Chris Owens off waivers from the Cleveland Browns and cut cornerback Justin Rogers.

W2W4: Patriots at Dolphins

December, 14, 2013
12/14/13
10:00
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The Miami Dolphins (7-6) have a huge AFC East showdown Sunday with the New England Patriots (10-3). New England has a chance to clinch the division for the fifth straight year, while the Dolphins are fighting for the final wild card in the AFC.

Here are three things to watch for from Miami’s perspective:

Sense of urgency: The Dolphins have a small margin for error with four teams fighting for the final wild card. Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin is preaching to his team to have a strong sense of urgency. Philbin told his team, “What are you waiting for? There’s not going to be any other times.” The Dolphins have lost to New England in seven straight games.

Clock control: Miami is running the football as well as it has all year. That could be a major key to success to beating the Patriots. The Dolphins rushed for a season-high 181 yards in last week’s win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Daniel Thomas has his first 100-yard game since 2011 and it appears Lamar Miller could return Sunday from his concussion. New England has the NFL’s 31st-ranked run defense. Running the ball well to control the clock will keep Patriots quarterback Tom Brady off the field.

Protecting home: Miami has struggled at home this season. The Dolphins are a mediocre 3-3 and hasn’t developed the type of home-field advantage they expected. The Patriots also struggled on the road this year. All three of New England’s losses have come away from Gillette Stadium. This would be Miami’s biggest home win by far this year.

Dolphins' offense hitting its stride

December, 10, 2013
12/10/13
11:00
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DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins' offense finally had the performance fans have been waiting for all season. The biggest irony is it came Sunday on the road, in snowy conditions, against a proud Pittsburgh Steelers defense.

The Dolphins' 34-28 victory at Heinz Field -- the most points they have scored this season -- essentially eliminated Pittsburgh (5-8) from playoff contention while simultaneously putting them in firm standing for the final wild-card spot in the AFC.

The Dolphins (7-6) reached the 30-point plateau for the first time this season, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Miami’s red zone offense, which has been an issue, had a season-high four touchdowns in six trips (67 percent) Sunday.

Miami’s offense got its biggest boosts against Pittsburgh from a pair of unlikely sources -- running back Daniel Thomas and tight end Charles Clay, who combined for three touchdowns. Both were backups entering training camp.

Thomas filled in admirably for the injured Lamar Miller, who suffered a concussion in the third quarter. Thomas rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. His 55-yard run in the fourth quarter set up Clay’s game-winning touchdown. Clay led the game with seven receptions for 97 yards and two scores.


“They made plays,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. “They were basic plays that we’ve run a bunch. The outside zone play that Daniel hit [for 55 yards], we’ve had that play in for two years.”

Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman was particularly complimentary of Clay, who is second on the team with 60 receptions.

“As long as he continues to have an attitude to get better and listen to his coach -- [tight ends coach] Dan Campbell does a phenomenal job with him -- he’ll keep getting better,” Sherman said. “He’ll have a chance to be real special, I believe.”

Miami’s offense started to get going in Week 13 against the New York Jets. The Dolphins took the momentum of that 23-3 victory and carried it into Pittsburgh for their best offensive performance of the season.

The Dolphins will host the AFC East-leading New England Patriots (10-3) on Sunday.

“We have a do-or-die mentality,” Thomas said. “We need to keep doing that next week.”

Upon Further Review: Dolphins Week 14

December, 9, 2013
12/09/13
8:00
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PITTSBURGH -- A review of four hot issues from the Miami Dolphins' 34-28 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday:

Playoff push: The Dolphins picked up another signature win to improve to 7-6 and position themselves well for the playoffs. Miami has a similar record with the Baltimore Ravens (7-6) with three games remaining in the race for the final wild card in the AFC. The Ravens hold the head-to-head tiebreaker due to a win over the Dolphins in Week 5. But Baltimore has a tougher remaining schedule than Miami. Expect the Dolphins to do a lot of scoreboard watching, while also trying to take care of their own business on the field.

Clay
Thomas
Unlikely heroes: When a team is in the middle of a playoff run, it often takes contributions from unlikely sources to get a team over the top. Miami got tremendous production from a pair of surprising players in tailback Daniel Thomas and tight end Charles Clay. Thomas rushed for a game-high 105 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries, and Clay caught seven receptions for 97 yards and two touchdowns. The pair accounted for 21 of Miami's 34 points.

Injury update: Sunday's game against the Steelers was physical, and the Dolphins suffered some injuries as a result. The big one is starting running back Lamar Miller, who suffered a concussion in the third quarter and was knocked out of the game. Miller's status is up in the air this week, as he will have to pass all the concussion tests. Miami also lost backup cornerback R.J. Stanford, who said after the game that he broke his fibula. Stanford is expected to miss the remainder of the season.

Patriots up next: The games only get tougher for Miami. Next up with a home date with the reigning AFC East champion New England Patriots. The Patriots beat the Dolphins in October at Gillette Stadium 27-17. Miami played well in the first half, jumping out to a 17-0 lead, before allowing 27 unanswered points. The Dolphins don't have much margin for error and could use a split of the season series.

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