NFL Nation: Dannell Ellerbe

2015 Miami Dolphins' draft order

December, 29, 2014
12/29/14
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The Miami Dolphins concluded their season Sunday with a 37-24 loss to the rival New York Jets. Miami has an 8-8 record for the second consecutive season, which is a disappointment.

It's time to turn the page to 2015 and focus on where the Dolphins must get better. Here is a first-look at Miami's top pick:

Pick: No. 14

Top needs: LB, G, TE, CB, S

Analysis: The Dolphins are in for a tricky offseason. They have a lot of talent, but some of that talent is overpaid and making it tough on the salary cap. Miami could have many cap casualties, particularly on defense. It also will be tough for the Dolphins to re-sign their top free agents such as defensive tackle Jared Odrick and tight end Charles Clay. Projecting key cuts such Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler, linebacker will be Miami's biggest need. Clemson's Vic Beasley, Washington's Shaq Thompson and University of Miami's Denzel Perryman are among the top-rated linebackers, according to ESPN draft expert Todd McShay. Those are some early names to keep an eye on. There certainly will be more names surface in the next few months.
An examination of what the Miami Dolphins must do after their win over the New England Patriots:

The Dolphins were in a celebratory mood Sunday evening following their impressive 33-20 win. The defense shut out New England in the second half and Miami's offense scored 23 unanswered points to cap a dominant performance.

On the surface, all seemed well for the Dolphins. But there is one underlying issue facing the team entering Week 2.

A pair of Miami starting linebackers were hobbled in the locker room after the game. Starting middle linebacker Koa Misi injured his left ankle and did not return to the game. He was limping and in a boot Sunday night. Dannell Ellerbe injured his hip in the first half and will be put on season-ending injured reserve, the Dolphins announced Monday. The team signed free-agent linebacker Kelvin Sheppard to fill Ellerbe's roster spot.

With Philip Wheeler missing the game with a thumb injury, the Dolphins played the entire second half without their three starting linebackers. However, backups Jason Trusnik, Jelani Jenkins and Jonathan Freeny stepped in and held their own.

"I'm proud of the way the guys stepped up. I told the team it was really a team win," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. "Injuries seem to happen in waves at one position -- it just seems to be the nature of things. Our guys were able to step in. Jelani [Jenkins] came in there, I thought [Jason] Trusnik played a heck of a game and really contributed. [Jonathan] Freeny got in there and contributed. Chris McCain got in there and contributed. I said to the team at the end of the game, the name on the back of the jersey didn't really matter. I thought the guys played like a team."

With Ellerbe out and Wheeler's and Misi's status up in the air, it's not out of the realm of possibility that Miami could play the undefeated Buffalo Bills next week without their starting linebackers. But Sunday's performance by the backups should give Miami confidence it can look in-house to solve the issue.

Dolphins reaction: Emotional win

September, 7, 2014
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Miami Dolphins' 33-20 victory over the New England Patriots:

Misi
Emotion overflows: Undrafted rookie linebacker Chris McCain was emotional and one of the last people to leave the locker room. He blocked a punt and sacked Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in his NFL debut. McCain still was surprised by the gravity of it all.

Injury watch: Dolphins starting linebackers Koa Misi (ankle) and Dannell Ellerbe (hip) were hobbling around in the locker room. Misi had a boot on his left foot. Both injuries are worth monitoring heading into Week 2 and possibly beyond.

Good vibes: Overall there were positive vibes in the locker room. Miami’s coaches and players were gleeful after just beating a team many feel is a Super Bowl contender. But the Dolphins also were professional enough to realize it’s only Week 1.

Rapid Reaction: Miami Dolphins

September, 7, 2014
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- A few thoughts on the Miami Dolphins' 33-20 win at Sun Life Stadium:

What it means: The Dolphins picked up a gritty and important win against the New England Patriots to open the regular season. Miami trailed 20-10 in the first half but took over in the third and fourth quarters with 23 unanswered points. Beating the reigning AFC East champions and picking up a division victory adds to the importance of the victory. Miami didn't get much respect in the national media this offseason. This win over New England, a team many feel is one of the best in the NFL, certainly puts the rest of the league on notice that Miami should be taken seriously.

Stock Watch: Miami defensive end Cameron Wake's stock is on the upswing. Wake continually pressured Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and registered two sacks and fumbles against Brady in the second half. In contrast, the Dolphins' linebacker position is on the downturn. Starters Koa Misi (ankle) and Dannell Ellerbe (hip) were injured in the first half and didn't return. Philip Wheeler also missed the game with a thumb injury. Miami’s linebacker position was a major question mark even when everyone was healthy.

Unexpected rookie: The Dolphins got an unexpected contribution from undrafted rookie linebacker Chris McCain. He made a pair of big plays that helped the Dolphins. McCain blocked a punt following New England’s first drive on offense, which led to Miami’s first touchdown. McCain also had a sack on Brady near the end of the third quarter.

Game ball: Miami running back Knowshon Moreno provided a spark off the bench with 134 rushing yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. Moreno should soon overtake Miami starting tailback Lamar Miller, who fumbled Sunday and struggled at times, for a starting job.

What's next: The Dolphins will have another important division game in Week 2, when they travel to play the Buffalo Bills, who have had the Dolphins' number as of late. Buffalo swept Miami in two games last season.

Miami Dolphins' projected roster

July, 18, 2014
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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.

Camp preview: Miami Dolphins

July, 17, 2014
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» NFC Preview: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

NFL Nation's James Walker examines the three biggest issues facing the Miami Dolphins heading into training camp.

Bill Lazor's offense: There is a new sheriff in town responsible for adding life into Miami's struggling offense. The Dolphins hired Lazor, a former quarterbacks coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, to take over for Mike Sherman after Miami's offense became stale and predictable last season. Lazor may be the biggest key to getting the Dolphins over the hump. Miami's 27th-ranked offense held the team back during its 8-8 season. Lazor is bringing an up-tempo style and many of the principles he learned from Chip Kelly in Philadelphia. Early indications are that Lazor is a demanding coach who expects a lot of his players. Lazor threw a lot at this group in organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp and had mixed results. There were mixed protections, dropped balls and overall sloppy play at times, which is expected at this stage. Still, Lazor's scheme is getting rave reviews from Dolphins players on both sides of the football. The key will be for the offensive players to pick up the scheme well enough to have early success. According to Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin, the entire offensive playbook was installed before training camp. The Dolphins cannot afford to be sloppy and unorganized on offense early in the regular season. They will play a pair of division games in Week 1 and Week 2 against the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills, respectively.

Ryan Tannehill: A case can be made that quarterback play is the key to every season in the NFL. But never has the spotlight been brighter on Tannehill. The kid gloves are off and this a crucial third year for the former first-round pick. Is Tannehill a franchise building block or just another average quarterback? He's shown reasons to make a case for both sides. But the Dolphins are standing behind Tannehill for at least one more season to see if he can improve on his 15-17 career record. This year Tannehill must prove he can lead the Dolphins to the playoffs. The wild card is Tannehill is learning a new offense for the first time in his career. He played for Sherman at Texas A&M and the Dolphins, which used the same offense that was built around his skills. It's unknown how Tannehill will respond to playing in a different offense. Tannehill made plays in OTAs and minicamp, but he certainly didn't look dominant. His accuracy was off at times and he didn't make many deep-ball connections, which has been a weakness of his for two years. Tannehill must build on his offseason performances and strive for more consistency in training camp and the preseason.

Linebacker issues: The Dolphins enter training camp without a natural middle linebacker in the starting lineup. Miami addressed a lot of holes this offseason, but the team is going into the season with the same group of linebackers that struggled stopping the run and couldn't defend slot receivers or tight ends with any consistency. The Dolphins believe they've found the answer by moving Dannell Ellerbe to outside linebacker and swapping Koa Misi to middle linebacker. Miami's coaching staff believes Ellerbe will be free to make more plays outside, while Misi's athleticism will translate better in the middle. Misi has never played middle linebacker in his NFL career or at the University of Utah. This is a risky experiment by the Dolphins at an important position. The middle linebacker is often the quarterback of the defense. Misi will be responsible for making the play calls, lining up players and patrolling the middle of the field. The good news is there is still plenty of time for this group to get in sync during training camp and the preseason. The Dolphins invested a lot of money in their linebackers, so they are sticking with them for at least one more year.
DAVIE, Fla. -- Koa Misi has played outside linebacker his entire five-year career in the NFL. Before that, Misi was a standout defensive end in college at the University of Utah.

But the Miami Dolphins are trying something with Misi this offseason that he's never done before. Misi was moved inside as Miami's starting middle linebacker. For the first time, Misi is responsible for play calls, getting the defense lined up pre-snap and stopping anything in the middle of the field.

[+] EnlargeMiami's Koa Misi
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesMiami is trying out Koa Misi at middle linebacker.
Will the Misi experiment work?

Misi is Miami's new field general on defense. The Dolphins are hoping this improves the performance of their underachieving linebackers.

"We think he has great leadership qualities," Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said of Misi. "We think his play has certainly exemplified that over the course of period of time that I've been here. He plays football the right way, so we are going to see how we adjust to that position and how he relates to the other players at his position and the defense in general. So far he's done a nice job."

Make no mistake, the Dolphins are trying the Misi experiment out of necessity. The Dolphins hired new linebackers coach Mark Duffner this offseason to shake things up.

Miami starting linebackers Misi, Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler all struggled last season amid high expectations. This trio received sizable contracts and extensions last year, but the Dolphins were ranked 24th in stopping the run and had issues defending tight ends and slot receivers in the passing game.

"I've always been open to anything," Misi said of the switch. "Like I said to these guys, since I got here, I've been switching positions. I'm always open to try something new. Like I said, if it works, it works and, if not, we'll go back to the way things were."

Will this last all season or eventually change? No one in Miami knows for sure.

But there are no early signs that Miami will go back to last year's alignment. Misi has been the starting middle linebacker in every snap the past two weeks in organized team activities open to the media. The Dolphins have been pleased with the results thus far.

"We know, in the long term, it's going to provide us with more depth regardless of whether we stay with it or not," Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. "It's hard to get a true evaluation when you're out here running around in shorts. But certainly you can start to see them getting more comfortable with the positions that they're featured in right now.

"I think so far, so good. We've been pleased with the way it's working out."

Previewing NFL's Owners Meetings

March, 24, 2014
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- The NFL’s league meetings will begin Monday.

Here are several topics of interest that we will be focusing on:
  • Locker room culture: Dolphins fans no longer want to hear about Jonathan Martin and the team’s high-profile bullying scandal. However, improving locker room culture in Miami and around the NFL certainly will be a topic of discussion among owners, coaches and general managers. The Dolphins had the curtain pulled back on their locker room last season during the 144-page Ted Wells report. There were several disturbing details that resulted in players switching teams and a firing of an assistant coach and head trainer.
  • Compensatory picks: We will find out if the Dolphins will get compensatory picks. Miami lost several key free agents in 2013, such as tailback Reggie Bush and left tackle Jake Long. But the Dolphins also went on a spending spree in the final offseason for general manager Jeff Ireland that included high-price signings like receiver Mike Wallace and linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler.
  • Stadium renovation: The NFL said Ross’ stadium renovation proposal is not on the docket for this year’s league meetings. But there’s a good chance Ross will discuss his plan and get a feeling from other owners on whether funding the renovations himself is a good idea. Ross is planning to spend about $350 million of his own money to improve Sun Life Stadium. However, he would like property tax relief in exchange for the renovations. Ross may also meet with the media for the first time this week since the stadium story became public.

Dolphins miss on D'Qwell Jackson

March, 6, 2014
3/06/14
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Free-agent linebacker D'Qwell Jackson signed a $22 million contract with the Indianapolis Colts, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Thursday. The Miami Dolphins were one of several teams interested in Jackson and hosted him for a visit.

Jackson
Although Miami didn’t get Jackson, his visit was telling. It says the Dolphins and new general manager Dennis Hickey are not happy with the current linebacking group. Linebackers Philip Wheeler, Koa Misi and Dannell Ellerbe did not perform up to expectations in 2014. Miami was 24th against the run and struggled at times in pass coverage against tight ends and slot receivers.

What does this mean for Miami’s linebackers going forward? It means they are under the microscope.

Linebacker is not a primary need. But it’s clear Hickey will look to make an upgrade or add depth when an opportunity arises. There could be another starter cut or released this offseason who could compete, particularly with Misi or Wheeler.

But without Jackson in the fold, Miami will stay with its current trio. This much we know: Wheeler, Misi and Ellerbe must perform better in 2014.
The Miami Dolphins signed three starting linebackers to sizable contract extensions in the past year. So why is Miami kicking tires on another starting linebacker this week?

Jackson
Former Cleveland Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson’s reported free-agent visit Tuesday is an interesting, under-the-radar development for Miami. Here is what Jackson’s visit means for the Dolphins.
  • This is a clear indication that new Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey is not satisfied with the starting linebacker corps of Philip Wheeler, Koa Misi and Dannell Ellerbe. This group all received multi-year extensions in 2013 and underachieved. These were former Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland’s guys. That means Hickey has no attachments to those signings. He most likely watched the film of Miami’s 24th-ranked run defense last season and wasn’t impressed.
  • Jackson played inside linebacker in Cleveland, but Ellerbe is the most secure linebacker in Miami. Jackson would have to play outside in place of Misi or Wheeler, who are both in the hot seat for inconsistent play last season. Contractually, Wheeler’s cap value is $6.4 million in 2014, which includes a guaranteed salary of $5 million. Misi has a lower cap number of $2.38 million and appears easier to release in the event the Dolphins landed Jackson.
  • But the Dolphins aren’t guaranteed to get Jackson and definitely aren’t the favorites. There are at least two other reported suitors for Jackson’s services in the Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos. Jackson is a good player, and I believe he would be an upgrade over some of the linebackers the Dolphins currently have. But Miami probably wouldn’t try to win a bidding war over other teams considering all the money it already has tied into the position.

Bringing in Jackson for a visit is a strong sign that Miami wants to see better production from that position and that the team wasn't happy with its multi-million dollar investments. Misi, Wheeler and Ellerbe must step up their games if they remain Miami's starting linebackers in 2014.

Dolphins have plenty of cap room

February, 21, 2014
2/21/14
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The Miami Dolphins can use some good news. And here it is: In less than two weeks, the Dolphins will have plenty of cap space to pursue free agents.

Look for the Dolphins to be major players for the second straight offseason when free agency opens March 11. Last year, Miami spent more than $100 million in guaranteed money for outside free agents such as Mike Wallace, Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler and in-house free agents such as Brian Hartline and Chris Clemons.

This year the Dolphins will have approximately $36 million to spend within the projected $130 million salary cap. That includes about $18 million in carryover from 2013, which trails only the Cleveland Browns ($24.5 million) and Jacksonville Jaguars ($19.6 million).

Dawn Aponte, Dolphins vice president of football administration, has done a masterful job with the salary cap to allow Miami to be aggressive for the second year in a row. Miami can certainly use the additional resources. The Dolphins have well-defined weaknesses, such as offensive line, cornerback and safety. Miami also has more than 20 restricted and unrestricted free agents looking for new contracts. Some will stay in Miami and some will sign with other teams.

Already in 2014 the Dolphins have gone through a GM change, coaching-staff changes and the Ted Wells report, which highlighted Miami’s ugly bullying scandal. But March 11 should be an exciting time for the Dolphins and their downtrodden fan base.

Most expensive Dolphins in 2014

January, 13, 2014
1/13/14
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The Miami Dolphins are searching for a new general manager after parting ways with Jeff Ireland last week. One of the biggest jobs for Miami’s new GM will be analyzing the roster.

Despite a spending spree last year in free agency, Miami goes into the 2014 offseason in solid shape with the salary cap. The fact the Dolphins have more than 20 unrestricted and restricted free agents has a lot to do with it.

At right is a chart of the 10 most expensive salary-cap charges for the Dolphins in 2014.

The new Dolphins GM certainly has some decisions to make with their 10 most expensive players. For example, two players on this list are coming off season-ending injuries. Cornerback Dimitri Patterson (groin) and receiver Brandon Gibson (knee) ended the 2013 season on injured reserve.

Noticeably missing from this list is Dolphins starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He is the 12th most expensive player on the roster with a cap charge of $3.455 million next season. That is peanuts for a starting NFL quarterback. Tannehill is entering the third year of his rookie contract.
The Miami Dolphins agreed to part ways with former general manager Jeff Ireland on Tuesday. It was a move that some believed was long overdue after Miami completed its fifth consecutive non-winning season.

However, the seat Ireland vacates is a good one. Here are several reasons Miami has a quality opening at general manager:

1. Plenty of cap space

[+] EnlargeRyan Tannehill
AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeIn Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins' new general manager already has a starting quarterback in place.
Analysis: The Dolphins have 20 unrestricted and restricted free agents on their roster, many with starting experience. That means the new general manager has plenty of decisions to make. But that also means there's plenty of salary-cap space available to make decisions. Oftentimes, new general managers enter a situation where they have to purge overpaid rosters of losing teams, which usually takes a year. But that’s not the case in Miami. The new boss will have the ability to shape a good portion of the roster to his liking right away in Year 1.

2. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill

Analysis: The toughest job for a lot of new general managers is finding the right quarterback. Miami already has a young, talented quarterback in Tannehill, who will get a least another year or two to prove his worth. Tannehill showed potential under tough circumstances the past two seasons. In 2013, he had an inconsistent running game and an awful offensive line that set a franchise record for sacks allowed with 58. Still, Tannehill put up career highs in yards (3,717), touchdowns (24) and passer rating (81.7). It remains to be seen if Tannehill is Miami’s quarterback for the next seven to 10 years. He will not have the full trust of the new boss. But he’s definitely showed enough promise to prevent the new general manager from drafting a first-round quarterback in Year 1. That’s one less issue to worry about.

3. In-house talent

Analysis: The cupboard is not bare in Miami. The Dolphins have talent on their roster. Some would argue Miami had enough quality players to be a playoff team this past season and underachieved with an 8-8 finish. The Dolphins had four Pro Bowl players: center Mike Pouncey, defensive end Cameron Wake, cornerback Brent Grimes and punter Brandon Fields. Ireland also spent more than $200 million of owner Stephen Ross’ money last year in free agency before being kicked out the door. That included re-signing players such as Mike Wallace, Dannell Ellerbe and Brian Hartline to long-term contracts.

4. Weak division

Analysis: Let’s be honest: The AFC East is a bad division. It’s pretty much the New England Patriots versus everyone else. The Dolphins, New York Jets (8-8) and Buffalo Bills (6-10) are all trying to find their way. That means it won’t take much for Miami to position itself as the No. 2 team and compete in the AFC East next season with a few right moves. Catching the Patriots will continue to be difficult as long as quarterback Tom Brady is together with coach Bill Belichick. But Brady is entering the twilight of his career and will not be there forever. Miami’s new general manager has to view the AFC East as wide open in a few years.

Miami Dolphins season wrap-up

January, 2, 2014
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Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 18
Preseason Power Ranking: 20

Biggest surprise: Tight end Charles Clay was not expected to be a starter when training camp began. The Dolphins signed proven tight end Dustin Keller in free agency and had big plans for the former New York Jets veteran. In contrast, Clay started in a backup/hybrid role at tight end and fullback. But Keller's season-ending knee injury in the preseason opened the door for Clay to take over the starting job at tight end. He immediately flourished and became one of Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill's most reliable weapons. Clay set new career highs this season with 69 receptions for 759 yards and seven total touchdowns. Clay will enter next season as the unquestioned full-time starter.

Biggest disappointment: This category is two-fold, because you can't separate one linebacker from the other. Miami spent a combined $61 million on free agents Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe. The goal was to get younger and faster at linebacker and, as a result, the Dolphins cut older veterans Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett. But Wheeler and Ellerbe didn't provide the immediate upgrade the Dolphins expected. Both struggled in coverage and against the run this season while learning a new defense. Still, both players recorded more than 100 tackles and should be better in their second year together in Miami's system.

Biggest need: Without a doubt, expect a huge makeover on Miami's offensive line in 2014. The Dolphins set a new franchise record with 58 quarterback sacks allowed and were 26th in rushing. Lackluster offensive-line play was the main culprit in both instances. Miami has four pending free agents with starting experience. Tackles Tyson Clabo and Bryant McKinnie, as well as guards John Jerry and the suspended Richie Incognito are all unrestricted free agents in March. Most, if not all, are not expected to return. In the wake of the bullying scandal, Jonathan Martin could become the fifth starter who won't return. This provides a perfect opportunity for the Dolphins to have a major overhaul on the offensive line by using resources in the draft and free agency.

Team MVP: The Dolphins took somewhat of a flier on cornerback Brent Grimes this past offseason. Grimes was coming off a season-ending Achilles injury with the Atlanta Falcons in 2012. Miami signed him to a one-year contract in order to see how he would bounce back and if he could play a full season. Not only did Grimes play all 16 games, he was Miami's best and most consistent defensive player. Grimes tied for the team lead with four interceptions and made his second Pro Bowl. Grimes said he believes he played the best football of his career this season. Grimes, a pending free agent, will be a huge priority in the offseason.

Dolphins are rooting for the Bengals

December, 26, 2013
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DAVIE, Fla. -- For one week only, the Cincinnati Bengals have 53 new fans within the locker room of the Miami Dolphins.

McKinnie
McKinnie
Ellerbe
There are four potential scenarios for the Dolphins to get into the playoffs Sunday as the final wild card in the AFC. The easiest would be for Cincinnati to beat the Baltimore Ravens (8-7), and Miami (8-7) to beat the New York Jets.

That would catapult the Dolphins into the postseason for the first time since 2008. Miami would snag the wild card while the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens would be on the outside looking in this season.

For Dolphins players like Dannell Ellerbe and Bryant McKinnie, who won a Super Bowl with Baltimore, getting to the postseason over the Ravens would have extra meaning.

“It would be lovely to get into the playoffs -- period,” Ellerbe said. “But for us to go and [Baltimore] not to go would be very, very special.”

Ellerbe spent his first four seasons with the Ravens, and left in free agency. Miami signed Ellerbe to a $35 million contract last March.

Ellerbe said he has a few good friends on the Bengals, such as Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green and injured defensive tackle Geno Atkins.

“They know I want them to win,” Ellerbe said.

Former Raven Bryant McKinnie, who was traded to Miami in October, has been trash-talking with his friend and former teammate -- running back Ray Rice of Baltimore -- the past few weeks.

“I texted him after their game [against New England], because one of their players is staying in the house that I have up there,” McKinnie said. “I said, ‘Can you make sure he’s out by January 1st, because ya’ll aren’t going to the playoffs.’ ... I don’t think he really caught onto what I said. He just went along with the conversation.”

There are other scenarios where teams like the San Diego Chargers (8-7) and Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) could get the AFC’s final wild card. But there is a strong chance it will come down to Miami or Baltimore.

Ellerbe has never missed the playoffs during his five-year career, and wants to keep that streak alive with the Dolphins.

“It would really be in my career, because in high school I always went to the playoffs,” Ellerbe said. “I’d be devastated. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.”

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