NFL Nation: Lamar Miller

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.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins like their running backs. Or do they?

It's difficult to read between the lines when it comes to the Dolphins and their much-maligned rushing attack. Miami was 26th in rushing last season and clearly needs to improve in that area.

Miller
Thomas
Tailbacks Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas were not productive enough. But Miami’s decision-makers have been strategically talking up both players.

“We like our guys,” Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey said. “I think Lamar Miller has a lot of talent and has a lot of ability. I think the same with Mike Gillislee and Daniel Thomas.”

Hickey then finished by saying he’s always looking to upgrade talent on the roster. Do the Dolphins like their current running backs or not? It’s hard to tell.

What we do know is Miami played host to veteran free-agent and former first-round pick Knowshon Moreno for a visit last week. Moreno is coming off a career year with the Denver Broncos. There are also reports indicating Miami has preliminary interest in free-agent tailback Maurice Jones-Drew.

If Hickey and the Dolphins were confident in their running backs, why kick the tires of two of the top running backs on the market?

Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin explained that he wanted to see more explosive plays from Miller. But he wouldn’t say whether Miami’s starting running back is currently on the roster.

Hickey provided his blueprint of what he likes in a running back on Tuesday.

“You want toughness,” Hickey explained. “You want guys with vision who break tackles, but also can make things happen in the open space and play on third down and pass protect.”

The Dolphins must decide if Miller or Thomas fits most or all of those qualities. If not, it's time for the Dolphins to find an upgrade.
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
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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 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.

Rapid Reaction: Miami Dolphins

December, 29, 2013
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Thoughts on the Miami Dolphins' 20-7 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday.

What it means: This can be classified only as a choke job for Miami. The Dolphins controlled their own playoff destiny two weeks ago. But ugly back-to-back losses to the Buffalo Bills and Jets on Sunday knocked Miami out of playoff contention and led to an 8-8 finish. The Dolphins' roller-coaster season ends with some highs and plenty of lows. But losing two straight to miss the playoffs is definitely a disappointing finish for this group.

Stock watch: In terms of stock down, Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman put together another poor game plan that failed to put points on the board. The Dolphins have scored just seven points in the past eight quarters. Miami cornerback Nolan Carroll also struggled. New York rookie quarterback Geno Smith went after Carroll on several plays. Carroll allowed a pair of big catches to David Nelson for 31 and 24 yards in the first half alone that led to points.

There weren't many Dolphins candidates for stock up. Miami running back Lamar Miller had some decent runs and finished with 73 yards on 17 carries.

Hartline injured: The Dolphins suffered a key injury in the first quarter. Leading receiver Brian Hartline reinjured his knee in the first quarter and didn't return to the game. Hartline had two receptions for 38 yards and became the fifth receiver in Dolphins history to post back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.

What's next: It's time for the offseason in Miami. There will be plenty of questions with personnel, assistants on the coaching staff and perhaps the front office after a poor finish and another nonwinning season. The Dolphins also will await Ted Wells and the NFL's investigation on the bullying scandal involving Dolphins teammates Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin.

Miami Dolphins' inactives at Buffalo

December, 22, 2013
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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.

W2W4: Patriots at Dolphins

December, 14, 2013
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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.

Upon Further Review: Dolphins Week 14

December, 9, 2013
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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.

Rapid Reaction: Miami Dolphins

December, 8, 2013
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PITTSBURGH -- A few thoughts on the Miami Dolphins34-28 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

What it means: It wasn’t easy, but the Dolphins picked up a crucial road win to improve to 7-6 and significantly improve their playoff hopes. Miami survived six lead changes, culminating with a game-winning touchdown by tight end Charles Clay, to remain in firm standing for the final wild-card spot in the AFC with three games remaining. This was the first time this season that Miami scored 30 points or more. The Dolphins also are above .500 for the first time since Week 6. They are at home for two of their last three games.

Stock watch: Clay gave the Steelers’ defense a lot of trouble. He caught seven passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns. Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake also had a huge sack and forced fumble in the first half. Wake stripped Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and the turnover led to a touchdown. Miami’s secondary has been solid most of the season, but it struggled against Pittsburgh’s passing game. Roethlisberger threw for three touchdowns. The Dolphins struggled sticking to Pittsburgh’s receivers in the bad weather. But Miami's defense held tough in the final minutes of the fourth quarter and closed out the game.

Concussion watch: The Dolphins lost their starting running back, Lamar Miller, to a concussion. He was knocked out of the game in the third quarter after being hit hard by Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark. Miller was immediately taken out of the game and replaced by backup tailback Daniel Thomas. Miller’s status for the next game is uncertain.

What’s next: The games only get tougher. The Dolphins will host the reigning AFC East champion New England Patriots next Sunday. New England beat Miami 27-17 in October and will be looking for the season sweep.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins have been reluctant to provide a heavy workload to starting running back Lamar Miller. There have been reasons (excuses?) such as durability concerns and sharing with Daniel Thomas that severely limited Miller's carries. But Thomas' significant ankle injury forced a shift last week in Miami's thinking.

[+] EnlargeLamar Miller
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsRunning back Lamar Miller reaches for the pylon in mid-air during the first quarter of the Dolphins-New York Jets game at MetLife Stadium.
The Dolphins' coaching staff gave Miller a career-high 22 carries in Sunday's 23-3 victory over the New York Jets. Miller held his own against the NFL's No. 1 run defense with 72 yards, which included his longest run of 17 yards. He also helped grind out the clock in the fourth quarter to preserve the win for Miami (6-6), which remains in postseason contention.

Miller's yards per carry (3.3) were not impressive. But Miller showed he could be a workhorse against one of the most physical defenses in the league.

"I'm delighted," Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said during his Monday news conference. "I thought [offensive coordinator] Mike [Sherman] did a great job sticking with the run. ...I thought [Miller] did a nice job. I thought his reads were good and he stayed on course pretty well. The thing we're looking for with all our backs is the ability to break more tackles and have more explosive runs."

The Dolphins were as close to a one-tailback system than they've been all year against New York. Miller received more carries Sunday against the Jets (22) than he received the previous three games combined (21). Miami rookie Mike Gillislee was second on the team with six carries.

Sunday's game was perhaps a peek into where Miami is heading offensively the rest of the year. Thomas is expected to miss a few more games and possibly the rest of the season. That leaves a bulk of the responsibility on Miller to carry the load during Miami's important playoff push. He leads the team with 547 rushing yards this season.

"With Daniel being out, he was told by me and his coach, Jeff Nixon, that he would carry the bulk of the load and, therefore, he was able to do that," Sherman said. "Most backs will tell you the more carries, the more effective, and I would tend to agree. They get a better feel for the game, a better feel for the cuts."

W2W4: Dolphins at Jets

November, 30, 2013
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The Miami Dolphins (5-6) will travel to New York to face the rival Jets (5-6) in what is a playoff eliminator for both teams.

Here are three things to watch from Miami's perspective:

Can the Dolphins run? On paper, Miami's running game is at a major disadvantage against New York's No. 1-rated run defense. The Dolphins are No. 26 running the football this year and they just lost their second-leading rusher -- Daniel Thomas -- to a significant ankle injury. Dolphins rookie tailback Mike Gillislee will combine with Marcus Thigpen to add depth behind starter Lamar Miller. Miami will need at least some success on the group to keep New York's aggressive defense honest.

Focus on Tannehill: Miami starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill is nearly complete with his second season. But we haven't seen signs of Tannehill taking over games and putting the Dolphins on his shoulders. It's time for Tannehill to remove the kid's gloves and try to carry Miami's offense. The Dolphins haven't scored more than 27 points all season. It's important for Tannehill to get hot down the stretch for Miami to have a shot at the postseason.

Vulnerable Geno: After facing quality quarterbacks such as Cam Newton, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Andrew Luck this year, Miami's defense gets a relative reprieve this week with Jets quarterback Geno Smith. New York's quarterback is struggling and vulnerable. He has just one touchdown and 10 interceptions in the past six games. Miami would love to continue to pile on Smith and pick up a key win. Look for New York to protect Smith with a running game and solid defense. The Dolphins will try to make Smith beat Miami through the air.
DAVIE, Fla. – Miami Dolphins rookie tailback Mike Gillislee knows what it’s like to wait his turn.

Gillislee
Gillislee waited until his senior year to become the featured back at the University of Florida. His one productive college season was enough for the Dolphins to draft Gillislee in the fifth round.

This season Gillislee has been mostly inactive and hasn’t received a carry as Miami’s third-string tailback.

That's about to change.

With a significant ankle injury to Daniel Thomas, Gillislee is projected to be a key backup behind starting running back Lamar Miller.

The Dolphins (5-6) have used two tailbacks in their running game all year and would like to continue that in the final five games.

“It gave me an opportunity to grow and become a pro,” Gillislee said of watching from the sidelines this year. “Just by me watching, it made me hungrier and ready to take advantage of this opportunity that I’ve been given.”

Gillislee is expected to play Sunday in a huge game against the New York Jets (5-6). Both teams are among the half-dozen clubs fighting for the final wild-card spot in the AFC. The Dolphins-Jets game essentially will serve as a playoff eliminator. The winner will gain an inside track with four games remaining, while the loser will fall behind the pack.

The Dolphins are 26th in rushing this year and need a spark. Perhaps Gillislee can provide it off the bench. But it will not be easy going against New York’s No. 1-ranked run defense.

“I’ve been ready to go,” Gillislee said about Sunday’s game. “I’m ready to go now. But until I put those pads on, that’s when I’m really ready.”

Rapid Reaction: Miami Dolphins

November, 11, 2013
11/11/13
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TAMPA -- A few thoughts on the Miami Dolphins' 22-19 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night.

What it means: The Dolphins continue to struggle with consistency. Miami lost its fifth game in six tries to fall to 4-5 on the season. This was perhaps the Dolphins’ worst loss of the season, and their playoff hopes took a big hit. Miami fell behind early, 15-0, in the first half and had to fight back the entire game. The Dolphins got a brief lead in the third quarter but still lost. You have to wonder how much distractions from the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin controversy played a part in Miami losing to Tampa Bay.

Stock watch: The Dolphins got a nice showing from new slot receiver Rishard Matthews, who is replacing the injured Brandon Gibson. Matthews caught 11 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns. It was his first 100-yard game of the season.

In terms of stock down, Miami’s running game was terrible once again. The Dolphins rushed for just 2 yards on 14 carries. They had zero yards on seven carries in the first half. Miami’s offensive line was dominated at the line of scrimmage and couldn’t get many running lanes against Tampa Bay’s defensive line. Dolphins tailback Lamar Miller (2 yards, seven carries) also didn’t do his part to break many tackles.

Owner speaks: Dolphins owner Stephen Ross met with the media before the game and promised to make organizational changes to fix their locker-room culture after the Incognito-Martin fallout. Ross backed Miami head coach Joe Philbin but said no one is above repercussions if they’re found culpable in the NFL investigation. Ross will meet with Martin on Wednesday to discuss what happened.

What’s next: The road only gets tougher for Miami. The Dolphins will play host to the San Diego Chargers (4-5) in a game that could have AFC wild-card implications. Miami is 2-2 at home this season.

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