NFL Nation: Orleans Darkwa

The Film Don't Lie: Dolphins

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
4:00
PM ET
A weekly look at what the Miami Dolphins must fix:

A position of strength for the Dolphins has now become a position of weakness after two games. Miami’s running back corps suffered a major blow with leading rusher Knowshon Moreno sidelined with an elbow injury. Early reports indicate Moreno could be out approximately one month.

How do the Dolphins fix this issue? It will be up to Lamar Miller and backups Damian Williams and Orleans Darkwa to step up and carry the load. So far that hasn’t been the case when Moreno isn’t in the lineup. On Monday, Miami also signed Daniel Thomas, who was cut by the team before the regular season.

The Dolphins average 5.5 yards per carry with Moreno running the ball this season. The other three running backs are averaging 3.9 yards per carry. Moreno also has more rushing yards (138) this season than Miller, Williams and Darkwa combined (133).

Miami will need more production from this trio to keep the offense balanced.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Miami Dolphins and their offense might have to get used to life without Knowshon Moreno. Based on Sunday’s 29-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills, it might not be pretty.

Moreno suffered an elbow injury on his first carry when he fell awkwardly on his left arm. His arm bent the wrong way and the injury was gruesome enough that Moreno was immediately ruled out for the rest of the game.

[+] EnlargeKnowshon Moreno
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesThe Dolphins gained just 76 rushing yards after Knowshon Moreno left with an elbow injury.
Now the question becomes: How many games will Moreno miss moving forward?

Although the Dolphins didn't give an official timeline and Moreno didn't speak to reporters after the game, media reports have already indicated Moreno could miss up to a month with a dislocated elbow. That would be a long month for the Dolphins.

The offense looked like a shell of its Week 1 self with Moreno out of the lineup against Buffalo. Miami, after scoring 33 points last week against the New England Patriots, was shut out in the first half and finished with just 10 points against Buffalo.

"Obviously, we'd love to have him, but you have to deal with those things," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. "They pop up in football. Injuries happen. So it didn't really impact the game plan. Other guys have to step up. That's football. If a guy gets injured you can't really alter things."

We are about to find out how important Moreno is to this Dolphins team. The free-agent acquisition quickly established himself as the heart and soul of the offense with his energy, intensity and consistent play.

Not coincidentally, the Dolphins lacked energy, intensity and consistency Sunday. Buffalo's defense quickly deflated the downtrodden Dolphins offense, which averaged just 3.9 yards per play.

The Dolphins couldn't run the ball with any efficiency without Moreno. Miami had just 80 rushing yards on Sunday after running for 191 with Moreno the previous week.

"We weren't even close to matching their intensity," Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace said. "We did a good job of playing football, but the [Bills'] intensity was so much higher than ours that I think that's why they won the game, honestly."

Wallace explained the mood of the offense when Moreno went down.

"I saw him on the ground. I know it wasn't good because he never really stays on the ground like that," Wallace said. "It was quiet for a little while, but it was early in the game and we had to keep playing. We definitely missed his intensity."

Moreno is just one player. But he brings a certain attitude and toughness to the offense that is hard to replace. The Dolphins will host the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3 and travel to London to face the Oakland Raiders in Week 4. Those are two winnable games before the bye week.

But winning those games will be tougher without Moreno. The Dolphins now will have to rely on Lamar Miller and rookies Damien Williams and Orleans Darkwa.

"As running backs and as an offense we can't really sit there and mope and cry about it," Darkwa said. "We just got to go out and do what we got to do as an offense and as running backs. ... As a group, we got to step it up."
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.

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