It may be the Dolphins’ best lineup in a decade, but it’s still one with multiple holes, especially backup positions on the offensive line and cornerback.
And cornerback depth became an even bigger concern with the loss of Trill Williams to a season-ending injury in Saturday’s preseason opener, a 26-24 win at Tampa. Bay.
Looking at this position and four others that need to be sorted:
▪ Fourth cornerback: One of the candidates, Williams, was lost for the season due to a left knee injury sustained late in Saturday’s game. Williams was diagnosed with a ruptured ACL, according to a source.
“You hate to see an injury like that for a guy who worked as diligently as Trill did,” coach Mike McDaniel said Sunday. “He was making daily plays on the ball. You could tell his teammates how excited they were for him. It hurt the heart of the whole team. »
Williams’ injury leaves Keion Crossen and Noah Igbinoghene as the top inside cornerback options behind Xavien Howard, Byron Jones (who remains out after leg surgery in the spring but hopes to return for Game 1) and Nik Needham.
Igbinoghene struggled all week in Tampa, allowing multiple completions in joint drives and then sharing blame with Brandon Jones and Needham on Jaelan Darden’s 23-yard touchdown in Saturday’s game.
McDaniel said he “put this ‘mistake’ on myself. “I don’t think they really had enough rep in this situation. I spoke to Noah during the game and [told him] he could let loose and play what he sees and not be so conservative. These are things that I’m more afraid of happening again than on game day. It was definitely a learning moment.
Crossen was productive defensively in training camp and had great coverage on an incomplete long pass to Scottie Miller on Saturday.
Crossen, who was signed primarily due to his good work on special teams, played just 2% of the Giants’ defensive snaps last season after recording 28% of Houston’s defensive snaps in 2020.
During this 2020 season with the Texans, Crossen allowed a solid 83.2 passer rating in his area of coverage on 28 targets. So, at this point, he’s the best inside option for the No. 4 cornerback position.
Several veteran cornerbacks remain unsigned, including Xavier Rhodes (three-time Pro Bowler and former Miami Norland who started 13 games for the Colts last season), Chris Harris (four-time Pro Bowler who started 11 games for the Chargers in 2021 ), Joe Haden (a three-time Pro Bowler who started 11 games for Houston last season), and AJ Bouye (a 2017 Pro Bowler who started seven games for Carolina in 2021).
Without going into names, McDaniel said: “We’re evaluating a few guys and we’ll talk about how to deal with some of these injuries and… not overdo it. [the workload of] existing corners on the list.
Would the Dolphins consider bringing Eric Rowe back to cornerback after successfully securing him in October 2020? Not at the moment, McDaniel said. “He’s got a versatility where we could go that route if needed,” McDaniel said.
▪ Backup Offensive Tackle: Terron Armstead has never played a full season in a career that began in 2013. But his replacements – Larnel Coleman, Greg Little and Kion Smith – didn’t shine throughout camp.
Coleman contested 42 of Miami’s 45 offensive snaps on Saturday, allowed one sack and did nothing of note in the running game. Smith recorded 34 snaps – mostly at right tackle – and also allowed a sack. Little sat out with an injury that is “day to day” and showed up in practice, McDaniel said.
If the Dolphins determine that their sixth-best lineman is an inside lineman (Robert Jones? Michael Deiter? Solomon Kindley?), would the Dolphins be inclined to insert that player into the roster and have one of their two former left tackles (left guard Liam Eichenberg, right tackle Austin Jackson), switch to left tackle to replace Armstead?
“Moving a player who is in a place where he is productive, now you have two places that are less of a thing that you can get around,” McDaniel said. “There are exceptions to this. Left tackle is interesting…. From a starting point, I would try not to move a starter out of position to cover another position.
▪ #5 & #6 Wide Receiver Jobs: There’s probably room for two receivers behind Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Cedrick Wilson Jr. and Erik Ezukanma.
Trent Sherfield started Saturday’s game against Wilson, caught a pass for 33 yards and is a favorite for one of those other two jobs.
That potentially leaves a job for the winner of a competition between River Cracraft, Mohamed Sanu, Lynn Bowden Jr., Preston Williams, Braylon Sanders or a player picked later in August.
Bowden and Williams have been made available in trade talks, and Bowden helped himself the most on Saturday, with 3 catches for 55 yards and a punt return for 18 yards. If this is a harbinger of the next two weeks, Bowden could give the Dolphins food for thought.
Williams had no target on offense and returned two punts for 13 yards.
Sanu — who finished last season with McDaniel and the 49ers — caught three passes for 39 yards and shouldn’t be ignored.
▪ No. 3 and 4 running backs: It was telling that Sony Michel and Salvon Ahmed both had touches on Saturday before 2021 starter Myles Gaskin, who had the best night of the three with four carries for 27 yards. Michel lost two yards on his two runs, and Ahmed didn’t gain anything on his two runs.
Gaskin is at risk as his $2.5 million salary is completely unsecured, while Michel is partially guaranteed and Ahmed is cheap (owed $895,000 unsecured).
▪ Backup Periphery: While the No. 4 cornerback and backup offensive tackle are problematic, that’s not the case when determining which players to keep behind Emmanuel Ogbah, Jaelan Phillips, Melvin Ingram and Andrew Van Ginkel.
Porter Gustin, who has a handful of sacks in camp practices, started at defensive end and played well. Darius Hodge was sacked on Saturday.
Seventh-round rookie Cameron Goode had six tackles and one deflected pass. And Brennan Scarlett – who has worked as both a linebacker and a defensive end – has value. There is probably only room for one or two of this group.
Undrafted rookies Deandre Johnson and Owen Carney shared a sack on Saturday and pleaded for practice squad jobs.
THIS AND THAT
McDaniel addressed other issues during his Sunday press conference:
▪ Cutting the roster from 90 to 85 by Tuesday’s deadline will be tough, McDaniel said. The final reduction to 53 must be completed by August 30.
▪ In his first game as NFL head coach: “I’m excited because it’s over…I was expecting to get a C on the math test. Now I can work” to get an A.
▪ Backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater didn’t practice Thursday due to back pain, so McDaniel and staff decided to play rookie Skylar Thompson all game Saturday. McDaniel explained the thought this way: “What if this was the only opportunity [to play Thompson a lot]? Let’s see what this kid is made of.
This story was originally published August 14, 2022 3:57 p.m.