Miami Dolphins – TeamReport – Reuters

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NFL Team Report – Miami Dolphins – INSIDE SLANT

The Miami Dolphins have a 5-3 record, the first time they have been above .500 midway through the season since 2003.

The Dolphins are also riding a three-game win streak. They have a chance to achieve their first four-game win streak under coach Joe Philbin this week.

But they go on the road to face Detroit (6-2), which is expected to have wide receiver Calvin Johnson (ankle) and running back Reggie Bush (ankle) back from injury, and features defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

And then there are the Buffalo Bills and a trip to face the Denver Broncos.

The Dolphins, who haven’t been to the playoffs since 2008, aren’t taking a big-picture approach as they navigate their way through this treacherous November schedule.

“The one thing about this team that I’m seeing,” said defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, who is acting as head coach while Joe Philbin is in Massachusetts for his father’s funeral, “is they know that it’s one week at a time,”

Still, the Dolphins realize they need to play at least .500 football this month to be in position to succeed in December.

Things are trending in the Dolphins’ direction. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is 17th in passer rating, the rushing offense is fourth (137.3) in the league, the defense is producing takeaways (10 in the last three weeks), the team is at plus-six in giveaway/takeaway margin and, most important, they’re winning.

“This past game was just a small glimpse of how good we really can be,” safety Louis Delmas said of the defense, which had four takeaways.

Sure, the passing offense ranks 28th in yards per attempt (6.7), which is the statistic offensive coordinator Bill Lazor cares about most.

But the only major concern is kicker Caleb Sturgis.

Well, maybe special teams remains a concern overall, but specifically it’s Sturgis.

He missed wide right on a 45-yard field goal attempt in last week’s 37-0 victory over San Diego. He’s now 16-for-20 on the season. His .800 accuracy percentage is tied for 23rd in the NFL.

As for special teams overall, things are improving. The punt coverage unit and kickoff coverage units are tackling better. Rookie Jarvis Landry leads the NFL in kickoff returns.

Things are looking good so far for Miami.

They appear to be well-built, they’re taking advantage of the things they do well, and, perhaps, in the best sign of all, they seem to be playing consistent ball.

We’ll see if those trends continue this week at Detroit, where the usually slow-starting Dolphins are expecting a raucous crowd for their 6-2 Lions.

“Yeah they are rockin’; Lou (Delmas) can tell you, Ford Field is rockin’,” cornerback Cortland Finnegan said,” so we will have to go out there and silence them quick.”

SERIES HISTORY: 11th regular season meeting. Dolphins lead series, 7-3. Detroit won the last meeting, 34-27, in 2010. At that time, the Dolphins slumped to 7-8 amid losing their final three games of the season; Detroit improved to 5-10. Times have changed since then. Now both teams are trending upward, a rare feat for both considering their recent pasts. They both enter this game with winning records. That wasn’t the case in their meetings in 2010, 2006 or 2002. The last time it happened, in fact, was in 2000, when Miami entered 6-2 and Detroit entered 5-3. The Dolphins won that game, 23-8.


NFL Team Report – Miami Dolphins – NOTES, QUOTES

–Coach Joe Philbin missed practices Tuesday and Wednesday to attend his father’s funeral in Massachusetts. Players say Philbin’s voice was missed. It was Philbin’s fourth missed practice in the last two weeks.

“I think everybody misses Joe,” said guard Daryn Colledge, who played for Philbin in Green Bay when Philbin was offensive coordinator. “Joe’s part of what we’re doing here every single day and he’s a big part of the success we’re having. But he’s taking care of something that’s much more important than football so he’s instilled in this coaching staff and these players what we expect out of a week of work.”

–Colledge said it was a back injury, not his ailments from the Jacksonville game, that kept him off the field last week.

“So the migraine/concussion/headache/sinus infection, whatever, that’s done,” he said. “That was cleared up and I was ready to go, actually.”

Colledge had two key streaks end last week. His 104 consecutive starts, the longest by an active guard, and 135 consecutive games played, also the longest by an active guard, both ended.

–Hall of Fame quarterbacks Bob Griese and Dan Marino were watching Wednesday’s practice, and specifically watching quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore throwing passes to the wide receivers and tight ends. Griese does radio commentary for the team and Marino signed as a special advisor in August.

Tannehill was asked whose advice he follows if they both make a suggestion.

“You can’t choose between those two,” he said with a smile. “Both Hall of Famers.”

Tannehill said he speaks with Griese occasionally. Marino sometimes watches tape with the quarterbacks.

BY THE NUMBERS: 10 – Number of years it has been since Miami (5-3) had a winning record after eight games

QUOTE TO NOTE: “It’s the Miami Dolphins’ offense, I think. And Bill (Lazor) is the coordinator. And is doing a great job.” — Coach Joe Philbin, after someone asked about “Bill Lazor’s offense.”


NFL Team Report – Miami Dolphins – STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Friday injury report


–Out: TE Dion Sims (toe)

–Doubtful: G Daryn Colledge (back)

–Questionable: RB Lamar Miller (shoulder), LB Koa Misi (ankle), DT Earl Mitchell (abdomen), LB Kelvin Sheppard (hip, groin), S Jimmy Wilson (hamstring)

–Probable: TE Charles Clay (knee), DT Anthony Johnson (back), LB Chris McCain (foot), C Mike Pouncey (hip), LB Jordan Tripp (ankle)


–Out: DT Nick Fairley (knee)

–Doubtful: TE Eric Ebron (hamstring)

–Questionable: TE Joseph Fauria (ankle), TE Brandon Pettigrew (foot)

–Probable: DE Ezekiel Ansah (toe), RB Reggie Bush (ankle), WR Calvin Johnson (ankle), DE George Johnson (hamstring), T LaAdrian Waddle (concussion)


–S Michael Thomas was placed on season-ending injured reserve list due to a torn pectoral muscle. He’ll be missed mostly on special teams. Thomas started at safety against Buffalo in place of Louis Delmas and started at nickel when safety Jimmy Wilson was sidelined.

–RB Lamar Miller (shoulder) was limited Wednesday but should be able to play this week at Detroit. Miller (518 yards) is 10th in the league in rushing.

–WR Mike Wallace (35 receptions, 468 yards, 5 TDs) remains the team leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, just as it has been all season.

–TE Charles Clay seems to be getting healthier. He didn’t miss any practice time this week due to the right knee issued that has dogged him all season. Clay (27 receptions, 270 yards, two touchdowns) has had both of his touchdowns in the last three games.

–RT Ja’Wuan James is getting some early attention as a Rookie of the Year nominee. The first-round pick from Tennessee has had a strong season, and he has been aided by the presence of RG Mike Pouncey.

–MLB Koa Misi (ankle) is someone to watch this week. If Misi is limited or can’t play expect, Jason Trusnik to be the replacement once again. And Derrick Sheppard could also see time in a package or two.

–QB Ryan Tannehill (90.9 passer rating) has a passer rating above 90 for the first time in his career.

–LG Dallas Thomas gets the start if Daryn Colledge (back) is limited. Thomas has played RG, RT and LG this season.

–DE Oliver Vernon, who had 11.5 sacks last season, is having another good year with 25 tackles (eighth on the team), 4.5 sacks (second on team) and two forced fumbles (tied for second).

–CB Brent Grimes was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his two-INT performance vs. San Diego. The Dolphins have won three of the nine awards.

GAME PLAN: This is one of those games where the battles at the line of scrimmage are extra important. Both Miami and Detroit have defensive lines capable of winning the game so the pressure is on the offensive lines to be sharp.

The Dolphins will use their short and intermediate passing game, combined with their running game, to mount a steady offensive attack. Miami doesn’t excel at the big-yardage play but it’s turning into an opportunistic offense.

Defensively, Miami is among the NFL’s best and the unit is capable of having a huge influence on the game. The Dolphins have 10 takeaways in the last three games.

Detroit will have wide receiver Calvin Johnson and running back Reggie Bush back from ankle injuries so that will complicate things defensively. But if the defensive line takes care of its business, Johnson, Bush and quarterback Matthew Stafford won’t be able to take care of their business.


–Dolphins RG Mike Pouncey, a converted Pro Bowl center, vs. Lions Pro Bowl DT Ndamukong Suh, who can single-handedly wreck an offense. This is a huge matchup in the run and pass games. These guys can affect the game from their interior line positions, and will affect the game in a very serious way. The winner of this battle goes a long way toward establishing line dominance.

–Dolphins CB Brent Grimes, a Pro Bowl selection last season, vs. Lions WR Calvin Johnson, whose size and physicality give him an edge over every corner. Johnson is an absolute beast and now that he’s over his ankle injury he’ll again become the focal point of the Detroit offense. Grimes has 4 interceptions in his last five games. This should be fun. By the way, Grimes probably won’t move with Johnson so look for CB Cortland Finnegan to spend a lot of time on Johnson as well.

Miami Dolphins – TeamReport – Reuters