As Channing Crowder’s practice absences became customary late in the preseason, inside linebacker Tim Dobbins was asked if he would feel comfortable starting in Crowder’s place if the season opener were the next day.
“Of course,” Dobbins replied.
Sunday in the season opener in Buffalo, the Dolphins will find out if Dobbins confidence is warranted, as well as if they can have continued confidence in him next week in Minnesota.
What the Dolphins officially call a groin injury sidelined Crowder for Sunday – he didn’t even make the trip -- just as it’s kept him out of pads for over two weeks. Injuries to the torso core tend to nag like a testy spouse.
Don’t think the Dolphins didn’t have this possibility in mind when they acquired Dobbins as an add-on in the draft day first round spot swap with San Diego. Crowder’s missed nine of the last 44 regular season games before Sunday and Dobbins started 10 games for San Diego over the last two seasons as a 3-4 inside linebacker.
Dobbins said his responsibilities here have been the same except in San Diego, he was the guy making the original defensive call in the huddle. With the Dolphins, Karlos Dansby takes that responsibility.
“He makes the calls, I call the strength and we both call out the adjustments on the offense,” Dobbins said. “He does his thing on his side, I do my thing on my side.”
Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell said last week, “He’s going a good job. He knows what to do. I’m sure there are things he could learn. He’s learning on the fly, and, for the most part, he’s got everything down. I’ll just say he doesn’t see things as quickly as Channing does. That’s one thing we miss with Channing. At the same time, Tim’s everywhere he’s supposed to be.”
What Bell referenced most people dismiss when it comes to evaluating Crowder – he’s one of the smartest players on the Dolphins, something other players and Dolphins coach Tony Sparano will tell those who bother to ask. The willingness to be a loud trash-talker throwing off snaps like a stand-up at the Improv obscures that the Dolphins value Crowder’s brain most of all.
In the last eight games Crowder’s missed, the Dolphins defense has allowed 27.4 points per game, 159.8 rushing yards per game and 404.0 total yards per game. In that span, Crowder’s only made one interception, recovered one fumbled and forced one fumble.
“Even though his numbers aren’t in forced fumbles, things like that, he makes plays for everybody else,” Bell said. “He gets everybody else where they’re supposed to be. He might fill a gap where someone else is supposed to be to help somebody make the tackle.”