Miami Dolphins starting weakside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, one of the team’s highest-paid players, was placed on injured reserve Monday with a hip injury and will miss the rest of the season, the team said.
Ellerbe will not have the IR designation that would allow him to return during the season. NFL teams can use that designation on one player but they won’t on Ellerbe because it’s a season-ending injury.
The Dolphins signed fourth-year linebacker Kelvin Sheppard to fill the roster spot. Sheppard, a third round pick by Buffalo out of LSU in 2011, started nine games for the Bills as a rookie and 15 games for the Bills in 2012 but was traded to Indianapolis for Jerry Hughes in April 2013.
He started seven games for the Colts last season, as well as two playoff games, but was cut in late August. He has three career sacks and three career passes defended but no forced fumbles.
Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle called Sheppard “a big, physical linebacker, good athlete with size and strength. He has been good against the run.”
Pro Football Focus rated Sheppard 43rd of 55 inside linebackers last season – 45th against the run and 32nd against the pass. Quarterbacks had an 88.9 rating in his coverage area.
Meanwhile, middle linebacker Koa Misi remains out with an ankle injury. He was in a walking boot Sunday and the timetable for his return is undetermined.
The team’s third starting linebacker, Philip Wheeler, hopes to return soon from a thumb injury.
Coyle bemoaned the loss of Ellerbe, who left Sunday’s game after only 19 snaps.
“Dannell is a heck of a player,” he said. “We were excited about the prospects of him moving back to” weakside linebacker from middle linebacker.
Misi, meanwhile, played only 19 snaps before departing with his ankle issue.
Jason Trusnik and Jelani Jenkins filled in at linebacker during the second half of Sunday's win against New England, and both played well. Trusnik played 66 snaps on defense and Jenkins 59.
Even with the addition of Sheppard, Trusnik and Jenkins figure to continue to get snaps on defense, even more so with Misi and Wheeler out.
Chris McCain signed with the Dolphins as a linebacker, but all but two of his 15 defensive snaps Sunday were at defensive end, linebackers coach Mark Duffner said. The Dolphins are still getting McCain up to speed at linebacker.