When the Dolphins host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, they will welcome back Pro Bowler Mike Pouncey, previously suspended safety Reshad Jones and, in all likelihood, Knowshon Moreno, who led the NFL in rushing in Week 1 before dislocating his left elbow in Week 2.
But whereas Moreno is listed as probable for Sunday, the Dolphins might be without players at receiver and cornerback.
Receiver Brandon Gibson, who said Monday that he would play against the Packers despite a hamstring injury, on Friday was the only Dolphins player listed as doubtful on the injury report.
That likely will mean more playing time for Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews, and possibly some snaps for Damian Williams, who was re-signed this week more than a month after the Dolphins released him.
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Meanwhile, starting cornerback Cortland Finnegan was listed as questionable with a neck injury.
Finnegan said Thursday that he would play Sunday and that his neck ailment had been solved by purchasing a “new mattress and pillow. That’s helping extremely well.”
If Finnegan cannot play, Jamar Taylor and potentially Will Davis would fill the void.
The Dolphins spent a lot of time this week with Pouncey practicing at right guard and Samson Satele at center.
Pouncey, who hasn’t played guard since his junior year at Florida, said he’s comfortable there. And that lineup would allow the Dolphins to put their five best linemen on the field, which coaches have said is the priority.
“Putting Pouncey at guard, [alongside] Samson, is great,” backup defensive tackle Anthony Johnson said.
“With those two, it’s a great offensive line.”
But coach Joe Philbin has declined to say if Pouncey definitely will move from center to guard. The health of Satele and guards Shelley Smith and Dallas Thomas will factor into the decision.
Satele, who has a fibula injury, has been limited in practice every day this week but is listed as probable for the game.
Smith is listed as questionable with a knee injury that has sidelined him the past 21/2 games. And Thomas, who started at right guard the past two weeks, is probable with a shoulder injury.
Besides Jones, linebacker Koa Misi is expected to return from an ankle injury that sidelined him the past 31/2 games, and Randy Starks plans to play after missing one game with a back ailment.
Misi, Starks, Branden Albert, Charles Clay, Jelani Jenkins, Mike Wallace, Lamar Miller and Philip Wheeler are all listed as probable — along with Moreno, Satele and Thomas.
▪ For Green Bay, receiver Jarrett Boykin is out, and linebacker Sam Barrington and defensive lineman Datone Jones are questionable.
Of all the good things that happened for the Dolphins in their most recent game — Ryan Tannehill’s renaissance, Miller’s continued good work and sterling run defense — the development that made offensive coordinator Bill Lazor the most openly effusive was what the receivers did when they got the ball.
That’s a trend they hope will continue Sunday.
Against Oakland, “you saw guys when they got the ball in their hands that were excited to have the ball in their hands,” Lazor said.
The best example of that attitude was Wallace’s 13-yard touchdown play, when he took a short pass and powered through defenders into the end zone.
Wallace said a priority has been “doing stuff better with the ball. No matter how I get the ball, I’ve got to make plays. You don’t want to just catch the ball and fall.”
Last season, the three receivers who played the most for Miami — Matthews, Brian Hartline and Wallace — ranked 73rd, 77th and 83rd, respectively, among 111 qualifying receivers in yards-after-catch. Miami’s 4.8 YAC average was third-worst.
Part of that could be blamed on Tannehill sometimes locating the ball in areas where the receivers had to contort their bodies to make a catch, thus limiting their ability to do much with it after the catch.
Also, if Tannehill had completed a few more deep balls, the YAC average would have been higher because Wallace and other receivers would have scampered into the end zone on some of those plays.
This season, the Dolphins have improved from 4.8 to 5.4 in YAC per reception (21st in the league) and are on a pace for 2,020 yards in YAC, which would easily surpass their 1,718 last season.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Dolphins have four receivers ranked in the top half of the league in YAC: Gibson, who is 13th at 7.9; Landry, 19th at 7.1; Wallace, 43rd at 4.7; and Matthews, 48th at 4.3. Hartline ranks 67th out of 111 qualifying receivers at 3.5.