At 5-8 and in last place in the AFC East, there isn’t much to get excited about in regards to the Dolphins these days.
But if there’s one silver lining with the team eliminated from playoff contention with three games left to play, it is the Dolphins will get a chance to evaluate some of their young players starting Sunday against the San Diego Chargers.
With cornerback Bobby McCain questionable for Sunday’s game because of a head injury he sustained against the New York Giants last Monday night, rookie Tony Lippett could see a lot of playing time this weekend even if McCain plays.
Lippett, a fifth-round pick out of Michigan State, mostly played receiver in college. Even though Lippett is raw and inexperienced at the cornerback position, the Dolphins coaches love his potential.
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“He brings a unique skill set to us in that he’s long, he’s got some length to him in both height and arm length,” Dolphins defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said. “He led the Big Ten in receptions last year, he obviously has good hands, and he can play the ball when it’s in the air, which is one of the key things these days being a DB in the NFL. It’s just a matter of getting comfortable at the position and doing that at the highest level. He’s coming along, and he’s taking great strides.”
Another player that is likely to see a lot of playing time Sunday is linebacker Neville Hewitt. Starting weak-side linebacker Jelani Jenkins is listed as doubtful as he reaggravated an ankle injury against the Giants. Jenkins did not practice all week, and Hewitt is set to make the start in San Diego.
In limited action this season, Hewitt has 25 tackles, one interception and one pass breakup.
Second-year player Shamiel Gary saw some playing time against the Giants last week, and interim coach Dan Campbell said he should see some action against the Chargers as well.
Miami has had problems in their secondary since Louis Delmas sustained a season-ending knee in during the preseason. Walt Aikens and Michael Thomas have seen time at free safety, but neither appears to be a long-term solution.
Campbell said he likes a number of things that Gary brings to the table.
“He’s a young guy that has got a lot of awareness to him, and certainly he’s got some athletic ability,” Campbell said. “We feel he grasps what other offenses are trying to do. He’s a little more natural in his ability to adjust, and we think he’s got some upside.”
For the seventh consecutive week, Ja’Wuan James will not start for the Dolphins. The right tackle is still recovering from a left toe injury he sustained Oct. 29 against the New England Patriots.
James was limited in practice Wednesday but did not practice Thursday and Friday.
Earl Mitchell will also not play against the Chargers as he is still recovering from a calf injury. The defensive tackle re-aggravated the injury against the Giants.
Wide receiver Rishard Matthews is questionable as he has been healing from cracked ribs he sustained against the New York Jets on Nov. 29. If he cannot play, expect rookie DeVante Parker to make his third consecutive start.
Wide receiver Jarvis Landry (knee), running backs Lamar Miller (ankle) and Damien Williams (back) and guard Billy Turner (calf) are all listed as probable.
BONUS FOR THOMAS
On Wednesday, quarterback Logan Thomas was promoted to the Dolphins’ 53-man roster from the practice squad. Because of his promotion, Thomas received a big bonus. He will receive a total of $815,000 over the next two seasons. Thomas is guaranteed a $215,000 signing bonus, and he will make $90,000 for the rest of 2015 and $600,000 in 2016.