Adam Gase does not make idle threats.
Three days after promising lineup changes if he didn’t see real change, Gase delivered.
He benched cornerback Byron Maxwell for Thursday night’s game against the Bengals, starting converted wide receiver Tony Lippett in his place.
Maxwell might have had an inkling the move was coming when he met with reporters Monday.
“In the NFL, if you don’t do your job, they’re going to find a replacement,” Maxwell said then. “It’s a lot of guys that want to do your job and want to do the right thing.”
The Dolphins were counting on Maxwell to be the player he was in Seattle, not Philadelphia, when they traded for him back in March. But he’s struggled this year, in both coverage and with his tackling.
So the Dolphins turned to Lippett, a second-year pro who didn’t get a snap on defense before Thursday night. Thursday was the first start of Lippett’s career, and he made an impact play on the game’s first drive. Lippett broke up a pass intended for Brandon LaFell on third down, and the Bengals’ drive stalled.
But on Cincinnati’s second possession, Lippett showed why he still has a ways to go. He had a shot at A.J. Green in the open field but whiffed, allowing to Green score from seven yards out.
Gase gave a hint of his frustration with his team on Sunday, when he benched Ja’Wuan James in overtime after allowing a strip-sack that could have cost the Dolphins the game. But this was the gutsiest lineup change of his time in Miami, particularly with Green and Andy Dalton on the other side of the field.
Gase said on Monday: “We just want guys to do it right. Whoever wants to do it right, those are the guys that we’re going to put out there. Talent’s irrelevant at this point.”
Meanwhile, the Dolphins were without six other starters Thursday: Branden Albert, Jelani Jenkins, Koa Misi, Arian Foster, Jordan Cameron and Mike Pouncey, plus his backup Anthony Steen. All are hurt.
Damien Williams was announced as the starter for Foster, but the Dolphins opened with han empty backfied. Williams was the first running back in the game. Laremy Tunsil slid from guard to left tackle; Billy Turner started at left guard. Kraig Urbik was the Dolphins’ center.
ODDS AND ENDS
▪ With Cameron out, the door opened for MarQueis Gray. He didn’t walk through it in the first half. Gray dropped a sure first-down pass on third-and-1.
▪ Time of possession has been an issue for the Dolphins all year, and the first quarter was no different. The Bengals controlled the ball for all but 3 minutes 56 seconds in the opening period. The second quarter was no kinder for the Dolphins, when they had the ball for just 4:28.
▪ When Mike Nugent kicked a 22-yard field goal with 4:12 left in the first half, it capped a 14-play Bengals drive. The Dolphins at that point had run 12 plays —total.
▪ Matt Darr is quietly one of the Dolphins’ most valuable players. He uncorked a field-switching 66-yard punt in the first quarter and pinned the Bengals inside the 20 in the second.
▪ The Dolphins had as many completions as they did first downs in the first half: three.