Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins defense getting healthier

Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard (25) defends against the New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) on an incomplete pass in the second quarter as the New England Patriots host the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, September 18, 2016.
Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard (25) defends against the New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) on an incomplete pass in the second quarter as the New England Patriots host the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, September 18, 2016. adiaz@miamiherald.com

The Dolphins, for the first time this season, hope to have all their defensive players from their opening day roster available Sunday against Tennessee. That excludes the three who are out for the season (Koa Misi, Raekwon McMillan and Tony Lippett) and the one who’s suspended for the first eight games (T.J. McDonald).

Among those working their way back:

• After leaving last Sunday’s New Orleans game with a shoulder injury, cornerback Xavien Howard participated fully in Thursday’s practice and said he’s fine. Alterraun Verner said he got some first team snaps Thursday, but Howard is expected to start presuming he has no setback with the shoulder.

• Linebacker Rey Maualuga – who missed the first three games with a hamstring injury – practiced fully for the second straight day. Maualuga continued to get first team reps, though Mike Hull also got some first team work.

Because Tennessee likes to run the ball and stopping the run is Maualuga’s strength, Sunday’s Titans game “is a good first game to come back,” Maualuga said. “I’m confident with all the work I’ve done, good things will happen.”

Defensive coordinator Matt Burke, who coached Maualuga in Cincinnati, said he’s “a physical player in the run game. He’s probably one of the best I’ve been around at taking on offensive linemen because he’s such a big powerful guy. He knocks offensive linemen back.

“Ask [center Mike] Pouncey about it because when we first signed him, Pounce told me, ‘We played them last year and he probably hit me as hard as anyone I’ve ever been hit by.’ So he brings that element and obviously some extra beef there in the middle.”

Conditioning had been an issue for Maualuga, but coach Adam Gase said that the linebacker “looks pretty good to me.”

Gase made clear the Dolphins signed him, after McMillan’s August knee injury, with the intent of playing time as opposed to merely having him as depth.

• One injury question mark on defense is defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, who practiced fully on Wednesday but was limited on Thursday. Phillips missed the past two games with an ankle injury.

• Hull and defensive end Terrence Fede were full participants in practice after being limited Wednesday with shoulder injuries.

THIS AND THAT

Though the guard play hasn’t been great, particularly in the running game, offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen suggested rookie Isaaac Asiata isn’t an option.

“He’s a ways away,” Christensen said. “In an ideal world, it would be his redshirt year.”

• Burke, asked to explain replacing Byron Maxwell with Cordrea Tankersley, said: “I like the way Tank had been practicing. I wanted tighter coverage – I wanted things I didn’t feel like I had been seeing.”

How did Tankersley play against the Saints?

“I thought he did a good job,” Burke said. “As expected, he was challenged. And there were a couple rookie mistakes and some things he’s got to clean up. But his approach to it, his confidence, he wasn’t backing off from anyone.”

• Dolphins kicker Cody Parkey missed three field goals in his last game at Hard Rock Stadium (as a member of the Cleveland Browns), and the Dolphins planned to have him practice kicking off the stadium turf on Thursday.

But those plans were scuttled because of rain. The Dolphins hope he can practice kicking there on Friday.

• Titans coach Mike Mularkey said quarterback Marcus Mariota “did a little more” in practice on Thursday but remains questionable for Sunday’s game against the Dolphins because of a strained hamstring. Matt Cassel would start if Mariota cannot.

  Comments