The Miami Dolphins badly need an infusion of talent, and two of their most-talented players are finally out on the practice field.
Robert Nkemdiche and Cordrea Tankersley both took the practice field in Davie for the first time this season Wednesday after spending the first six weeks of the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list. They’re not exactly close yet to getting in a game — and the Dolphins can keep them on the PUP list for 21 days from the first time they practice — but it is still an important step for two former high draft picks.
“We have some time. We have a little time,” coach Brian Flores said. “It’s a good opportunity to take a look at these guys — both Tank and Rob — and really kind of get them into a practice setting, some individuals, some team drills, some group drills. It’s been a long time for both guys since they’ve stepped on a field in a competitive environment. I never want to rush things. We’ve got some time. Look, if they look like they’re ready to go, nobody wants to see those guys out there more than I do, but at the same time this is a hard game to play, so we’ll do what we feel is best for them individually and us as a team.”
There was a time when both Nkemdiche and Tankersley looked like potential future stars. Tankersley, a cornerback, was a third-round pick by Miami in the 2017 NFL Draft and had a solid rookie season before he tore his anterior cruciate ligament last year.
Expectations for Nkemdiche were even higher. The defensive lineman was the consensus No. 1 recruit coming out of high school in the Class of 2013 and a rising star from the moment he first suited up for the Ole Miss Rebels.
He never took the leap expected of him, though, and fell to the bottom of the first round in the 2016 NFL Draft. He spent three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals out of shape, injury-plagued and underperforming before he tore his ACL last year. The Cardinals released him in July on the day he reported to camp overweight.
The Dolphins decided to take a flier on the defensive tackle in August, hoping he could rehabilitate his knee and get back in shape to realize his massive potential.
“The guys that have been training me have done such a great job, staying consistent and staying on top of me so I can make sure I do everything to get this thing right,” Nkemdiche said after his first practice at the Miami Dolphins Training Facility. “It’s feeling amazing. I’m going to keep going, take it take by day, keep growing and elevating, and get back out there.”
Xavien Howard is already working his way back toward potentially playing Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, but the outlook is a less optimistic for Daniel Kilgore.
Howard, who was limited by knee soreness in practice last week and didn’t play in the Dolphins’ 17-16 loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday in Miami Gardens, was back on the practice field Wednesday in Davie.
“I was close. Coach made a spot decision,” Howard said. He was later asked if the close call Sunday made him confident he would be back on the field in Buffalo.
“Yeah, for sure,” he said. “We’ll see.”
Said Flores: “He did everything possible to go. This is a competitive guy. He wanted to be out there. It just didn’t work out, but we’re on to this week and Buffalo. He’s itching to go.”
Kilgore, however, did not practice Wednesday after injuring his knee in the final seconds Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium. The center had played every snap for the Dolphins before going down on Miami’s final offensive play Sunday. He was not on the field when the Dolphins went for the two-point conversion and the win after Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a touchdown to wide receiver DeVante Parker with six seconds remaining.
Flores said “it’ll be tough” for Kilgore to get back on the field Sunday.
“Dan is one of the toughest guys we have. He’s dealing with something from an injury standpoint, but he’s doing everything he can to work his way back,” Flores said. “He’s definitely trying to work his way back and hopefully we see him towards the end of the week.”
Defensive end Avery Moss also missed practice Wednesday after injuring his ankle Sunday, and safety Reshad Jones sat out with a chest injury. Running back Mark Walton, linebacker Trent Harris, cornerback Chris Lammons, safety Bobby McCain, and wide receivers Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant were all limited participants.
With Howard dealing with his knee injury, the Dolphins swapped a pair of cornerbacks earlier this week. Miami released Johnson Bademosi on Monday and added fellow cornerback Ryan Lewis on Tuesday.
The Dolphins were awarded Lewis off waivers when the Philadelphia Eagles released the 6-foot, 185-pound defensive back. Lewis began the season on the Eagles’ practice squad and was promoted to the active roster Oct. 2 before Philadelphia released him Monday. Although he never played on defense for the Eagles, Lewis started three games for the Bills in 2018.
Bademosi, who came to Miami as part of the Dolphins’ trade that sent wide receiver Kenny Stills and tackle Laremy Tunsil to the Houston Texans in September, recorded four tackles in four games.