To hear their coaches tell it, the Dolphins came home from London with something more than a much-needed win.
They returned with an infusion of chemistry — and moxie.
“[We] came together as a team,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said.
Added offensive coordinator Bill Lazor: “Standing on the sideline against Oakland, I thought I saw guys gaining confidence, individually, as a group, certain position groups. As a coach, that gives me confidence when I see them play that way.”
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If an emotional jump-start is indeed something real and tangible, Philbin, Lazor and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle better clone and mass produce it. Because the Dolphins are just a few days away from the greatest challenge they have faced thus far — and perhaps will face all season.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers come to town Sunday, and after a slow start, they’re playing like the Super Bowl contenders everyone expected them to be.
They have outscored their past two opponents 80-27, and Rodgers has been nearly perfect. He’s completed two-thirds of his passes, has thrown 12 touchdowns and just one interception, and owns the league’s second-highest passer rating (114.8).
Coyle, in his weekly meeting with the media, gushed about the former NFL MVP.
“There are some guys in this league that are truly special, and this quarterback rates up there with the best of them,” Coyle said of Rodgers. “He’s really amazing to watch. Some guys you’d just love to watch on tape, you just put the tape on and observe. You wish you didn’t have to try to defend him because he’s magical with what he does with the ball and the decision making and the speed that he gets the ball out with, his accuracy, his ability to extend plays, it’s really uncanny, coupled with the fact that he’s got a rifle of an arm.”
Added Coyle: “He’s a big challenge, and he’s got good weapons around him, and they’re very well coached. We’re going to have to be at our best this week to slow those guys down.”
Minnesota could not last Thursday. The Packers scored 14 points in each of the first three quarters before pulling their starters in a blowout win over the Vikings. And with 10 days between games, the Packers should be rested — potentially negating any advantage the Dolphins gained from their bye.
Dolphins players were off Tuesday after an eventful practice Monday. Banged up for the first quarter of the season, the week off allowed the Dolphins to heal up. As many as six projected starters who missed the Raiders game could be active Sunday: center Mike Pouncey (hip), running back Knowshon Moreno (elbow), defensive tackle Randy Starks (back), linebacker Koa Misi (ankle), safety Reshad Jones (suspension) and guard Shelley Smith (knee).
Pouncey hasn’t played all year after undergoing major surgery in June. Samson Satele has been solid at center in Pouncey’s absence and could remain there even when the mending Pro Bowler returns. Pouncey worked some at guard during practice Monday and expressed willingness to do so in a game.
“You’re always looking for guys that want to contribute and are unselfish,” Philbin said. “This is a team game. As a coach, you always want guys that are ready to answer the bell and do it whatever they can to help their team win. … He’s been getting work at a lot of different things and pitching in.
“He’s a football player, so he likes to compete, he likes to play. I think he’d line up anywhere.”
Misi is versatile as well, but he probably will be the team’s starting middle linebacker Sunday. The Dolphins listed him as their starter at that position in their weekly depth chart; it appears Jason Trusnik, who filled in on the inside during Misi’s absence, will work on the outside.
“You’re talking about a guy having made a switch that’s really going to be, I don’t know exactly how many snaps he had in the New England game, 18, 20 snaps maybe?” Coyle said of Misi. “So he hasn’t had a lot of experience [at that position]. He’s anxious. We’re anxious. I believe he will continue to progress at the position, we hope it can be as quickly as Sunday at one o’clock.”
With Jones back, it was assumed that he will start at safety, and Jimmy Wilson will slide back to the nickel. However, Coyle didn’t commit to that lineup Monday, saying Cortland Finnegan has played well in the slot. Jamar Taylor could see an increased role as well.