Miami Dolphins

Return of Branden Albert sparks Miami Dolphins offensive line

Miami Dolphins left tackle Branden Albert gets a hug from interim head coach Dan Campbell near the end of the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., on Sunday, October 18, 2015.
Miami Dolphins left tackle Branden Albert gets a hug from interim head coach Dan Campbell near the end of the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., on Sunday, October 18, 2015. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

With a bag of ice on his right knee and a smile on his face, Branden Albert took a second to savor Sunday’s Dolphins win over the Titans.

Ja’Wuan James joked as he passed by that Albert’s return was the difference for a Dolphins offense that looked nothing like the group that slogged through the season’s first four weeks.

The humble left tackle wouldn’t allow it.

So why did the Dolphins rush for 180 yards (on 5.6 per carry), average a gaudy 6.9 yards per play and allow only two sacks all afternoon?

“We finally came off the ball today,” Albert said. “We still did what did in training camp. We were energized. Ryan [Tannehill] was getting the ball out fast. We could protect him a little better. But he’s a tough guy. Gotta keep pushing.”

Albert, who is still just 11 months removed from tearing his ACL and MCL, played Sunday for the first time since injuring his hamstring in Week 2. Plus Billy Turner was effective in his first start of the season at right guard.

Vernon faces fine

Olivier Vernon’s wallet is about to get a little lighter — and he knows it.

Vernon can expect to hear from the league after twice committing personal fouls on Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota.

On the first occasion, Vernon hit Mariota low. On the second, he hit him late. Mariota later said that Vernon apologized for the low hit that limited Mariota’s mobility for the rest of the game.

“I don’t think it was malicious at all,“ Mariota said.

But for Vernon, reckless plays have become a real problem. His late-hit against the Jaguars helped set up Jacksonville’s game-winning field goal in Week 2.

When asked whether he had an issue with either of Sunday’s flags, Vernon responded: “I know I’m not no dirty player, so I’m not going to say anything on that.”

Successful challenge

Dan Campbell’s first big decision as a head coach was to challenge a fumble by Mariota that was initially ruled an incompletion. Mariota released the ball after being hit by Cameron Wake; Campbell believed the ball was out before Mariota’s arm moved forward, which would make it a fumble.

After a review, the officials agreed with the rookie coach and awarded the Dolphins the football.

“That was a heck of a job of Marwan [Maalouf] in the booth,” Campbell said, praising his assistant special teams coach. “Right when they replayed it he said to me, ‘Hey, that’s clearly a fumble and it is a clean recovery.’ ”

Odds and ends

▪ Dolphins inactives: CB Tony Lippett, S Jonathan Dowling, LB Chris McCain, C Sam Brenner, OL Jeff Linkenbach and DT A.J. Francis (back).

▪ Dion Sims, playing for the first time since sustaining a concussion in the season opener, caught four passes for 33 yards. That included a 2-yard touchdown reception midway through the fourth quarter that put the game away.

▪ The Dolphins shuffled their secondary Sunday, particularly after Brice McCain left with a knee injury. Jamar Taylor — who recovered a fumble — worked as the base corner with McCain out, and Bobby McCain manned the slot. Meanwhile, Michael Thomas started over Walt Aikens at safety and played extensively.

▪ With Raheem Mostert no longer on the team, Damien Williams handled kickoff return duties Sunday. Williams averaged 22.5 yards per return against the Titans.

▪ Lamar Miller’s 99 first-half rushing yards were the most by a Dolphins back before halftime in 13 years.

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley

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