It’s time for Rey Maualuga.
He’s been conditioning and practicing on and off since signing Aug. 19. And, yes, he had a setback with a hamstring injury in September. But, um, how long does it take to get someone in shape?
How long does it take to get somebody on the field?
“I don’t know,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said, “he looks pretty good to me.”
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Well, if he looks good to the head coach and he’s been practicing with the first-team defense, and Mike Hull, who started at middle linebacker the first three games, is nursing a shoulder injury, then all signs are pointing to Maualuga playing on Sunday.
So, yes, it is logical to believe Rey Maualuga will make his Miami Dolphins debut against the Tennessee Titans, barring another setback in practice the next two days.
That is a welcome addition because Maualuga, 6-2 and about 260 pounds, is a downhill linebacker tackling machine. At least that’s what he’s been so far in his career. He adds a physical nature to the Dolphins defense on run downs to improve the unit in that department.
“Rey I’ve known for a long time and he’s been working hard to get back and he’s getting closer,” said defensive coordinator Matt Burke, who coached Maualuga in Cincinnati. “So when that time comes, he’s a big man. And 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.”
That’s a big deal this week because the Titans pride themselves on depending on a physical running game to drive their offense. Tennessee averages 138.8 rushing yards per game which is sixth-best in the NFL.
Despite the logic of having Maualuga and the fact all signs point to him finally playing, Burke didn’t want to go as far as Gase in suggesting he’ll play.
Burke called Maualuga’s status “a game-time decision” by Gase.
“I think he’s pretty close,” Burke said.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero