Injuries have played their role in this Miami Dolphins season. That is without doubt.
The team has nine players on the injured reserve list. Starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill has missed five starts, although he is scheduled to start against Indianapolis on Sunday. Head coach Adam Gase said he has spoken to owner Stephen Ross about the issue.
So the Dolphins must be doing something wrong.
Because plagues such as this don’t just happen, right?
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Well, actually that is not true.
The team has searched for possible reasons why it has struggled with so many injuries this season. It has researched what it could change to curb injuries. It has compared what it does compared to other teams.
And the answer?
The Dolphins play in the NFL.
And they’re getting injured at about the same rate as many other teams.
Of the 32 NFL teams, 14 teams have as many or more players on injured reserve as Miami. So the Dolphins are in the middle of the pack. The Dolphins are not seeing one particular soft tissue injury become problematic over others. Most of the injuries are not coming during practices, which can be altered and fit to limit contact.
The Dolphins, it seems, are more or less like everyone else. And they’re better off than many teams.
The Washington Redskins have 13 players on injured reserve, with starting quarterback Alex Smith a recent addition to the list.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have 12 players on injured reserve, including three tight ends and two starting offensive linemen.
The Kansas City Chiefs have 11 players on injured reserve, and that doesn’t count Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry who has not played all season because of a heel injury.
The New Orleans Saints have 10 players on injured reserve, including five pass catchers.
The New England Patriots have nine players on injured reserve, including six of their nine 2018 draft picks — with a first- and second-rounder gone for the season.
And what about the injuries the Dolphins have managed that didn’t end with players on injured reserve? The Dolphins are nowhere near the top in managing such bad injuries.
Consider for a moment that when the Colts, this week’s opponent, played at New England earlier in the season they had so many players injured they could not field a full 46-man game day roster. During that game, four more defensive players got injured and couldn’t finish.
The Colts had only 39 players available to play in the fourth quarter.
Gase joked prior to the Green Bay game that his offensive line was looking for anyone “with a pulse,” because the team was “running out of bodies.”
The Colts ran out of bodies that day.
What about the Dolphins losing their starting quarterback?
The Buffalo Bills have been without starter Josh Allen for four games.
New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold will miss his second consecutive start because he will not play against the New England Patriots on Sunday.
Smith is out. Jimmy Garoppolo is out. Joe Flacco is about to miss his second straight game with a hip injury. Marcus Mariota has been unable to finish multiple games this season and missed one start, with his status for this weekend uncertain.
The Dolphins lost left guard Josh Sitton and center Daniel Kilgore for the season? The Falcons lost both their starting guards for the season. And their two starting safeties. And their starting running back.
Earlier this season there was concern the Dolphins losing Director of Sports Performance Wayne Diesel to the San Antonio Spurs in September would cause problems for the team. Diesel oversaw all the team’s sports science initiatives and worked closely with the trainers and strength and conditioning departments.
But club sources insist Diesel’s departure has not been a burden. Multiple people from multiple departments have filled the void, and the team rejects any injuries have been a result of Diesel leaving.
So what is it?
The Dolphins did sign multiple older players in the offseason. And some — Sitton, at 32 years old, and William Hayes at 33 years old — didn’t make it past September.
But Frank Gore, 35, Cameron Wake, 36, and Danny Amendola, 33, have not been affected. So that reason currently doesn’t seem to apply.
The Dolphins have seen that most of their major injuries have happened during games.
Tannehill was injured during the Cincinnati game.
Hayes was injured during the Oakland game.
Albert Wilson was injured during the Detroit game.
So what’s the answer there? Tell Wilson not to stride hard as he’s running across the field? Tell Hayes not to try to sack the quarterback? Tell Tannehill not to throw the ball in traffic?
The truth is the team has indeed studied whether those circumstances were avoidable because, as one source put it, “we do it trying to see if it’s something we are or aren’t doing, we don’t just shrug our shoulders and say that [stinks].”
Well, it does stink.
But the Dolphins are no different than at least half the NFL in that managing injuries has become a key part of the season.