Barry Jackson

Jenkins’ issues becoming a problem; Plan for Xavien Howard; Dolphins notes

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph works with the defense at the Miami Dolphins training facility in Davie, Florida, Aug. 5, 2016.
Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph works with the defense at the Miami Dolphins training facility in Davie, Florida, Aug. 5, 2016. ctrainorjr@miamiherald.com

A six-pack of Dolphins notes on a Thursday:

• The Dolphins have needed to go significant stretches of the season without four starters on defense: Reshad Jones (played in six games, out for the year), Koa Misi (played in three games, out for the year), Xavien Howard (played in four games) and linebacker Jelani Jenkins (played 8 of 12).

And Jenkins’ myriad injuries have grown increasingly problematic, the Dolphins said Thursday.

“It’s tough for all of us because he’s a starter for us and he hasn’t been able to play consistently,” defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said. “After a while, it becomes an issue…. When you do have him, he’s half of what he is. Until he becomes healthy, we can’t [play] with him.”

Jenkins didn’t practice Wednesday because of hand and knee injuries. His status for Sunday is in doubt.

As for Howard, Joseph said the rookie cornerback would know after Thursday’s practice whether he will be able to play Sunday. He has missed eight games after knee surgery.

But Joseph said he will be incorporated “slowly.” He’s not coming back as a starter.

“When he’s back, we work him in slowly,” Joseph said. “Right now, he’s practicd two weeks. It’s on him how he feels. When he says he’s ready to go, we will put him out there. After practice today, hopefully he says he’s ready to go. Once he’s ready to play, we’re going to play him.”

Andre Branch, Miami Dolphins DE, says they failed to stop the Baltimore Ravens in their victory over the Fins on Dec. 4, 2016.

A fifth starter, Kiko Alonso, is also in doubt for Sunday because of a hamstring injury. Neither Alonso nor Jenkins practiced in the portion of Thursday’s session that was open to reporters.

• Joseph obviously wasn’t happy about Sunday’s defensive performance in the 38-6 loss to Baltimore; he said the coverages in place were sound but weren’t executed correctly:

“We expect those guys to go in and do their jobs. We had some good defenses called. We just didn’t play them well.”

He also said the Dolphins expected more deep throws, because the Ravens had done that a lot before shifting strategy Sunday. And now the concern is that Arizona also might change its approach, as Baltimore did.

The Cardinals “have the second most deep balls in the league behind Baltimore going into the game,” Joseph said. “We have to make adjustments from my side and the player’s side.”

• CBS’ Rich Gannon said during Sunday’s broadcast that Dolphins linebackers are a liability in pass coverage. Does Joseph agree that’s a problem?

“It has not been in my opinion,” he said. “It hasn’t been a problem in the past. Obviously it was on Sunday.”

• Offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said he and play-caller/head coach Adam Gase like to weave in a play or two that the team hasn’t shown on tape.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill talks about the team's loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Dec. 4, 2016.

Sunday’s such play – a handoff to Jarvis Landry out of the backfield with Jakeem Grant in motion – didn’t work.

“We want to weave in the ones that work,” Christensen said, smiling. “He will weave in a couple more positive ones. Everyone has a lot of tape on you. You want to give them a little changeup. You want to give them a a different formation and changing things up. Adam does a great job at that. I am more on the conservative side. He usually wins. It’s always some fun and good and lively conversations. He’s a creative guy. I’m the opposite of creative.

“What is that? Boring. That’s why you love to have good coaches; it’s lonely. You are dying for a new idea. There aren’t that many new ideas.”

• One positive offensively is how Dion Sims has been playing.

“Dion Sims is playing extremely well,” Christensen said. “We’ve used him inside a lot. The tight end position has played as consistent as anyone. He’s a good physical presence. Those guys are hard that can hold up against defensive ends – he’s been an important guy. He’s really had a nice year,… played at a high level.”

• Jakeem Grant hasn’t had a punt return since he fumbled one against San Francisco, but special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi insists he will use him some as a punt return in the weeks ahead, as part of a situational substitution with Jarvis Landry.

“Still a two-headed monster,” Rizzi said.

What about Kenyan Drake as an option? He returned only one punt at Alabama (for 19 yards), and Rizzi said the Dolphins have given him a look in practice as a punt returner.

“He is kind of our third guy [on punts] if we got down that far,” Rizzi said. “Hopefully we won’t. There are a lot of things Kenyan Drake can do. Work in progress.”

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