The Dolphins moved on without guard Josh Sitton on Friday, making several decisions and announcements after learning the four-time Pro Bowler would miss the season with a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder.
The Friday fallout:
▪ The Dolphins placed Sitton on injured reserve but decided not to fill his spot on the 53-man roster, for now.
Miami wants to consider roster options beyond simply promoting an offensive lineman (Isaac Asiata or Connor Hilland) from the practice squad.
Nevertheless, Gase said the team would not seek a veteran replacement from outside. “We are not going to be looking anywhere,” Gase said. “I like our group.”
▪ As expected, Ted Larsen will become the starter at left guard, with Jesse Davis remaining the starting right guard.
Newly signed center Travis Swanson, who has five games of NFL guard experience, will become the top backup interior lineman.
Gase said he’s pleased to have Larsen, who has started 73 regular-season games in eight-plus seasons, including all eight in which he appeared for the Dolphins last season.
Gase had informed Larsen in the spring that the team would go with Davis as the other starter at guard, opposite Sitton.
“He wanted to compete for the spot, which is fair,” Gase said. “I understand that, especially going into your ninth season. He did a great job of stepping in with that second group, playing multiple spots. Now it’s come about to where he has to step in and be a starter for us. It feels good to have a guy who at least has started 76 games, including playoffs in his career. Ted’s a pro.”
Larsen downplayed any notion that continuity on the line is severely hurt.
“I think the continuity, maybe that’s a little overblown,” he said. “Guys get hurt all the time. On any offensive line, there’s going to be backups playing. I think you kind of have to go into the year with six or seven or eight guys that are all tight, that can play together and interchange with each other.”
▪ Gase said Sitton is expected to make a full recovery and be back on the team next year, which is the final year of a two-year contract. For 2019, he’s due to make $4.95 million in base salary with a $2 million roster bonus and a $7 million cap hit.
“After a lot of discussions with him and everybody in the organization, we realized the best option was for him to have surgery and not try to risk anything to prevent him from ever playing again,” Gase said.
▪ Left tackle Laremy Tunsil said Sitton was clearly upset about the injury. Sitton wasn’t made available for comment Friday.
“Josh is taking it pretty hard,” Tunsil said. “He feels like he let us down. We keep letting him know he didn’t and hopefully he has a successful surgery.”
▪ Asked if he’s taking this even harder than most injuries because Sitton was such a vital component of the offensive line and the team’s offseason blueprint, Gase said: “Anytime you lose a guy that’s been all in, it’s tough for [everyone]. You look at it for that guy. All of us might be doing our jobs for a long time until we’re 50, 60, 70 years old where these guys have a very short window. They lose a season that’s a lot of years for a normal job. He’s put so much into this year and put so much into what we’re doing as a team [that] I probably feel worse for him than for us.”
▪ Even though Sitton has been with the team a bit more than six months and played in only regular-season game, Gase said his impact was felt.
“I see his attitude and the way his presence helped that o-line room.,” Gase said “Him and [center Daniel] Kilgore did a great job of kind of being two new faces, becoming leaders. Josh is a leader in his own way. He’s not much of a talker. When he speaks, guys listen. He was a positive influence on [Tunsil], and he will be going forward.”
THIS AND THAT
The Dolphins listed three players as questionable for the Jets game: receiver DeVante Parker (finger), defensive lineman William Hayes (finger) and long-snapper John Denney (shoulder).
Parker has said he’s fine and is able to play. “He’s not having any issues catching the ball,” Gase said.
Gase said Wednesday that Denney will be available this week. And the Dolphins have downplayed Hayes’ injury.
▪ Third-round pick Jerome Baker said linebacker coach Frank Bush gave him “harsh” grades for his first game, but he’s good with that.
“Expectations are so high for me, but I want that,” he said, noting that even if he made a tackle, he was graded down if it wasn’t exactly how the team wanted.
“I love being a rookie,” he said. “They are counting on me. Today, someone said, ‘Bake, we need you this week. I want them to look behind and know they can trust me.”
He said before last Sunday’s game, Andre Branch told him, “we’re not cool until you make your first official tackle.” They embraced
after Baker did.
▪ According to 3YardsPerCarry podcaster Chris Kouffman, the Dolphins averaged 5.5 yards per rush on plays run out of the no huddle (8 for 44) and Ryan Tannehill was 8 for 10 for 139 yards, with one touchdown and one interception, on passes run out of the no huddle.
The flip side of the no huddle: It can lead to mistakes at times. Tunsil was called for two penalties when the Dolphins were operating out of the no-huddle –a false start and a holding penalty. Tunsil ranks in the top three of most penalties committed by an offensive lineman since the start of the 2017 season.
So will the Dolphins use more no huddle?
“It’s just kind of how the flow of the game is going,” Gase said. “We still didn’t have as many plays as we were looking for. It’s a good start for us with really the conditions we were playing in. I felt like we were getting going and then we head a stoppage and kind of reset everything. Then they had a couple of good series and we got a couple going there. We’ll see how it goes this week. Being on the road, that will be a good test for us to see where we’re at.”
Here are my Friday Heat notes, including the latest on uncertainty at shooting guard, free agent options if Dwyane Wade doesn’t play, a young Heat player impressing and how Heat players did last week against Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving.