Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase understands that going to Gillette Stadium to play the Patriots is loud and dangerous.
Barring a setback, the Dolphins will get their Pro Bowl safety back Sunday against New England.
Reshad Jones, who missed the Oakland game with a shoulder injury and was limited in Wednesday’s practice, participated fully in Thursday’s session and is in line to play against the Patriots.
The Dolphins’ pass defense, without Jones, had several breakdowns early in the Oakland game.
Jones, who had two interceptions in the opener, has covered Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski at times in the past and likely will be among several drawing that assignment Sunday.
Meanwhile, defensive end Cameron Wake returned to practice after skipping Wednesday’s session with a knee injury.
So every Dolphins defensive starter should be available for Sunday’s game.
But tight end A.J. Derby (foot) and linebacker Chase Allen (foot) both missed practice, leaving their status very much in doubt for Sunday. Defensive end Andre Branch (knee) was the only other player to miss practice and is expected to be out two to four weeks.
THIS AND THAT
Why did the Dolphins promote Jonathan Woodard from the practice squad to be their fourth defensive end instead of signing one of the two veterans who auditioned Tuesday (Robert Ayers or Kony Ealy)?
“I thought he had a very successful preseason, had some production,” defensive coordinator Matt Burke said. “We felt he had familiarity with the system. Since he’s been in the building, he’s done everything right. He’s earned that opportunity to have a shot.”
Also, Burke said coach Adam Gase believes that players on the practice squad are ”not here [merely] to practice,” but to be groomed for the 53 if needed.
And the Dolphins like Woodard’s size (6-6, 271), Burke said.
▪ New linebacker Martrell Spaight, who was released by the Redskins earlier this month after three seasons there and signed with Miami on Monday, offered this self-assessment: “I pride myself on getting to the football. Big-run stuffer. If the opponent gets 5 yards, I feel it’s my fault.”
He was a 3-4 inside linebacker in Washington but said he’s comfortable in the Dolphins’ 4-3 defense, and Miami has him playing both middle and strong-side linebacker.
“The coverages that they run here are pretty similar to back in Washington,” he said.
Burke said: “We like his physical play. He’s had a lot of tackles the last couple of years.”
With Allen injured, the Dolphins’ No. 4 linebacker Sunday is expected to be Stephone Anthony, who struggled in preseason and played his first three defensive snaps of the season on Sunday.
▪ Linebacker Kiko Alonso, whose 34 tackles are second most in the league, is “covering a lot of ground, going sideline to sideline, getting to the ball a lot,” Burke said. “I am not sure he was as comfortable in big picture thing [last season]. He was flopping positions, dealing with residual injuries from the hand thing from the year before. A lot of that stuff he put behind him. He’s probably a little bit healthier coming into it.”
Burke said Alonso “seems goofy and aloof. But he’s really smart. He’s a committed preparer. He watches more film than anybody on our defense.”
▪ Though rookie defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick has played well overall, he missed three tackles against the Raiders, and the Dolphins want that corrected. How hard has the diligent Fitzpatrick been on himself?
“He’s not as hard on himself as I am on him,” Burke said. “He’s got to wrap up better. Couple times, he was trying to cut the tackle and throw his shoulder in there and he can’t do that. Overall, it’s going to lead to more missed tackles. He took a bad angle on one of them.
“We are asking him to do a lot, especially with Reshad being down last week. We are putting a lot on him. He has shown a pretty good capacity to handle it. There’s some stuff he hasn’t seen. He’s a guy that’s very correctable on the sideline. As we keep giving him reps, hopefully [the missed tackles] go down.”
▪ Special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi said he has picked Dolphins and former Patriots special teams ace Brandon Bolden’s “brain about some [New England] players and personnel.” But Rizzi said he didn’t ask him about the Patriots’ schemes because that “stuff is very easy to change.”