Barry Jackson

Dolphins ready to welcome back handful of first-round picks. And a Tannehill update

Miami Dolphins Ja’Wuan James says it’s day by day.

Miami Dolphins tackle Ja'Wuan James talks to the media after practice at their facility in Davie on Wednesday, November 21, 2018 in preparation for their game against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN.
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Miami Dolphins tackle Ja'Wuan James talks to the media after practice at their facility in Davie on Wednesday, November 21, 2018 in preparation for their game against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN.

The Dolphins are expected to reintegrate four of their first-round draft picks back into their lineup on Sunday at Indianapolis, while a fifth (DeVante Parker) said it’s not yet clear if he will be ready.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who will start Sunday after missing five games with a shoulder injury, practiced on a limited basis for a second day in a row - by design - and has looked good throwing, according to receivers Kenny Stills and Leonte Carroo.

“He was good,” coach Adam Gase said of Thursday’s practice session.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins also are expecting offensive tackles Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James to return Sunday, barring a setback, after missing the Green Bay game with knee injuries. Both were limited in practice, but Tunsil said he will play Sunday. James was non-committal but said: “I’m better than last week.”

Meanwhile, defensive end Charles Harris, who has missed four games with a calf injury, also practiced without limitations. Harris has a lot to prove; he has 11 tackles and no sacks in five games this season and has just two sacks in 21 NFL games.

“I’m blessed to be back,” he said. “I feel better now than I ever have.”

Though he injured his calf on the final play of a mid-October practice, he said: “I don’t believe in [bad] luck. Everything happens by design.”

Miami Dolphins wide receiver talks to the media after practice at their facility in Davie on Tuesday, November 20, 2018 in preparation for their game against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN.

Defensive coordinator Matt Burke said Harris has looked good in practice. “He’s looked explosive,” Burke said. “He did a good job putting some strength and some weight on. [In his career], he’s had up and down moments.”

Parker, who has a sprained AC joint in his shoulder, practiced with a red non-contact jersey and said it’s “hard to say” if he will play Sunday. “We’re taking it slow; we’ll see how it feels,” he said.

As for Tannehill, he didn’t take all the first team reps but didn’t have a setback.

Carroo said the pop on his passes is the same as it was before his shoulder injury and that he’s throwing deep in practice. “He looks great; I haven’t noticed a change,” Carroo said.

In other injury news: Running back Kenyan Drake was limited with a shoulder injury; he played through pain after sustaining the injury in the Green Bay game. Tight end A.J. Derby (foot/knee), safety T.J. McDonald (knee) and guard Ted Larsen (neck) were limited, too… Cornerback Bobby McCain was removed from concussion protocol and is expected to play Sunday.

THIS AND THAT

Perhaps Tannehill’s return will help receiver Kenny Stills.

Stills has been thrown just 33 passes, tied for 122nd in the league. He has caught 19 of those passes for 326 yards (a 17.4 average) and four touchdowns, with five catches of 20 yards or more.

By contrast, Stills was tied with the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski for 29th in the league in targets last season with 106. He caught 58 of those for 847 yards, a 14.6 average, with six touchdowns and 14 receptions of 20 yards or more.

“Nothing productive comes out of me complaining about targets, catches, balls,” Stills said Wednesday. “As long as we’re winning, I’m happy. If we’re not winning, I’ve got to figure out ways to help the team win.”

Stills missed one game with a groin injury but said that hasn’t been affecting him.

After the first week of the season, Stills was tied with Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown for most touchdowns (13) on passes thrown at least 20 yards downfield since the start of the 2016 season. Stills caught a 34-yard TD from Tannehill in the third game of the season against Oakland but only has one TD catch since (for five yards).

“Those guys always seem to find a way to hook up down the field,” Gase said of Tannehill said Stills. “We’ll see how it plays out.”

With Jakeem Grant out for the year, Danny Amendola will become the punt returner.

Special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi said six players have been considered this week for kickoff returns: Sinorise Perry, Kalen Ballage, Drake, Brandon Bolden, Carroo and Stills.

Playing time at tight end has been more unpredictable than any other position, with Nick O’Leary, Derby and Mike Gesicki all getting the most snaps certain weeks this season. Derby had the most snaps among the tight ends against Green Bay.

“Some of it is situational, trying to make sure we keep run/pass pretty even,” Gase said. “We have different packages for different guys. Some games, one guy’s package might be called more.”

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