Barry Jackson

Dolphins’ highest-rated defensive player still lags in snaps. And 10 players now injured

Raekwon McMillan is rated the NFL’s second-best linebacker this season according to one popular metrics site. But with the Dolphins, he doesn’t even rank among the top two linebackers for playing time.

So far this season, Jerome Baker has played 145 snaps, Sam Eguavoen 131 and McMillan 83. The Dolphins didn’t play McMillan a lot in the opener partly because he missed preseason with an injury.

But even since then, he continues to lag behind Baker and Eguavoen in snaps, a function of Miami clearly having a stronger comfort level in Baker’s and Eguavoen’s ability in pass coverage, despite the fact McMillan is best against the run among the three.

At some point, will the Dolphins give McMillan an extended shot to show that he has improved in pass coverage?

“If I knew every time it was going to be a run or every time it was going to be a pass, I’d be a much better coach,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores cracked. “Ultimately, the reps that Raekwon gets, he’s going to be in there for some pass plays, so I think that kind of takes care of itself.

“I think he’s done a good job with those reps in the pass game. That’s the kind of body of work we go off of. He has shown a lot of improvement. Obviously he was dinged up during training camp and has kind of come on these last few weeks. Every guy on this team is going to earn their reps.”

But the Dolphins have clearly avoided trying to put him in pass coverage as much as the previous staff did. Only one pass has been thrown in his coverage area all season, and that pass was caught for eight yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

Last season, McMillan allowed 36 of 41 passes thrown in his coverage area to be caught for 368 yards; his 143.6 passer rating against was second-worst among NFL linebackers and his six touchdowns allowed through the air were second most, behind only Tahair Whitehead.

But McMillan said he believe he’s better in that area, partly because he’s “a little more agile” after dropping from 245 pounds to 238 pounds now, but also because he’s “smarter” in terms of “knowing what running backs are in the game, what they like to do, being smarter. I practice it all the time. If my coach feels like I can be out there,he will put me out there. He’s not going to put me in any position I will mess up.”

McMillan played a lot on the edge in Miami’s second game against the Patriots (which he said was new for him) but more in the middle of the field against the Cowboys and Chargers.

PFF, incidentally, ranks McMillan behind only New England’s Jamie Collins among all linebackers for performance this season, and fourth among linebackers against the run.

As for Eguavoen, he has started all four games and has 17 tackles, one tackle for loss and half a sack. Pro Football Focus rates him 71st of 79 qualifying linebackers. The Dolphins’ Jerome Baker is rated 75th. “I’ve made a couple of splash plays, but when it’s a bad play, it’s bad, bad,” Eguavoen said.

INJURY UPDATE

Even after a bye week, 10 Dolphins were listed as limited in practice because of injuries: offensive lineman Jesse Davis (elbow), receivers Albert Wilson (calf) and Jakeem Grant (hamstring); cornerbacks Xavien Howard (knee) and Chirs Lammons (toe) and Jomal Wiltz (groin), safety Reshad Jones (ankle), running back Mark Walton (illness) linebacker Trent Harris (foot) and safety Bobby McCain (hamstring, shoulder). But Wilson and McCain said they’re healthy and ready to play Sunday against Washington.

No Dolphin missed practice altogether.

J’Marcus Webb, who moved from right tackle to left tackle to replace injured Davis against the Chargers, said he has remained at left tackle in practice this week. Davis said he has worked at both left tackle and right tackle this week and is comfortable at either. Rookie Isaiah Prince has worked some on the scout team this week but also has taken some team drills.

Flores indicated the results have been mixed with cornerback Eric Rowe.

“His communication is good, his tackling has been good.,” Flores said. “He has to do a better job more consistently from a coverage standpoint. That’s technique at the line of scrimmage, top of the route. We’ve got to rush the passer a little better, have a little better disguise. Eric is a professional. He’s working on things he’s struggling with.”

Flores said the Dolphins “have considered lineup changes across the board” but declined to saying which might become reality. He said quarterback has been “settled,” with Josh Rosen remaining the starter.

According to NFL Network, Case Keenum is expected to start for the Washington Redskins on Sunday against the Dolphins. Interim coach Bill Callahan declined to say who would start among Keenum, Colt McCoy and rookie Dwayne Haskins.

According to AP, 403 touchdowns have been scored in the NFL this season. Miami has two (receptions by Preston Williams and DeVante Parker).

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