Dolphins coaches are happy with Jaelan Phillips’ play through four games

He’s had a slow start to the season, statistically.

In 2021, Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Jaelan Phillips set a franchise record for sacks by a rookie (8.5), surpassing Bill Stanfill, who recorded eight in 1969.

Phillips’ second season, however, has started off a bit slow. Through four games, the former Hurricane has recorded just six tackles, two quarterback hits, one sack and one fumble recovery.

Despite the lack of production, Miami’s defensive coaches are pleased with the work that Phillips has given them to this point.

“Every down or every week, it’s going to be different,” said defensive line coach Austin Clark. “And I think what Jaelen does a good job of is buying in and really feeding on the role that’s given to him each week. In that game, that was his job. He finished a play and was able to get him a sack, so we’re definitely excited for him for that.”

Phillips told the media this offseason that he wanted to improve his play against the run, and he’s done just that. Pro Football Focus has improved his run defense grade from 44.8 last year to 59.6 in 2022.

“I mean, you guys watched the tape,” linebacker coach Ty McKenzie stated. “It’s been pretty impressive. He’s been setting the edge, he’s been using his length, knock-back on those guys. We want to set the edge in the backfield, not on the side of the defensive line of scrimmage. He’s doing a great job and he’s improving. He’s accountable and we can use him in many different ways for our defense, depending on what we got that week for our scheme.”

PFF also believes that Phillips has improved as a pass rusher, jumping from 61.3 to 70.3 with his best game of the season being the last (78.3). According to ESPN, the only players with a higher pass rush win rate on the edge than Phillips are Nick Bosa, Myles Garrett, Micah Parsons and Von Miller.

Phillips is in elite company when it comes to his success in that area, but unfortunately, pressure doesn’t always equate to sacks. However, this should balance out at some point in the season.

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Dolphins try out two defensive players on Thursday

One spent time with Miami this offseason.

The Miami Dolphins are dealing with a number of injuries to their defense with players like Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Keion Crossen, Raekwon Davis, Zach Sieler and Brandon Jones all dealing with something that has impacted their practice participation this week.

With all these questions, the Dolphins have looked at some potential options for the practice squad or active roster, as they tried out defensive back Tino Ellis and defensive lineman Jaylen Twyman.

Ellis spent part of this offseason with Miami before he was waived with an injury designation following the preseason matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After reverting to injured reserve, Miami and Ellis agreed to an injury settlement, allowing the defensive back to hit the market again. His knowledge of the system could make for an easy transition if he were to come back.

Twyman was a sixth-round selection of the Minnesota Vikings in 2021 after a collegiate career at Pittsburgh that saw him earn First-team All-ACC honors once. He spent all of his rookie season on injured reserve and started this year on Minnesota’s practice squad.

Hopefully, Miami won’t need to start looking around at free agents to fill holes due to injuries, but they’re doing due diligence for now.

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Dolphins injury report: Two new players pop up on Thursday

Who didn’t practice on Thursday?

On Thursday, the Miami Dolphins held another practice in anticipation of their Sunday afternoon meeting with the New York Jets.

Six players didn’t participate in the practice, including quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (concussion/back/ankle), offensive tackle Terron Armstead (toe), tight end Cethan Carter (concussion), cornerback Xavien Howard (groins), offensive lineman Robert Jones (back) and cornerback Keion Crossen (glute/shoulder).

Wide receiver Jaylen Waddle (groin) was upgraded to limited on Thursday, joining safety Brandon Jones (chest), defensive lineman Zach Sieler (hand), running back Salvon Ahmed (back) and wide receiver Tyreek Hill (quad).

Hill and Ahmed are new additions to the injury report.

Full participants included tight end Tanner Conner (knee), defensive lineman Raekwon Davis (knee), linebacker Trey Flowers (knee), offensive tackle Greg Little (finger), wide receiver Cedrick Wilson Jr. (ribs/toe) and tight end Hunter Long (ankle).

Linebackers Jerome Baker and Melvin Ingram, who both received veteran rest days to start the week, were remover completely.

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Dolphins TE coach Jon Embree addresses Mike Gesicki’s usage

The coach is nothing if not honest.

Four weeks into the 2022 campaign, Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki isn’t exactly being used like a player who received the $10.9 million franchise tag this offseason.

Last season, he played a career-high 72% of Miami’s offensive snap, and that has dropped to 48% in Mike McDaniel’s system. On the other hand, Durham Smythe, who’s viewed as the better blocker of the two, has dropped just slightly from 62% to 61%.

On Thursday, tight ends coach Jon Embree, who also doubles as the team’s assistant head coach, spoke to the media about the division of opportunities for the tight ends.

“It’s just more of trying to get guys to fit their skill sets,” Embree said (transcribed by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel). “We’re not going to ask Mike to block power. When we’re doing some of the heavy running stuff, that’s obviously going to be Durham.

“It’s just more of a flow of what we’re trying to get accomplished or what’s going on, as far as scheme for that week. Durham gives us a little more in the run game, and we want to be a run-first team.”

The team’s not upset with Gesicki’s performance thus far. He’s recorded eight receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown while doing everything that he’s asked.

“I feel like we’re getting what we need out of him and what he’s capable of,” Embree said.

With Tua Tagovailoa out with no timeline for a return, Gesicki’s presence in this offense may be much more important going forward.

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Statistical Breakdown: How the Dolphins and Jets stack up before Week 5

How have these teams fared through four weeks?

The Miami Dolphins are hitting the road again to take on the New York Jets on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, as Mike McDaniel’s team looks to improve their record to 4-1.

Miami is entering this matchup having lost their quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, and their first game of the 2022 campaign against the Cincinnati Bengals, leaving Teddy Bridgewater as the leader of the offense.

On the other side, Zach Wilson has returned for the Jets and helped them earn a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 4. There’s talent there for Robert Saleh to work with, but they just need to put it together and prove that they’re a team headed in the right direction.

Here’s how the Dolphins and Jets stack up statistically going into Sunday:

Dolphins DB Clayton Fejedelem designated to return

He’s the first of eight returns that can be used in the season.

Right before the start of the season, safety and special teamer Clayton Fejedelem was placed on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury, meaning he would miss at least four weeks.

The team used his roster spot to bring in Justin Bethel, who has looked really good in his opportunities on punt coverage.

On Wednesday, Miami designated Fejedelem to return from injured reserve. He’ll have 21 days to be activated from the roster, or he’ll have to miss the remainder of the season.

As of this year, teams are only allowed to return eight players from injured reserve in a season, so this would be their first. If Fejedelem doesn’t return in the 21-day window, Miami would still have burned one of their returns.

It will be interesting to see the corresponding move if Fejedelem is activated because there’s not an open roster spot at this point.

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Interesting nuggets from Teddy Bridgewater’s first press conference as Dolphins starter

This isn’t a new situation for the veteran.

Having been named the Miami Dolphins Week 5 starting quarterback heading into a road game against the New York Jets, Teddy Bridgewater met with South Florida media Wednesday morning.

Bridgewater, who’s a hometown Miami-raised product, was all smiles talking about the opportunity he has, especially when talking about the trials and tribulations he’s had on the injury front during his career.

“I just take it one day at a time. Because at the end of the day, I look at all this as a blessing,” he told reporters.

Bridgewater, who was nearly out of football following a devastating knee injury while a Minnesota Viking, had a remarkable comeback, which ironically started as a member of the Jets practice squad in 2018.

“The year I spent OTAs and training camp with the Jets. I look at it as they helped save my career,” Bridgewater said.

It was a former Dolphins interim head coach who helped him back in New York.

“When I signed with the Jets, it really was like on a tryout basis almost with Todd Bowles, the head coach, and ‘J Mel’ (John Mellody) the trainer, he helped me get back to my old self health-wise,” Bridgewater described.

He then went on to praise Bowles saying, “his charisma and his energy helped me just continue to get that confidence back for myself. Then when they traded me, it was like everything happens for a reason.”

A 2014 first-round pick with Minnesota, Bridgewater was named to the Pro Bowl in 2015. Following his 2016 injury and comeback with the Jets, Bridgewater ended up as a backup to Drew Brees in New Orleans for the Saints in 2018. In 2019, Bridgewater went 5-0 for the Saints in Brees’ absence from injury.

Bridgewater even referenced his former teammate when asked about being a seasoned backup, and now getting a start opportunity.

“Honestly, just be yourself,” he said confidently. “I can’t be Tua (Tagovailoa). I had to learn a lesson when I was in New Orleans. I couldn’t be Drew Brees.”

In his career, Bridgewater is 33-30 across his four previous stops and enters his first start for the Dolphins. He’s the 24th quarterback to start for Miami since Dan Marino retired following the 1999 season.

As for this week and looking towards the Jets, Bridgewater is 2-0 in his career against New York. In those games, he’s totaled 544 yards and a pair of touchdowns with a passer rating of 111.4 and a 73.08% completion percentage. It’s also to be noted that he has the highest yards per attempt mark at 10.46 as well as adjusted yards per attempt (10.37) in his career against the Jets.

Last season, he led the Denver Broncos to a shutout win over New York, 26-0. He went 19-25 for 235 with a passer rating of 104.6 and also rushed four times for 24 yards. Bridgewater started 14 games for the Broncos, completing 285-of-426 passes (66.9 pct.) for 3,052 yards and 18 touchdowns. His 94.9 passer rating was 12th in the NFL last season.

The smile on his face grew when he mentioned that he played little league football five minutes down the road from where he’s practicing as a pro. He said the community is excited, as is he, for him getting the start for his hometown Dolphins.

“It’s a huge blessing to be able to just suit up in my hometown. I played little league football five minutes down the road at Bunche Park,” he happily told media members. “If I go to the Northwestern game on Friday night, everybody will be excited.”

Bridgewater has seen some great support locally, saying, “I really appreciate that from my community and my people. I know they’re excited that I get this opportunity. I’m looking forward to it.”

Clearly, Bridgewater has the experience and confidence to carry Miami through this temporary storm of uncertainty with Tagovailoa.

He has the traits to get a win, or multiple if needed, and as he describes, “as long as I continue to be myself, the guys realize this guy isn’t faking. He’s not trying to be something he’s not.

“It’s like it’s a sense of relief. Like okay, we know we’re getting the real version of him. He’s not trying to be something he’s not. That’s just my approach every day.”

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Dolphins injury report: 17 players listed ahead of Jets game

Who didn’t practice on Wednesday?

After a hard-fought Thursday night contest against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Miami Dolphins are preparing for a Sunday night matchup with the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.

Miami listed 17 players on their first injury report of the week.

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (concussion/back/ankle), cornerback Xavien Howard (groins), offensive tackle Terron Armstead (toe), Melvin Ingram (veteran rest), cornerback Keion Crossen (glute/shoulder), offensive lineman Robert Jones (back), tight end Cethan Carter (concussion) and wide receiver Jaylen Waddle (groin) all didn’t participate on Wednesday.

Three players were limited – linebacker Jerome Baker (veteran rest), safety Brandon Jones (chest) and defensive lineman Zach Sieler (hand).

Tight end Tanner Connor (knee), defensive tackle Raekwon Davis (knee), linebacker Trey Flowers (knee), offensive tackle Greg Little (finger), tight end Hunter Long (ankle) and wide receiver Cedrick Wilson Jr. (ribs/toe) were all full participants.

Obviously, some of these injuries are a bit more concerning, as Miami will be without Tagovailoa for this game against the Jets. The team would much better-suited for a victory if most of the cast surrounding Teddy Bridgewater is healthy.

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49ers-funded political ads take shots at Dolphins owner Stephen Ross

Jed York and Stephen Ross are using their wealth to fund a political race in Santa Clara.

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has been keeping busy during his suspension that’s set to end in just a couple of weeks, as he’s involved in a political race in Santa Clara, California.

Ross is supporting Santa Clara mayor Lisa Gillmor’s re-election campaign, contributing $100,000 back in September, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. However, opposing Gillmor in this race is Anthony Becker, a city councilmember, who’s being backed by San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York.

The 49ers have reportedly contributed nearly tripled their original $750,000 donation back in September to the campaigns of Becker, Karen Hardy and Raj Chahal – the latter are running for city council.

Recently, Becker’s campaign has been producing ads that aim to call into question Ross’ integrity and morals. In one ad that aired during ESPN’s Monday Night Football broadcast, Ross was called “one of Donald Trump’s biggest supporters.” It also claimed that he had “shady backroom deals” with Gillmor.

With Ross and York so involved in the league’s business, there’s a good chance that they’ll be seeing each other, and things could get interesting.

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Dolphins CB Byron Jones not ready to come off PUP

Once he begins practicing, he’ll have 21 days to return to action.

The Miami Dolphins have had a majority of their defensive starters on the field through the first four weeks of the season, but cornerback Byron Jones has been noticeably absent.

Jones underwent offseason Achilles surgery which ultimately landed him on the PUP list to start the season. This meant that Jones wouldn’t play through Week 4 and would be eligible to make his debut in Sunday’s matchup with the New York Jets.

However, according to head coach Mike McDaniel, Jones isn’t ready to return to action.

“Byron will not begin the 21-day,” McDaniel said. “We’re still going to take our time with it. It’s not progressing as fast as we, obviously had hoped from the spring into the summer, but there hasn’t been a major setback or anything. We mean what we say, I won’t put a dude on the field unless he has complete stability. There’s too many other risks that can happen around other people.”

If Jones returns to practice he would have a 21-day window where he’d have to be activated, or he would be out for the season.

Miami is being extra cautious with the cornerback and making sure that he’s fully ready to go when he steps out on the field at the Baptist Health Training Complex.

For now, the Dolphins will rely on guys like Kader Kohou and Nik Needham to continue stepping up and filling that hole.

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