The Miami Dolphins have gotten off to a very positive start to the season, having beaten the revamped New England Patriots in Week 1 and ruining Mac Jones’ rookie debut.
The Dolphins eked out a win by the slimmest margin, beating the Pats 17-16, with Xavien Howard forcing a turnover to preserve a precious lead.
“Every game I feel like I have to make something happen for the team and give the ball to the offense. My mindset was get the ball out,” Howard said after the game. “We needed it and it was crucial. So I made it happen.”
Howard led the NFL in forced turnovers last season and wasted no time enhancing his reputation as a threat in the defense.
The Dolphins will play their first game at home against the Buffalo Bills next Sunday and are not favored to win. The NFL lines have them at 7/5 for a victory while the opposition, one of the Super Bowl favorites, have been attached to odds of 5/8.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins will be hoping to get maximum output from Will Fuller when he returns. The wide receiver has seen his career stunted by injuries, with various issues causing him to miss spans and also bringing an end to his campaigns prematurely.
The player is reported to have an undisclosed injury which could fashion another slow start to 2021. Fuller served out the last match of his six-game suspension for the use of performance-enhancing drugs when his team beat New England and he is eligible to play in the remaining 16 games of the season. However, coach Brian Flores is cautious over playing the WR who has caught 209 passes for 3,110 yards along with 24 touchdowns since he came into the league as a first-round pick five years ago.
Flores has noted that the player has been out from most practices since training camp began in July. He also worked out on his own during OTAs in the spring and it could possibly lead to chemistry issues between himself and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who has struggled with his own form at times.
“We’ll work him in and see how best to utilize him in the offense and see how things go during practice this week,” the coach said on Monday. “We have a lot of guys in that room.”
Flores seemed to suggest that Fuller wouldn’t simply usurp Jaylen Waddle, DeVante Parker and Albert Wilson in the offense.
The aforementioned receivers were played quite heavily against the Patriots and they have all spent time working on their chemistry with Tagovaiola over the summer. Miami passed for a total of 202 yards in the first game of the season.
“We have an idea of where we want to play him. But at practice we got to get timing,” Flores added. “It’s not putting people on a page as far as drawing something up. Getting timing with the quarterback, getting timing with the run game. You have to practice.”
Fuller did practice for two weeks before he had to take time away from the team due to the suspension he earned for taking a banned supplement while he was on the Houston Texans roster last year.
The Dolphins signed him to a one-year deal worth $10.5 million, plus incentives that should add on another $3 million. He joined the team as its biggest summer acquisition and Flores will hope he can give them the same playmaking and athleticism he gave the Texans whenever he was healthy.
Parker has gone through similar struggles with fitness and missed most of training camp, as well as pre-season, because of a shoulder injury. He has gotten off to a great start this term, however, making four catches for 81 yards against the Pats. Waddle, the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft, also caught four passes, resulting in 61 yards.
None of the team’s other receivers had a reception during the game, though.
As for Fuller, it remains to be seen whether he will be allowed any action in the Dolphins’ home opener against the Bills and it will also be interesting to see if he has an immediate impact should he play in the team’s second game of the season.
The Dolphins would have to make room on the 53-man squad by either waiving a player and possibly signing him to the practice squad, putting an injured player on the injured reserve, or keep Adam Shaheen remain on the COVID-19 reserve list for an additional week. They announced having cut fullback Carl Tucker from the practice squad on Monday.
Shaheen, though, was dealing with a knee injury that would have kept him out for a few weeks anyway. Using his roster spot does seem like the option that makes the most sense.