As the regular season opener approaches, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel may indeed be willing to use some of his best offensive and defensive players in the game. return match.
“Special teams play, they keep yards and runs and can change the game as much as any offensive and defensive game,” McDaniel said Wednesday, as it remains a mystery who will actually handle those kick returns. and punts in Sunday’s opener against the New England Patriots.
“That being said, the plan is to be very strategic in terms of how the game is going, what wind people have, where the ball is, the score. But I plan to use – and I know [special teams coach Danny] Crossman feels the same – I plan to use our best players in the best situations for the team.
The Dolphins currently rank star receiver Tyreek Hill as a first-team punt returner and 30-year-old fast running back Raheem Mostert as the top kick returner on the depth chart. Sophomore standout Jaylen Waddle is second in both places. Safety Jevon Holland is the third punt returner, and running back Chase Edmonds and cornerback Noah Igbinoghene are also listed as kick return options.
During Wednesday’s practice, Hill and Holland were among those seen lining up punts during a brief portion of media practice. Holland missed a punt that came his way with live punt coverage.
“Hey, it just happened: every game people try to tackle you,” McDaniel said before Wednesday’s drills when asked about the injury risk assessment for star players. “Why are Special Teams different from throwing a screen?”
It looks like McDaniel could decide to rotate returns depending on what they’ll be asked to do elsewhere in the game plan.
“You also have to weigh, on both sides, how they’re used the upcoming streak or the streak we just had, and you have to be aware of all of that,” he said. “But, if I sat down and worried, if I made decisions based on safety in football, that would be a process where I’m going to fail, I feel like. Every time they’re on the field, that’s a risk. If there are situations where there’s maybe now a punt team that’s very, very, very hard to block and making a ton of plays in the coverage of punts, that’s another story.
“Every play, every snap, there’s a huge risk of injury. That’s the nature of the beast.
McDaniel also spoke about the start of his NFL assistant coaching career when former University of Miami star Devin Hester took the league by storm with his impact in the second leg.
“Devin Hester took over the playoffs and then had all that buildup before the Super Bowl and had a huge impact on a team’s entire journey,” McDaniel said. “And I don’t think there’s an asterisk that says it was special teams, so we’ll be very strategic with that. … We’re lucky to have some highly skilled players that we’ll use where appropriate. appropriate and accordingly.
Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, who was officially listed as limited with a quadruple injury on the team’s first injury report Wednesday, lost the compression sleeve he’s worn on his right leg for weeks when was seen during Wednesday’s training.
“I mean, he’s limited, but my confidence hasn’t changed.” McDaniel said of Waddle after saying “very” three times before “confident” the last time he spoke about his availability for Game 1.
Miami, which will be without starting cornerback Byron Jones for the first four weeks of the season while on the physically unable to perform list, had a perfect turnout from the 53-man active roster on Wednesday.
Fullback Alec Ingold (limited, hamstrings) and cornerback Nik Needham (limited, quads) were seen training to the side at the start of practice.
Other Dolphins listed as limited due to injury were running backs Chase Edmonds (groin), Myles Gaskin (neck) and Salvon Ahmed (heel), safety Eric Rowe (chest) and tight end Tanner Conner (knee) . Outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel has reportedly been limited by illness. He returned this week after having his appendix removed. Tackle Terron Armstead and outside linebacker Melvin Ingram were restricted, receiving a veteran day off.