One of the things Mike McDaniel has been smart about this year is not rushing back his injured players. Last Sunday was a perfect example. Left tackle Terron Armstead, still returning from a knee injury and other ailments, returned to practice and appeared ready to make his season debut. McDaniel decided to keep him out an extra week so there were no setbacks. The thing with pass rusher Jalen Phillips, who had a back injury and tried to give it a go, but again, McDaniel decided to air on the side of caution. It was a smart move by McDaniel because it’s week 2 of a long 17 game, and why risk potentially having either player at risk of having a setback and missing multiple games?
Last year, specifically when the Dolphins had a Thursday night game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Miami had several key players banged up from their physical game against the Buffalo Bills in their win, putting them at 3-0. Players like Xavien Howard and Armstead had nagging injuries but still played. In Armstead’s case last year, his toe injury lingered all season, but in a short week, it worsened things, and he missed a few games. Howard tweaked a groin in the Bills game and injured it worse in the Bengals game, and it cost him the following week’s game, and frankly played through it the rest of the season. Perhaps not playing that game might have helped, as hamstring and groin injuries are tough and can be nagging injuries.
McDaniel learned from that experience last year as he realized the NFL season is a marathon, not a sprint. It also helps that the Dolphins have more depth than most of us know. Kendal Lamm has filled in admirably for Armstead at left tackle, whereas last year, the Dolphins didn’t really have a competent backup left tackle. As important as Phillips is as a pass rusher on our defense, it’s not the worst thing in the world to let him heal and allow Andrew Van Ginkel. Van Ginkel’s performance against the Patriots stunned and surprised many people. I wasn’t because Van Ginkel is a good football player who has made plays over the years, but he has been hidden on the bench for whatever reason. It was frustrating last year, especially when Bradley Chubb got hurt and missed time. It’s not the worst idea to give someone else an opportunity so one of your better players can get healthy, especially early in the season.
Last Sunday, running back Salvon Ahmed and wide receiver Jaylen Waddle left the game with injuries, and their status against the Denver Broncos is up in the air this week. Ahmed has a groin injury, and the Dolphins should take every precaution and let him sit this week, especially with a game against the Buffalo Bills coming up after the Broncos. This is a good time to give rookies Devon Achane and Chris Brooks a chance to see what they can do. The same goes for Waddle, who is in concussion protocol after getting hit in the head Sunday night. The Dolphins need Waddle, but this week might be a good time to have him sit and give someone else an opportunity.
The Dolphins play the 0-2 Denver Broncos on Sunday, and while they lost two games by a combined 3 points, it was against two teams, the Las Vegas Raiders, and Washington Commanders, that aren’t really that good and nowhere near the team the Dolphins are. This should be a win, but with the Bills coming up the following week, hopefully, the Dolphins don’t look ahead.
McDaniel is looking ahead, but he’s looking ahead as this is a long season’s grind. He’s looking to get his players right for the rest of the season. It’s a smart approach he is taking with his injured players. The Dolphins are also showing they are a better football team even without some of their key pieces on both sides of the ball, and the experience some of these other players are getting will make them better as the season progresses. Injuries are a part of the game, but you have to manage some injuries properly, and McDaniel is being smart about that so far this season.