Latest Injury News
The Dolphins have been battling the injury bug for the better part of the month of December, but are hopeful to get some good news on the medical front when the calendar flips to January.
Wide receiver DeVante Parker missed the last two games for Miami, but was on the practice field Wednesday, albeit in a limited capacity, as he works to get back from a hamstring injury that sidelined him during the Week 15 win over the Patriots.
Miami's last win in Buffalo was a big one, as it propelled the Dolphins to their more recent playoff berth in 2016. In that game, Parker hauled in four passes for 85 yards including a 56-yard touchdown.
Dolphins defensive end Shaq Lawson also played in that game, but as a member of the opposition. Now with Miami, Lawson is hoping to get back on the field after missing Saturday's game in Las Vegas with a shoulder injury. Like Parker, Lawson was a limited participant in Wednesday's Dolphins practice.
Head Coach Brian Flores talked to members of the Buffalo media about Lawson's first year in Miami.
"I think he's playing well," Flores said. "I think he's been able to pressure the quarterback and set the edge and do some good things in the run game. He's been a big part of our defense this year and he brings great energy, and just as a teammate, he's been great and as a student who's someone that we've been able to coach, he's been great."
Rookie guard Solomon Kindley and veteran safety Bobby McCain were also limited participants at Wednesday's practice. Wide receiver Jakeem Grant and linebacker Elandon Roberts did not practice. McCain played 98 percent of the team's snaps in Las Vegas, while Kindley did not play.
Roberts was declared out for this week's game by Flores on Wednesday.
"Elandon's injury was significant as you guys saw with him being – you guys saw that. He's obviously not going to play this week," Flores said.
For Buffalo, wide receiver Cole Beasley, guard Jon Feliciano and tight end Reggie Gilliam did not practice on Wednesday and quarterback Jake Fromm was a limited participant.
Click here for the full Dolphins-Bills Week 17 injury report.
Facing a Competitive Group
A question posed to both Flores and Buffalo Head Coach Sean McDermott is in reference to the Bills' plan to rest or play their starters in the game. Buffalo can finish no lower than the third seed in the AFC but will claim the two-seed with a win or Pittsburgh loss in Cleveland.
Pittsburgh announced their decision to start Mason Rudolph at quarterback in the regular season finale, but McDermott is playing it closer to the vest with his decision.
"Those conversations have taken place and we have a plan," McDermott said. "I want to keep that plan internal, for a number of reasons."
For Flores and the Dolphins, they will prepare the same way they do every week.
"We're preparing as if they're all playing," Flores said. "That's been my message to the team. Everyone is playing – the quarterback, the coaches are definitely coaching – I'll tell you that right now. I know these guys and they're competitive as all get out, so we can't control any of that. We have to prepare for their best players as if like any other week, and hopefully that's been put out of their mind because it's something I would say I've been on a little bit of a crusade about. I expect them to play. It's a big game for us and we've got to go out there and execute against a good football team. It's never ever either way."
Dolphins center Ted Karras is new to Miami, but not to Orchard Park. A four-year member of the New England Patriots, this is Karras' fifth trip to Western New York to take on the Bills.
"They have great fans," Karras said. "The drive in is always pretty entertaining with what they've got going on in the parking lot. It is nice with no fans up there because it's a loud stadium … Great stadium, going to be a big matchup, division opponent, Week 17 with a lot of implications. We're excited and ready to roll."
Karras acknowledged the gravity of the game and the aforementioned implications when asked if he was privy to Miami's postseason scenarios.
"I'm aware that if we don't win, we'll need some help. But the main thing I'm focusing on is going up there and kicking the door in on the playoffs ourselves," he said. "So, we're going up there for a huge game – a play-in game really – and we're gonna need to play our best Sunday at 1 p.m."
Rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is no stranger to big games. The author of a game-winning, 45-yard touchdown strike in college football's national championship game in January of 2018, he was asked about playing on football's big stages.
"There's really no extra, added pressure for me," Tagovailoa said. "The expectation for myself is very high in how I perform and how I go out there and try to lead the guys to victory. Obviously this past weekend I didn't play to that standard. It's more so me knowing that we have to go out there and get the job done and if you can't get the job done, that's on you, no one else."
Saturday might not have been to Tagovailoa's standard, but that's because he has set a high standard for himself. He won back-to-back Pepsi Zero Sugar NFL Rookie of the Week honors in Weeks 13 and 14. He followed that up with a strong second half in the Week 15 win over the Patriots by leading Miami to three touchdown drives on four possessions.
Tagovailoa's interception rate is just 0.9 percent, the best among qualifying quarterbacks in the NFL. Flores discussed his rookie quarterback's ball security on Wednesday.
"That's a good place to start at the quarterback position," Flores said. "I think he's done a good job from that standpoint. Obviously there are a lot of other factors like at every other position. That's one of them, which we evaluate. I think he's done a good job in a lot of areas. Like every position, there are 15, 18, 20 different things that you are looking for at every position. Obviously the turnovers are a big, big one."
Now 6-2 as a starter, Tagovailoa is embracing the process of his rookie season.
"It's all about what you can gain from everything. For me, it's a learning experience," Tagovailoa said. "It's not like a one-and-done thing. It's continuous, especially during your rookie year. There's always things you can learn, but it's how quickly you can digest those things and then go out there and execute them."
CBS announced the Week 17 schedule for television and the coinciding broadcast crews that will be on the call. Dolphins-Bills gets the great Kevin Harlan on the play-by-play call with Trent Green doing the color and A.J. Ross on the sidelines.