Nik Needham and Robert Jones Begin Practicing With Dolphins

Nik Needham and Robert Jones Begin Practicing With Dolphins

Dolphins have three injured players close to making a return to the field, and there might be a decision made

While the Miami Dolphins might be nursing injuries to four key starters in offensive linemen Terron Armstead and Connor Williams, safety DeShon Elliott and pass rusher Jaelan Phillips, two former starters are returning to the field this week.

Cornerback Nik Needham and offensive guard Robert Jones began their 21-day window practicing with the team before potentially being taken off the injured reserve and the PUP list.

Needham suffer a Achilles tendon injury last October and began training camp on the PUP list. Jones sprained an MCL in his right knee during Miami’s Aug. 19 preseason game against the Houston Texans and has been rehabbing the knee injury for the past five weeks.

Jeff Wilson, who was placed on injured reserve a month ago because of a rib injury and hand injury, is eligible to practice if he’s designated for return from injured report, but it seems as if Miami will begin the tailback’s 21-day window for his return at a later date, or week.

Needham is running and cutting

While Needham is running and cutting, it’s unclear if he’s close to being game-ready because of the Achilles tendon injury he suffered last October.

The Dolphins would benefit from Needham’s return because he’s started 27 games at cornerback, and Miami seems to be struggling with finding a third cornerback for the nickel package.

Last week Kader Kohou, who primarily serves as Miami’s nickel cornerback, but has been pressed into duty as a boundary cornerback because of the knee injury Jalen Ramsey suffered the first week of training camp, was targeted heavily by the Buffalo Bills.

Kohou was penalized twice while covering Stefon Diggs, who caught six passes for 120 yards and scored three touchdowns on the Dolphins in Sunday’s 48-20 loss to the Bills.

Needham’s return could lessen the need for Justin Bethel, a career special-teamer, and Eli Apple, who was benched after experiencing some struggles in week 2, to play significant snaps in Miami’s secondary.

Problem is, Needham, who has contributed 192 tackles, six interceptions, three sacks and a forced and fumbled, might need those three weeks to get his football legs and learn the finer points of Vic Fangio’s zone based scheme.

That’s where these three weeks of practice could be beneficial, and the Dolphins will likely activate him when his field work shows he’s ready to play.

Jeff Wilson can help in short-yardage situations

Wilson was expected to share the backfield with Raheem Mostert when he re-signed this offseason, but it appears De’Von Achane’s emergence might lead to an altered role since the former Texas A&M standout leads the Dolphins in rushing, gaining 304 rushing yards and scoring four rushing touchdowns on 26 carries the past two weeks.

Achane has also caught eight passes, which he’s turned into 53 yards and two touchdowns.

But the Dolphins are struggling when it comes to converting short-yardage plays this season, and Wilson is viewed as the team’s best short-yardage back, so it’s possible he could help in that area.

O-line potentially getting a starter back

As for Jones, who started seven of the 16 games he played last season at left guard, his presence in the lineup could help fortify the offensive line’s depth while Williams is sidelined by a groin injury that might require another week or two of rest.

Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said Williams, Phillips and Elliott will be tested this week in practice, but the focus is on “protecting players from themselves,” allowing injuries to heal so they won’t be recurring issues.

Elliott is also nursing a groin injury, and wasn’t cleared to play in last Sunday’s game against the Bills. His game status will be determined by how much he works this week, and what his movement skills look like.

Brandon Jones served as Elliott’s replacement against the Bills, receiving his most extensive snaps since suffering a season-ending knee injury last October. He’s been working his way back since, and has endured at least one setbacks.

Phillips is sidelined by an oblique injury that surfaced last week, and his status is a bit of a mystery. He didn’t practice all of last week, but the hope is that he’ll be on the field, even if it’s on a limited basis, this week.

As for Armstead, Dolphins head coach stated that the Dolphins Pro Bowl left tackle is weeks away from playing because of the left knee injury he suffered when Bills defensive tackle DaQuan Jones rolled up under his legs during a passing play. However, McDaniel hints that Miami’s not prepared to place him on injured reserve at this point, which indicates that he could be back in the lineup sooner than four weeks.

Kendall Lamm is expected to replace Armstead until he’s ready to return in a month.

For each player the Dolphins take off injured reserve and the PUP list, there has to  be a corresponding roster move, which means a player must be placed on injured reserve, or waived.

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