Three Miami Dolphins starters returned to the practice field on Thursday as the team preps for a showdown against the “CropDusters“. Akin Ayodele and his stiff back, something that has been an issue since week 1 returned along side DE Phillip Merling (ankle) and LB Joey Porter (hamstring). Of the three, Merling appears to be the one who needs the most practice.
Finally making it to the first team unit, Merling will be facing a strong NYJ offensive line that includes Alan Faneca and Nick Mangold at G and C respectively. Merling has struggled since the Dolphins made him the first overall second round pick in last years draft…the first of Parcells’ and company. He has been overshadowed and outplayed by fellow draftee Kendall Langford who was drafted in round 3.
Merling will need to bring his “A” game against the Jets much improved and expensive Oline.
For Joey Porter the question is how long will his hamstring allow him to play? In all likelihood, Porter will split time with Cameron Wake who exploded on the scene last week Vs. the Bills. With 3 sacks and 6 total tackles, it will be hard for Tony Sparano to justify not putting him in, even at the expense of Joey Porter. However, the injured hamstring will be excuse enough to rotate the two in and out of the game and that means fresh legs to blitz rookie Mark Sanchez.
Akin Ayodele has been battling a stiff back since week 1 and this week he finally missed some practice time. This is an issue that warrants monitoring. Ayodele is much improved over last year and his play is starting to pay dividends to the man who was initially the “other” guy involved in the Anthony Fasano trade prior to the draft a year ago. Ayodele will have to be healthy this Monday to continue the Dolphins relentless attack on opposing rushers. The Dolphins are currently number 1 against the run.