The Dolphins came from behind in their first preseason game to beat the Atlanta Falcons, but it’s the loss of Raekwon McMillan for the season that is on everyone’s mind.
The Miami Dolphins have been hit with the injury bug hard, and unfortunately, they were unsuccessful in leaving their first preseason game unscathed. Dolphins rookie and second round pick, Raekwon McMillan, suffered a knee injury on punt coverage in the first quarter of Thursday’s game. McMillan was able to walk off the field on his own without a limp, but the Dolphins now know that he has torn his ACL, and will be out for the season.
Sound familiar at all? Just a week ago, Ryan Tannehill suffered a non-contact injury to his knee during practice. Tannehill was seen afterwards walking without a limp, but we now know that he will miss quite a bit of time, possibly the entire season. His full status has yet to be confirmed, but the signing of Jay Cutler is a clear indicator.
McMillan had been having a terrific training camp, and was expected to be the team’s starting middle linebacker. Although a rookie, McMillan was establishing himself as a vocal leader of the defense, and Dolphins fans were looking forward to see what he could bring in Miami’s first preseason game. Unfortunately, he never got the chance.
McMillan’s injury on special teams has many fans enraged over the fact that he was on special teams in the first place. Typically, rookies and sophomore players spend a lot of time on special teams. While I understand this concept, I believe that McMillan should have been an exception to the rule. Most rookies do not become starters right out of the gate, and McMillan was anticipated to do so at a rather thin position for Miami.
Koa Misi had already been placed on injured reserve after failing to get medical clearance from a neck injury he suffered last season. Initially, Misi and McMillan were supposed to battle for the starting position, but once Misi was place on IR, the job was clearly McMillan’s. Now with McMillan’s injury, the Dolphins will have to make some changes.
Free agent acquisition Lawrence Timmons and Kiko Alonso had been playing as the starting outside linebackers. Both players have spent time in the middle, and could be asked to do so again. The Dolphins are likely to place Mike Hull or Neville Hewitt in the starting rotation for the time being. Don’t be surprised either if the Dolphins look outside the organization to help fill the gap.
Tannehill’s knee injury already cost the Dolphins an extra $10 million this season with the signing of Cutler. We will have to wait and see how much they are willing to fork over for another veteran free agent. Miami may wait and see which players are cut from other teams before making a decision, but this year there is no first roster cut-down period so they may have to wait a bit longer than usual.
In seasons past, teams were obligated to cut the roster down from 90 to 75 midway through the preseason then from 75 to 53 before the start of the regular season. This past May, however, NFL owners agreed to eliminate the first roster cut, and now teams simply have to cut from 90 to 53 prior to Week 1.
In Adam Gase‘s post game interview, the head coach would not confirm whether or not McMillan had indeed torn his ACL.
"“You must have better sources than I do.”"
That indeed may be the case, as it is now being reported that McMillan did in fact suffer an ACL injury, and will be lost for the season.
Since his hiring, there have not been many instances in which I have questioned coach Gase’s decisions. The decision to have McMillan out there on punt coverage, however, is a bit puzzling for me. Injuries are a part of the game, and there’s always the chance that McMillan could have injured himself severely on a defensive possession, but the risk for injury is always higher on special teams. The fact that McMillan was the clear starter at an already thin position makes me lean to the idea that he should have been off of special teams duties.
Now that it is official, we’ll have to wait and see where Gase and the front office go from here. Both Hull and Hewitt have had their share of opportunities in the past to step up, but neither has taken advantage, and likely won’t now. Looking outside of the organization is probably Miami’s best option.