The injury conversation around Sunday’s playoff matchup between the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills tends to start with the status of Bills’ safety Damar Hamlin, who suffered cardiac arrest on the field after making a routine tackle against the Cincinnati Bengals last week.
The next talking point is whether Miami’s starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will be cleared to play after being placed in the NFL’s concussion protocol for the second time this season. One injury-related story that isn’t getting much coverage is how the Bills’ secondary could be in a vulnerable spot going into Wild Card Weekend.
Starting cornerback Tre’Davious White was out the first 12 weeks of the season due to a torn ACL he suffered at the end of last year. Since making his season debut in Week 13 against the New England Patriots, he’s been slow to get back to form. According to Pro Football Focus, White has an overall grade of 61.9 and a 61.3 in coverage. In the Bills’ previous matchup against the Dolphins, White was targeted nine times and gave up three receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown.
Taking out the fact that news of Hamlin’s recovery is nothing short of a miracle after many feared the worst, his absence from a football perspective may be felt Sunday. Hamlin, a sixth-round pick from the 2021 draft, was developing into a quality starting free safety, ranked 52nd in PFF’s safety rankings. He was in for projected starter Micah Hyde, who has been out since Week 2 after surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck.
That leaves the Bills with their third-stringer Dean Marlowe, whom they acquired via trade from the Atlanta Falcons in November and has only appeared in two games at safety this season, seeing most of his playing time at special teams. In his first start last week against New England, Marlowe gave up two catches on two targets for 31 yards and earned a PFF grade of 57.8.
The Dolphins were able to make plays in the passing game against the Bills in the two previous matchups, with the Bills’ coverage earning grades of 44.8 in Week 3 and 58.2 in Week 15. The Dolphins, who have two game-breaking wide receivers in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, have an offense that can take advantage of a weaker secondary.
There’s only one caveat: who’s the Dolphins’ starting quarterback? As of this writing, Tagovailoa has not officially been ruled out. In the likely event that he won’t suit up against the Bills, that leaves the Dolphins with either rookie Skylar Thompson or newly-signed journeyman Mike Glennon. Thompson, a seventh-round pick from Kansas State, has appeared in seven games and thrown for 534 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions while completing 57 percent of his passes and earning a passer rating of 62.2.
Glennon’s last stint was with the New York Giants in 2021, where he appeared in six games with four starts. He completed 54 percent of his passes and threw for 790 yards with four touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and a passer rating of 49.7.