Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said he’s in a “waiting game” with his team’s offensive line injuries ahead of the team’s Sunday 1 p.m. kickoff against the Bills in a wild-card playoff game at Buffalo.
The Dolphins did get good news on that front Friday, however, as they had Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead return to practice. He was seen participating in drills after missing Wednesday and Thursday sessions, nursing toe, pectoral, knee and hip injuries.
Miami didn’t have left guard Liam Eichenberg (hand) nor right tackle Brandon Shell (knee/ankle) present during the Friday media viewing portion of drills, indicating that they have missed the week’s three practices leading up to the franchise’s first playoff game in six years.
Returning to practice along with Armstead, however, was backup tackle Kendall Lamm, who is working back from an ankle ailment suffered on Jan. 1 at the New England Patriots.
If Armstead can play at left tackle but Shell can’t go on the right side, the Dolphins may once again employ the alignment of kicking right guard Robert Hunt out to tackle while starting Robert Jones at right guard.
If Eichenberg can’t play, Lamm’s availability factors in, where Miami could possibly play him at right tackle with Jones in for Eichenberg. But if Lamm is also unavailable, the Dolphins may rely on Michael Deiter, who hasn’t played an offensive snap but played on special teams, or a practice squad option at left guard. The Dolphins have Lester Cotton and James Empey as available interior offensive line options on the practice squad.
“It’s next man up. Who’s able and capable? And let’s put our best foot forward within our scheme,” McDaniel said.
Running back Raheem Mostert, who has a broken thumb on his right hand, wasn’t ruled out when McDaniel spoke ahead of Friday practice. The coach wanted to see how the rest of the afternoon would go with his leading rusher before making an ultimate decision that will get revealed with the team’s injury report release later Friday.
Mostert was not seen at Friday’s practice during the media viewing portion after McDaniel left the possibility open. McDaniel, who has worked with Mostert going back to their days together in San Francisco, has enough confidence in the tailback to potentially play him without practice if he can go.
“I’d give him as much time as possible just because of my history with him,” McDaniel said.
Meanwhile, McDaniel confirmed Friday rookie third-string rookie quarterback Skylar Thompson will indeed start after leaning that way earlier in the week.
Starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa remains in concussion protocol and was ruled out Wednesday. Backup Teddy Bridgewater’s dislocated pinky finger has not progressed to the point where the Dolphins feel they can start him.
Bridgewater, like in the regular-season finale against the New York Jets, is expected to be available to back up Thompson in an emergency scenario. Miami can also elevate Mike Glennon from the practice squad.
“He’s been doing extensive rehab,” McDaniel said of Bridgewater. “He’s been working relentlessly, and what he’ll be able to do with extra time, even more rehab and then game-day adrenaline, we’re hoping it’s good enough for him to be able to fully execute everything in the offense. If there’s certain things he’s unable to do, we’ll just adjust.”
Tagovailoa has not yet advanced to the stage of concussion protocol where he can return to the field as of Friday.
“The current stage is the same as he was last,” said McDaniel of Tagovailoa’s standing in the five-step protocol, which still involved cardiovascular and aerobic exercise without football specificities at his previous update.