KANSAS CITY, Mo.—Dolphins coach Adam Gase isn’t willing to concede that the playoffs are out of reach. While he’s technically correct, it would take a seriously unlikely sequence of events all going Miami’s way for this team to sneak into the postseason at 8-8.
Some might say it’s unrealistic.
(That’s code for I would say it’s unrealistic. But let’s keep that between us.)
If this season’s outcome is essentially inevitable, the final two games against the Chiefs and Bills should really be utilized for next year’s purposes. These are better than preseason games. The Dolphins can test out some younger players off their bench against starting units for two teams that have high stakes in these games.
Here are five players Miami really needs to get on the field Sunday at Kansas City and in next weekend’s finale against Buffalo:
1. TE A.J. Derby
Get this: Dolphins coach Adam Gase claims this guy can not only run, but he can catch—and block. Wow, really? “Yes,” Gase said. Man, that’s just great scouting right there. “Yes,” he said again. But seriously, there had to be something Miami liked about Derby, who was a sixth-round pick of the Patriots in 2015 and had 19 catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns in nine games with Denver this year. He’s 26 and checks in at 6-foot-4, 255 pounds. He hasn’t played a snap since coming to the Dolphins, and it’d be worth finding out if he’s got anything to offer for 2018.
2. WR Jakeem Grant
Gase’s quest to establish someone has the fourth receiver behind Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker has come up empty so far. He’s tried Grant, Leonte Carroo and Rashawn Scott. The best of that bunch has been Grant, who faces some challenges at 5-foot-7, but has exceptional speed. He had a brilliant touchdown catch against New England’s Malcolm Jenkins, but he also dropped one would-be touchdown pass in that game and another against Tennessee early in the season. Grant’s gradually gotten into a small but more consistent role lately, something that was two years in the making, and he deserves an extended run these two weeks.
3. LB Stephone Anthony
There’s no question the Dolphins need to address the linebacker unit again this offseason, but they do have some young talents they like. Chase Allen was an undrafted free agent who did enough to not only make the team, but start in the opener. Anthony is another. He was a second-round pick in 2015, but fell out of favor with the Saints, allowing Miami to scoop him up for the low, low price of a fifth-round pick. He’s young (25), and the Dolphins have really liked what they’ve seen in practice. They should turn him loose with a full workload for a couple games so they know exactly what to work on with him in the coming offseason.
4. DE Charles Harris
Whether the Dolphins needed a defensive end badly enough to justify taking Harris at No. 22 is debatable, but he’s been good and looks like he’s on track to be an excellent pass rusher in the long run. He started last week when Andre Branch sat out with a knee injury and could get the start again Sunday in his hometown. Harris has only one sack this year, but he’s been very effective getting to the quarterback while getting about 50 percent of the defensive snaps this year. If Branch is still hurting, there’s no need to put him through the paces of the final two games. This would be a good reward for Harris’ season of keeping his head down and doing everything the staff wanted.
5. DT Jordan Phillips (without Ndamukong Suh)
Phillips claimed in the recent offseason that he was at a crossroads and was adamant about redirecting what had previously been an underachieving career, and it appears he’s made good on that promise. Despite an uneven preseason, he pushed through injuries this year to impress the coaching staff with his work on and off the field. The next step for him would be to prove he can be a force even when he’s not playing next to Suh, which makes every defensive tackle look good. Suh played 113 snaps the last two weeks, and that could certainly be dialed back. He doesn’t have to sit out altogether, but it’d be good to see more of Phillips out there with one of the rookies in a situation where he has to be the monster.
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