Throughout the week of preparations that have been taking place, the Miami Dolphins have had a multitude of key players sidelined during practice due to injury. Koa Misi, Philip Wheeler, Dannell Ellerbe, Knowshon Moreno, Derrick Shelby, Mike Pouncey, Billy Turner and Mike Wallace were all either out or limited in practice Wednesday.
The injuries are stacking up for these Dolphins, and although it's only Week 2 this team could use a bye week.
All of these injuries are detrimental, but none more than defensive tackle Randy Starks.
Starks has been held out of practices this week -but was limited on Wednesday- with a toe injury that has had him in a walking boot. If Starks cannot play Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, the Dolphins' odds of going to New York and beating an improved Bills team worsen.
Winning the line of scrimmage will be key Sunday, and that task becomes much more challenging without Starks.
A Starks injury is more devastating than the combination of injuries in the linebacking corps because Starks has the ability to make the jobs of those linebackers easier. Without the push/penetration that Starks provides, Miami's linebackers will be forced to deal with much more traffic and will be making tackles four-or-more yards past the line of scrimmage.
This will make for a long day for the Dolphins' defense and a short day for the offense, which is exactly how the Bills want this game to be played out. The Bills won the time of possession in both of their victories over the Dolphins in 2013.
Also, Miami will be limited in the formations that they can run. In order to run the 5-2 defensive system that worked so well against the Patriots without Starks, the Dolphins would need to use Anthony Johnson (who is also dealing with lingering injuries), who is the final DT on the depth chart.
This means that the formation would likely be off limits as there would be no DTs left to sub with if one of the DTs in the 5-2 got hurt (the "5" in 5-2 stands for the number of down linemen, and three of them are DTs). There would be no "next man up" and the Dolphins would be forced to finish the game with two DTs.
The Bills are a physical team who will lean on running the ball. Miami's defensive line will get tired this game, and depth is necessary.
No Starks means a long day for Earl Mitchell and Jared Odrick. This would be very disadvantageous as the extra work would ensure that neither would be fresh for the second half.
No Starks mean more Anthony Johnson than the team is likely comfortable with.
But worst of all, no Starks means the loss of a unsung playmaker in the middle of the Dolphins' defensive line. Starks is a boost to both run defense and pass defense and can play every defensive tackle spot.
Starks is crucial to the Dolphins in this game. Miami can ill-afford the detriment that a sidelined Starks would cause.