The Miami Dolphins got some bad news today, as starting linebacker Dannell Ellerbe appears to be done for the season with a hip injury. Ellerbe was forced from the team's game against the New England Patriots in the first quarter yesterday, slowly walking off the field under his own power, but eventually heading into the locker room and being ruled out of a return.
According to head coach Joe Philbin, Miami will sign Kelvin Sheppard to replace Ellerbe.
Miami moved Ellerbe to strong side linebacker this year after having him play middle linebacker last year. The move pushed Philip Wheeler from the strong side to the weak side this season, with Koa Misi moving into the middle. Wheeler was inactive for yesterday's game, while Misi was also sidelined during the first half with an ankle injury. There has not been any word on the seriousness of Misi's injury.
Miami utilized Jason Trusnik, Jonathan Freeny, and Jelani Jenkins as their linebackers most of the day. Undrafted free agent Chris McCain also saw playing time, but was more of a defensive end than a linebacker.
The Dolphins also unveiled a 5-2 scheme during the second half of the contest, with both Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon standing up as outside linebackers, instead of hand-in-the-dirt defensive ends. The formation allowed the team to only have two true linebackers on the field, with five defensive linemen. The formation was designed to be used prior to the linebacker injuries, but worked perfectly once the injuries began.
Sheppard, the 2011 third round draft choice for the Buffalo Bills, was traded to the Indianapolis Colts in April 2013. He has a career total of 196 tackles with three sacks. He was waived by the Colts at the end of the preseason.
The Dolphins have the option to designate Ellerbe for return, a move that would keep him eligible to return later in the year if his injury has healed. Each team may designate one player for return once the season has begun. In this case, however, it does not appear the team feels Ellerbe will be able to return in 2014, and will place him on the season ending version of IR.