Injuries are a major part of the story for every team in the NFL throughout the year. Trying to keep a team healthy and ready to play each week over a 17 week season is nearly impossible. The Miami Dolphins will head into their final game of the year, with the Playoffs out of reach, in a Week 17 contest against their AFC East division rivals, the New England Patriots. This evening, we take a look at the starting lineup from Week 1 of the year, as compared to the projected starting lineup for Week 17.
|Week 1||Week 17|
|QB||Ryan Tannehill||Ryan Tannehill|
|RB||Lamar Miller||Lamar Miller|
|WR||Greg Jennings||Jarvis Landry|
|WR||Rishard Matthews||DeVante Parker|
|WR/TE||Jarvis Landry||Jordan Cameron|
|TE||Jordan Cameron||Dion Sims|
|LT||Branden Albert||Branden Albert|
|LG||Dallas Thomas||Dallas Thomas|
|C||Mike Pouncey||Jamil Douglas|
|RG||Jamil Douglas||Billy Turner|
|RT||Ja'Wuan James||Jason Fox|
The major changes on the offense are obviously on the offensive line, where injuries have simply destroyed an already questionable unit. If Mike Pouncey is able to play, he will slide back into the center position. Signs indicate Ja'Wuan James may be ready to go this week after a toe injury sidelined him for seven weeks, but there has not been an official declaration that he will be in the starting lineup at right tackle yet. The Dolphins started last week's game with two wide receivers and two tight ends, and I will mirror that this week, unless Rishard Matthews or Kenny Stills is healthy enough to play.
|Week 1||Week 17|
|LE||Cameron Wake||Derrick Shelby|
|DT||Ndamukong Suh||Ndamukong Suh|
|DT||Earl Mitchell||Jordan Phillips|
|RE||Olivier Vernon||Olivier Vernon|
|LB||Koa Misi||Zach Vigil|
|LB||Kelvin Sheppard||Kelvin Sheppard|
|LB||Jelani Jenkins||Jelani Jenkins|
|CB||Brent Grimes||Brent Grimes|
|CB||Brice McCain||Brice McCain|
|S||Walt Aikens||Michael Thomas|
|S||Reshad Jones||Reshad Jones|
The loss of Cameron Wake was huge to this defense, especially once Olivier Vernon got healthy - Wake, Vernon, and Ndamukong Suh could have destroyed offensive lines if they all could have played at 100 percent this year. Earl Mitchell has been injured, but Jordan Phillips has surpassed him on the depth chart. The linebackers and cornerbacks have been decimated by injuries all season, with startling linebacker Koa Misi now on injured reserve, and a question mark surrounding Jelani Jenkins as well. Brice McCain missed parts of the season, but Bobby McCain, Jamar Taylor, and Tony Lippett do not appear to be in the mix as the starter if McCain is healthy.
The good news is, in a lost season, the Dolphins have been getting snaps for their younger players, like Phillips and Douglas. Experience is important as the Dolphins will look to those players next year to step up into larger roles on both sides of the ball.