The Miami Dolphins could have a couple of reinforcements coming to bolster a sagging defense. On Wednesday, the team welcomed back to the practice field cornerback Cordrea Tankersley and defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, both of whom are on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
“You’ll see both guys in practice,” head coach Brian Flores said of Tankersley and Nkemdiche before Wednesday’s practice. “They’ll be out there today. It’ll be their first time on the field with the team in pads. These guys have a long way to go. I think a lot of players think they can just step out there and play. I just have a different feeling on that. I think you have to get out there, you have to practice, you have to go through individuals, you have to feel some contact and you’ve got to work your way into this. It will be good to get them out there and get them practicing and get them back into the flow of things. It’s supposed to be a hot day so we’ll see what kind of conditioning they’ve got right now. It will be interesting.”
Under NFL rules, a player who spent the entire preseason on the Active/PUP list, then is moved to the Reserve/PUP list for the regular season, is unavailable for practice or games for the first six weeks of the season. After Week 6, the team has five weeks to make a decision for the future of the player: release him, return him to practice, or place him on injured reserve. After the player returns to practice, the team has three weeks to either add him to the 53-man roster or place him on injured reserve for the remainder of the season.
“We have some time,” Flores said of the plan to activate them from the PUP list. “We have a little time. It’s a good opportunity to take a look at these guys – both ‘Tank’ and Rob – and really kind of get them into a practice setting, some individuals, some team drills, some group drills. It’s been a long time for both guys since they’ve stepped on a field in a competitive environment. I never want to rush things. We’ve got some time. Look, if they look like they’re ready to go, nobody wants to see those guys out there more than I do. But at the same time, this is a hard game to play so we’ll do what we feel is best for them individually and us as a team.”
Tankersley, a third-round pick in 2017 for Miami, is returning after a torn ACL last year. He could, if he returns to shape and gets activated, provide depth in the secondary, if not challenge for a starting role. He played well as a rookie, but fell off last year before his injury. In 17 games played over his first two seasons, Tankersley has 36 tackles with seven passes defensed.
Nkemdiche signed with Miami at the beginning of August and was immediately added to the PUP list. He was originally selected in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. In three seasons with Arizona, he appeared in 27 games with six starts, recording 44 tackles with two passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery with a touchdown. He ended the 2018 season in the injured reserve list with a knee injury; he had 32 tackles, one pass defensed, one forced fumble, and all 4.5 career sacks prior to the injury. He was waived by the Cardinals in July after failing a physical at the start of training camp. The lineman was arrested in June on an outstanding warrant after being pulled over for speeding. He was also driving on a suspended license.
“Yeah, he looks better,” Flores said of Nkemdiche, who was reportedly still out of shape when he arrived in Miami. “He’s working really, really hard. He’s done a good job since he’s been here as far as getting his workouts in, rehabbing and trying to learn the system. But it’s still very, very early in the process for him. Today he’ll get out there and practice and we’ll see how it goes.”
The Dolphins will now have three weeks to determine if Tankersley, Nkemdiche, or both could