AFC East: Miami Dolphins

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DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins first-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is direct and to the point. He is honest in his assessments, whether they are good or bad.

In fact, Lazor did a good job summarizing his philosophy a few weeks ago on how to get the best out of starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

"I have to make things uncomfortable so he can get comfortable," Lazor explained.

Tannehill
In other words, Lazor is constantly pushing Tannehill to test his limits as a quarterback. Despite some rocky moments, Tannehill is making solid progress in his third season. He is on pace for career highs in touchdowns (17) and passer rating (92.2). Most importantly, the Dolphins are 5-2 in their past seven games with Tannehill under center entering Sunday's contest against the Denver Broncos (7-3).

Lazor is doing a good job of accentuating what Tannehill does well, and their chemistry is developing. Tannehill has posted four games of triple-digit passer ratings already this season. He only had four games with triple-digit passer ratings in his previous two seasons.

"I didn’t know what to expect, honestly, coming in," Tannehill said of Lazor. "I came in kind of with an open mind just to see what he brought to the table. I think he’s done a great job of utilizing not only my skill set, but our team’s as well. I think the stuff we do utilizes my ability to move around, make some plays with my feet, and gets the ball in the hands of our playmakers."

A recent NFL.com article, citing anonymous sources, reported a "rift" between some offensive players and Lazor because of his coaching style. This week Lazor shrugged off the report and said his rapport with players is "about what a normal NFL offensive team would be."

"I probably just don’t put a lot of credence on anonymous reports," Lazor said. "Like I said, I enjoy the professionals, the guys we work with. I enjoy coming to work every day because of the people I work with. You’ve been at practice, nothing is different. You’ve been at training camp where you could be at the whole practices. I would like to think that, if the players were asked, that they would say I’ve been professional."

Tannehill said his rapport with Lazor is getting better and better, which is evident in the results. Tannehill is playing arguably the best football of his career over this seven-game stretch.

"It’s good. I think he does a good job of creating a game plan for us, putting us in positions to make plays during the game with his play-calling," Tannehill said. "I think our relationship has definitely grown as the season has gone on. I’ve gotten to know him more, and his personality more, and we’ve gotten more on the same page on not only football stuff, but just joking around with each other as well."

This pair must remain in synch if Miami (6-4) aims to end its six-year playoff drought. Tannehill and Lazor have a chance to prove over the next six games that they can thrive together for the long haul.
DAVIE, Fla. – The Miami Dolphins (6-4) held their final practice in preparation for Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos (7-3).

Here are some notes from Thursday’s sessions:
  • Miami starting cornerback Cortland Finnegan was not present during the media portion of practice and missed his third consecutive session with an ankle injury. Finnegan most likely will sit on Sunday. That means second-year cornerback Jamar Taylor is expected to start his second straight game. Taylor had seven tackles last week in a victory over the Buffalo Bills.
  • Guard Daryn Colledge practiced for the third straight time and looks poised to return from a back injury after missing the past two games. Colledge said Wednesday that he’s feeling good and believes he will play. Colledge, if healthy, could start against Denver over backup left guard Shelley Smith.
  • Starting middle linebacker Koa Misi, as expected, was present for his second straight practice. Misi missed Tuesday’s game after the birth of his child.
  • The Dolphins will not travel to Denver early to get used to the altitude. The team will follow their usual road schedule by leaving on Saturday. Head coach Joe Philbin said he looked into it and was told one extra day isn't enough to help get acclimated to the thin air.
DAVIE, Fla. -- For the first time this season, Peyton Manning looks human on the football field. He has struggled in two of his past three games, including the Denver Broncos' 22-7 defeat Sunday to the St. Louis Rams.

Manning looks hurried in the pocket behind a struggling offensive line. He's making bad throws and bad decisions, which is evident in his six interceptions the past three games. Manning also doesn't look like the same dominant quarterback with several of his supporting cast dealing with injuries.

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
AP Photo/Charlie RiedelThe Dolphins' defense is working on disguising its blitzes and coverages to keep Broncos QB Peyton Manning on the move in Week 12.
But you wouldn't know it by listening to players and coaches with the Miami Dolphins (6-4) this week. They expect the best version of Manning -- the elite Manning -- Sunday when they travel to play the Broncos (7-3) in a big game with playoff implications.

"Peyton Manning is Peyton Manning," said Dolphins cornerback Cortland Finnegan, who has played against Manning several times in his career. "He's going to move the football. The biggest thing for us is points. He could have 500 yards passing. As long as we limit the points, that's big for us."

The Dolphins' defense, which is ranked No. 2 in yards per game, is playing as good as any team in recent weeks. The Dolphins are also ranked No. 2 in pass defense and haven't allowed a touchdown in two of their past three games. It's a major reason they are 5-2 in the past seven games.

Still, it sounds as if Miami is expecting a shootout Sunday. The Broncos are the fifth-highest-scoring team in the NFL, averaging 29.3 points per game. Manning already has 30 touchdown passes in 10 games. The Dolphins do not envision the type of low-scoring games they've had against the Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions or Jacksonville Jaguars in recent weeks.

"That's obvious to us that we're playing one of the best quarterbacks, if not the best quarterback, to ever play the game," Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace said Tuesday. "So we have to put up some points. We don't even [have to] talk about it. ... We know we have to put up more points. We know our defense will need a little more help."

Manning isn't the first elite quarterback Miami faced this season. The team beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Week 1 and lost a nail-biter to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in Week 6. So playing a quarterback of Manning's caliber will not be foreign.

The key, according to the Dolphins, will be disguising their blitzes and coverages. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle has done a good job in his third year of knowing when to drop back seven or eight players and when to blitz to pressure the quarterback.

Rest assured, Manning is studying all of Miami's defensive looks this week.

"I don't know how many things Peyton hasn't seen in the years he's been playing. He is remarkable," Coyle said. "Talking with people who have been around him, he's got almost a photogenic memory. When he sees something, he locks it in and can retrieve it a year later or two years later."

The Rams and Patriots have provided a fine blueprint of how to rattle Manning this season. Both teams made sure to get plenty of pressure on the future Hall of Fame quarterback, even if it didn't result in sacks. One of Miami's biggest strengths is the defensive line, which has a distinct advantage over Denver's offensive line.

Miami's defense has played very well all season but flown mostly under the radar. Getting the best of Manning in his house would certainly raise its profile.

"This is what you play the game for, these type of games," Dolphins safety Reshad Jones said. "I think it will be a great atmosphere, a great time of the season. We're playing against one of the top offenses there is. It's our time to go out, make our plays and make a statement."
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins (6-4) began preparation for Sunday’s big game against the Denver Broncos (7-3).

Here are several notes and observations from Tuesday’s session:
  • Finnegan
    The major injury concern this week is the ankle of starting cornerback Cortland Finnegan, who did not participate in the portion of practice open to the media. Finnegan was injured in a Week 10 loss to the Detroit Lions and missed last week’s game against Buffalo Bills. Finnegan is needed this week against Denver's variety of offensive weapons.
  • Miami backup linebacker Jonathan Freeny, as expected, also did not practice. Freeny suffered a hamstring against the Bills, and multiple sources tell ESPN.com Freeny is expected to miss approximately four weeks. Freeny is one of the team’s better special-teams players. The Dolphins also lost backup corner Will Davis and backup safety Michael Thomas in recent weeks, which also hurts their special teams.
  • Miami’s practice bubble was purposely made colder by head coach Joe Philbin. His team hasn’t played in a game below 50 degrees all season. It’s expected to be around 30-35 degrees in Denver on Sunday.
  • The Dolphins received some good injury news. Starting guard Daryn Colledge practiced, which is a good sign he could return Sunday. Colledge missed the past two games with a back injury. If healthy, Colledge would start over Shelley Smith at left guard.

The Film Don't Lie: Dolphins

November, 18, 2014
Nov 18
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A weekly look at what the Miami Dolphins must fix:

The Miami Dolphins (6-4) have done a lot of things correctly while posting a 5-2 record in the past seven games. But an area of concern that could derail them next week against the Denver Broncos is pass protection, particularly at right tackle.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked a season-high five times in Thursday’s 22-9 victory over the Buffalo Bills, and starting right tackle Dallas Thomas allowed Buffalo defensive end Mario Williams to register 2.5 of his 3.5 sacks.

The Dolphins weakened their right-tackle position after moving first-round pick Ja'Wuan James to left tackle to replace injured Pro Bowler Branden Albert (knee), who is lost for the season. They had several options at right tackle but chose Thomas, who started this season at guard, over backups Nate Garner and Jason Fox.

Thomas looked out of place in his first start at right tackle this season in terms of his footwork, lack of quickness and overall strength against Williams. The competition only gets stiffer Sunday against Denver pass-rushers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware.

Thomas must step up his game if he wants to remain the right tackle for the final six games. He also could use more help from “chips” and double-teams from running backs and tight ends. All of Thomas' 2.5 sacks against Buffalo were allowed in one-on-one situations.
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Defensive tackle Jared Odrick best summed up the mood in the Miami Dolphins' locker room Thursday night following a 22-9 victory over the rival Buffalo Bills.

"My ass feels fine," Odrick said with a chuckle. "So, I'm not sure what was supposed to happen. But my ass does feel fine.

"You never want to give another team bulletin-board material. You really don't."

Odrick was referring to Buffalo defensive back Leodis McKelvin's guarantee that the Bills would "beat that ass" in Miami. The Bills entered this game confident -- and cocky -- after winning three in a row in this series. The Dolphins were in no place to fight back in the media, so their best course was to wait until the game and let their pads do the talking.

Miami played with an edge and was the more physical team in this series for the first time in two years. The Dolphins did not bring a complicated game plan on just three days of preparation. They ran the ball well, averaging 5.2 yards per carry, and kept Buffalo out of the end zone the entire game.

Most of the matchups on paper favored Buffalo. But Thursday's game was about the things that couldn't be measured.

The Dolphins (6-4) showed their toughness -- mentally and physically -- on a short week. This was very much a pride game in a pressure situation, and Miami responded by outscoring the Bills (5-5) 19-3 with the game on the line in the third and fourth quarters.

"It tells us a lot about our character," Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon said. "We're not the type of team that's just going to lay down. ... We demand respect."

The victory doesn't save the Dolphins' season, but it keeps them in the playoff hunt in a crowded AFC field. Meanwhile, Miami most likely derailed Buffalo's postseason hopes.

"That type of stuff doesn't bother our team. Guys talk trash all the time," Dolphins safety Jimmy Wilson said of the comment from McKelvin, who left the game with an ankle injury. "Until we prove we are one of the best teams in the NFL and continue to go out every week and handle our business on defense and offense and special teams, that's the only way you shut guys up."

There is something different about this season's Dolphins. They certainly have better talent and depth than the previous two seasons under head coach Joe Philbin. But this team also does not get flustered in the face of adversity.

Thursday presented a must-win game on national television against a team the Dolphins struggle to beat -- and they didn't blink. Miami also didn't play its A-game, yet beat a division rival by 13 points. These are the type of games in previous years the Dolphins would lose.

In fact, Miami is 5-2 in its past seven games and playing some of its best football of the Philbin era. Its only two losses have come in the final minute to the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions in games that could have easily had a different result. This could be an 8-2 team if a couple of breaks had gone its way.

The Dolphins are starting to earn the contender label. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Miami is above .500 through 10 games for the first time since 2008. That happened to be the last time the Dolphins made the playoffs and won the AFC East.

Miami made a big step Thursday by slaying the nemesis Bills, which keeps the door open for bigger and better things in the second half of the season.

Dolphins' Mike Pouncey proud of O-line

November, 14, 2014
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Miami Dolphins' 22-9 victory over the Buffalo Bills.

Pouncey
Proud Pouncey: It wasn't the cleanest performance, but Dolphins guard Mike Pouncey said in the locker room that he was proud of their makeshift offensive line that included three players in new positions. Rookie Ja'Wuan James moved to left tackle to replace the injured Branden Albert, while Dallas Thomas played right tackle and Shelley Smith started at left guard. Miami allowed five quarterback sacks and has a lot of work to do to improve. But it was a win against Buffalo and not the disaster some expected. "They did a really good job ... put in roles they're really not comfortable with," Pouncey said. "I'm very proud of those guys."

Davis on crutches: Miami backup cornerback Will Davis was on crutches and had his left knee wrapped in a brace after suffering a second-half injury. He did not return. Davis will have further tests on his knee Monday to determine if the injury is long-term.

Rest ahead: After playing two games in five days, several Dolphins players said they were looking forward to some rest. Miami head coach Joe Philbin said he will give his team the weekend off to heal before returning to the practice field in preparation for its next game against the Denver Broncos.

Rapid Reaction: Miami Dolphins

November, 13, 2014
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- A few thoughts on the Miami Dolphins' 22-9 victory Thursday over the Buffalo Bills.

What it means: This was a big win for the Dolphins that keeps their season and playoff hopes alive. Miami won an important game to improve to 6-4 and avoid a season sweep to the Bills (5-5) for the second year in a row. The win keeps Miami firmly in the playoff hunt in a deep AFC, while also significantly hurting Buffalo's playoffs chances. The Dolphins snapped a three-game losing streak against the Bills.

Stock Watch: The stock of Miami's defense continues to rise. The Dolphins kept the Bills out of the end zone the entire game, even when Miami's offense struggled in the first half and the special teams gave the ball away with a third-quarter fumble. Miami's pass protection, as expected, is trending down. The Dolphins lost Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert (knee) last week and moved rookie Ja'Wuan James into Albert's spot. James filled in admirably. But Dallas Thomas struggled starting at right tackle against defensive end Mario Williams, who recorded 3.5 of Buffalo's five sacks.

Taylor shows well: Miami second-year cornerback Jamar Taylor made his first career start Thursday night in place of the injured veteran Cortland Finnegan (ankle). The former 2013 second-round pick showed well for himself in a prime-time game by recording seven tackles, including one tackle for loss. Buffalo tested Taylor regularly and he didn't give up a big play.

Game ball: Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill entered this game with a 1-4 record against Buffalo. But Tannehill played his best game of his career against the Bills by throwing for 240 yards and two touchdowns Thursday. Tannehill also had a key 15-yard run in the fourth quarter that moved the chains and ate up the clock. It wasn't always pretty, but Tannehill was gritty in a big game.

What's next: The Dolphins' tough November stretch continues. Miami will travel to face the Denver Broncos (6-2) on Nov. 23 in what should be one of the most difficult games on the schedule. The good news is the Dolphins have 10 days to prepare for future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning & Co.
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Here are the Miami Dolphins' players you won't see in Thursday’s game against the Buffalo Bills:
There are no surprises in this group for Miami. Colledge (back) was doubtful coming back on a short week. James was promoted to the 53-man roster for the first time this week but isn't active Thursday.

Morning take: Dolphins at a crossroads

November, 13, 2014
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Here are the most interesting Miami Dolphins stories Thursday from around the web:
  • Jeff Darlington of the NFL Network writes the Dolphins (5-4) are at a crossroads leading into their game against the Buffalo Bills (5-4).
Morning take: This is an elimination game for both AFC East rivals. So expect it to be tense. The Bills have won three in a row in this series.
  • Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald writes Thursday's game could be a barometer for the Dolphins' future.
Morning take: The pressure is certainly on Miami. The Dolphins cannot afford to lose this game if they want to remain in the playoff hunt. The margin for error now is slim.
  • Dave Hyde of the Sun Sentinel writes it's time for the Dolphins to put up or pack up.
Morning take: I said weeks ago that Miami must beat the Bills and sweep the lowly Jets to stay in playoff contention. A loss in any of those games most likely ends Miami's postseason chances.
  • Dave George of the Palm Beach Post writes the Dolphins can prove they are a contender with a win.
Morning take: A win would put Miami at 6-4 with six games remaining. That keeps the Dolphins in the hunt.

Bills vs. Dolphins preview

November, 13, 2014
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Two AFC East rivals in desperate need of a win to remain in the playoff hunt meet Thursday night when the Miami Dolphins host the Buffalo Bills. Both teams enter with 5-4 records in what could serve as an elimination game.

The Bills beat the Dolphins 29-10 in Week 2 at Ralph Wilson Stadium, but who will win in Week 11? ESPN Bills reporter Mike Rodak and Dolphins reporter James Walker break down the matchup:

James Walker: Mike, Buffalo has been dominant in this series the past two years. The Bills have won three straight over Miami by a comfortable 71-31 margin. How high is Buffalo's confidence going into this game, especially coming off Leodis McKelvin's recent guarantee?

Mike Rodak: McKelvin's postgame comments from after the Bills' loss to the Chiefs on Sunday tell the story. The Bills need to win this game. They're 2-4 in the conference, and with a slim chance of challenging the New England Patriots for the division title, they might need to a win a tiebreaker for the wild card. Dropping to 2-5 against the AFC and 1-1 against the Dolphins would be a big blow to their playoff chances.

The Bills have reason to be confident against Miami. Their defense has sacked Ryan Tannehill 13 times in three games since the beginning of last season, all Bills wins. Tannehill's Total QBR in those three games was 15.0 (in Week 7 last season), 3.0 (in Week 16 last season) and 27.3 (in Week 2 of this season).

On the flip side, why should the Dolphins be confident they can win this game? What has changed about this team since Week 2, which was the Bills' most complete and convincing win of the season?

Walker: That's an interesting question, Mike, because we both know most of the matchups favored Buffalo the past two or three seasons. The Bills won four of the past five in this series and most of Buffalo's wins were convincing. Several Dolphins players I spoke to this week believe they've come together as a team since the last meeting. Confidence is surely much higher. Miami is 4-2 in its past six games and suffered only a pair of last-second losses to the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions. The Dolphins believe they have more momentum, and playing at home on a short week certainly doesn't hurt.

Miami's new offense under first-year coordinator Bill Lazor has been hit-and-miss, but there's certainly more continuity and flashes of success 11 weeks into the season than in Week 2. However, in terms of matchups on paper, a lot still favors Buffalo until I see Miami can overcome that on the field.

Mike, this is the third Buffalo quarterback Miami will face in three games in this series. What has been the difference with Kyle Orton under center?

Rodak: Before Sunday's loss to the Chiefs, there were a couple of key areas in which Orton proved better than EJ Manuel: on third downs (he had the NFL's best third-down completion rate entering Week 10) and in the fourth quarter (he had an NFL-best 132.5 fourth-quarter passer rating entering Week 10). However, Orton took a step back against Kansas City. He completed just 60.4 percent of his passes and missed on several critical throws in the red zone.

Overall, Orton brings more a veteran presence to the offense and has earned a reputation as a rigid, demanding leader. Whether he can be effective enough on the field for the Bills to make the playoffs is the pressing question.

How are the Dolphins coping with the loss of Branden Albert? For an offensive line that has been in flux over the past few seasons, how well do you think it can handle another change?

Walker: Albert is one of Miami's most indispensable players. He solidified the left tackle position for the first time since Jake Long left the team, and there is no replacement close to Albert's talent level. The Dolphins are confident rookie Ja'Wuan James can fill in, but there isn't a track record for it. James played right tackle for the Dolphins in the first eight games and in college at Tennessee. This is his first start at left tackle since high school.

Miami is also moving left guard Dallas Thomas to right tackle and plugging in Shelley Smith from the bench to fill in at left guard. This isn't an ideal situation, especially on a short week. Buffalo is not the defensive line you want to face when experimenting in the trenches. Similar to the past three meetings, winning this matchup is most likely the easiest way for the Bills to win this game.

The Bills have been a strong road team this year, winning three of four away from Ralph Wilson Stadium. How do you explain the road success, and what could this mean for Thursday?

Rodak: I asked that question of a few players after the Bills' last road game, a 43-23 win over the New York Jets in Week 8, and wide receiver Mike Williams thought that the camaraderie of being on the road was a factor in the Bills' success. Consider that the Bills had the NFL's longest training camp, spending nearly five weeks at St. John Fisher College. They made three trips in the preseason, including spending several days with the Pittsburgh Steelers for joint practices, and, in a sense, are accustomed to being away from their facility. All of that time together leads to bonding, and I think players have reacted well in similar environments when on the road in the regular season.

The Dolphins' defense has held quarterbacks to a 34.2 QBR this season, second-lowest in the league. What has that unit been doing particularly well, especially in recent weeks?

Walker: Miami's defensive line and secondary have done a great job playing complementary football. Both units have been in sync most of the season and really hit their stride the past month. The Dolphins often get good pressure rushing just four defenders, which is the ideal circumstance for a defense. The line is deep with pass-rushers at tackle and end. Bringing just four allows seven players, at times, to drop in coverage, and that makes it hard on the quarterback. Miami's blitz packages also have been good because the secondary has done a good job in man-to-man coverage.

DAVIE, Fla. – Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been limited in practice this week after suffering ankle and right shoulder injuries in Sunday's loss to the Detroit Lions. However, Tannehill will play in Thursday's primetime game against the Buffalo Bills.

"I'm good," Tannehill said when asked about his health. "Obviously, a little sore, but I’m good."

Tannehill
Tannehill has never missed a start in three seasons. But Tannehill is running the ball more with Miami’s read-option and has taken more sacks in recent weeks. Tannehill is Miami’s second-leading rusher with 245 yards on 33 carries. He also has been sacked 20 times this season, and the wear and tear is adding up.

Another concern for Tannehill and Miami is the loss of Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert, who was lost for the season with an ACL and MCL tear on Sunday. The Dolphins will move rookie right tackle Ja’Wuan James to left tackle Thursday against a talented Bills defensive line.

Tannehill certainly will not be 100 percent playing in his second game in four days.

“Anytime you play a Thursday night game, physically, it’s tough to get your body recovered and then ready to go again,” Tannehill said. “Not to mention coming off a physical game going into another physical game, this could be a real challenge for us. The coaches took care of us this week in practice and let our bodies recover.”
DAVIE, Fla. -- Maybe it's a mental block for Ryan Tannehill. Maybe it's a physical issue or some combination of the two.

But no team has given the Miami Dolphins' starting quarterback more trouble over the past three seasons than the Buffalo Bills.

[+] EnlargeRyan Tannehill
Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY SportsIn Week 2 at Buffalo, Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill threw for 241 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT.
Tannehill enters Thursday's national game against the Bills virtually in a must-win situation. Miami (5-4) and Buffalo (5-4) have identical records and both are fighting for a playoff spot and a tiebreaker in a crowded AFC field.

The Bills have been masterful against Miami's offense the past three seasons with Tannehill under center. The Dolphins' starting quarterback is just 1-4 against the Bills in his career and never threw for more than 241 yards in those five games.

Buffalo also beat Tannehill and Miami three consecutive times by a combined margin of 71-31.

"I hate losing," Tannehill said Tuesday when asked of his record against the Bills. "I don't play to come out and play close games or lose. You play to win. I haven't played good football. I haven't played my best football against them. So it's a big game for us to step up and do that. It's a night game on national television. This is a big opportunity of course."

There will be a lot of eyes on Thursday's game. Miami and Buffalo have been pleasant surprises in the first half of the season and this matchup in some ways will separate a postseason contender from a pretender.

The Dolphins will only go as far as Tannehill takes them. He's been great at times and bad-to-mediocre at times, which is reflective of Miami's 5-4 record.

But Tannehill has been mostly bad against the Bills. He posted a passer rating above 74.0 against Buffalo just once, and that marked his only win against the Bills, 24-10, during his rookie season in 2012.

With several injuries and a short week, the Dolphins need Tannehill to produce solid quarterback play. He didn't outright call Thursday's game a must-win, but he realizes the pressure is on.

"We're in the second half of the season; it's coming down to winning games," Tannehill said. "We're in a conference where a lot of teams are playing well right now. There's still a lot of football in front of us but we have to play well."

Tannehill was banged up in last week's loss to the Detroit Lions. He showed up on the injury report with a right shoulder and ankle injuries.

Tannehill said he's "sore" but will be ready for the quick turnaround.

"It's tough," Tannehill said. "Anytime you play a Thursday night game, it's tough physically to get your body recovered and ready to go again. ...But coach took care of us this week in practice and let our bodies recover."

There are no excuses for Tannehill to have another poor game against the Bills. The time for him to step up against his division rival is now.

The Film Don't Lie: Dolphins

November, 11, 2014
Nov 11
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A weekly look at what the Miami Dolphins must fix:

The Dolphins have greatly improved their pass protection from a year ago. But Miami's offensive line is starting to show signs of wear and tear at the midpoint of the season, and that is concerning going into Thursday night's AFC East rivalry game against the Buffalo Bills.

Miami's offensive line allowed three sacks on quarterback Ryan Tannehill in Sunday's 20-16 loss to the Detroit Lions. It was the third time in four games Tannehill has been sacked three times or more. The Dolphins have allowed 10 sacks total over that span.

Fixing this problem will be even more difficult after Miami lost starting left tackle Branden Albert for the season with a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee. Albert was the Dolphins' best and most consistent offensive lineman this season.

The Dolphins' offense must get back to what made them successful in the season's first half. That includes establishing a running game early as the foundation.

Miami's rushing attack has done a good job most weeks of keeping defenses off balance. That keeps defenders guessing and helps the Dolphins' offensive line pass protect.

Replacing Albert won't be easy. Miami rookie first-round pick Ja'Wuan James has been solid at right tackle. But expect some growing pains on the left side for James. He will face the opponent's top pass-rusher on most weeks.

Dallas Thomas must also step up as the Dolphins' new right tackle, and Miami needs Shelley Smith or a healthy Daryn Colledge at guard to be stable.

DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins lost Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert, arguably their most consistent offensive player, on Sunday. Miami will put Albert on season-ending injured reserve; according to a source, he has dual ACL and MCL tears in his right knee.

Albert's recovery time is expected to be nine to 12 months. But the Dolphins (5-4), who are battling for a playoff spot in the AFC, cannot afford to sulk. They have the Buffalo Bills (5-4) visiting Sun Life Stadium on Thursday in a big game for both teams.

James
The spotlight now is on first-round pick Ja'Wuan James. He thrived at right tackle in the first nine games and developed into one of the NFL's top rookies. But James' responsibility becomes even greater as he protects Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill's blind side for the remainder of the season.

James must make some important adjustments while going from right tackle to left tackle. For starters, he will face most opponents' best pass-rushers on the left side. There are also subtle things mechanically that James must adjust to on a short week.

James' playing style fits at left tackle, although he played mostly on the right side in college at Tennessee. James' pass protection is ahead of his run blocking at this stage in his career. Coach Joe Philbin also described James on Monday as a "good athlete" and "smart guy." Miami will need all those traits to show in the final seven games.

Miami's entire offensive line will be remade with Albert sidelined for the season. In addition to James moving to left tackle, Dallas Thomas moved to right tackle and Shelley Smith moved to left guard. Philbin said that is the lineup you will likely see Thursday against Buffalo, with perhaps a wild card being the health of Daryn Colledge, who missed the past two games with a back injury.

But the most important piece on Miami's offensive line is James, who must rise to the occasion if the Dolphins expect to make a playoff push in the season's second half.

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