The 2011 Dolphins' second-round pick was cut by the team before the start of the regular season. No team claimed Thomas off waivers or signed him as a free agent. Therefore, he missed the first two games of the regular season.
Opportunity finally knocked last weekend when Dolphins leading rusher Knowshon Moreno went down with an elbow injury. The Dolphins re-signed Thomas because of his familiarity with the team and the offensive system.
Thomas was in Jacksonville with his parents when he got the call and looks forward to a second chance.
"It just makes you appreciate the game even more," Thomas said. "Being away from the game, not being on a team, I haven't had that feeling since seventh grade. I'm just ready to go out there and play. My legs feel good and everything."
Here are two examples of how quickly things change in the NFL: Thomas, a four-year veteran, lost both his locker and jersey number in his two weeks away from the team. Dolphins rookie running back Orleans Darkwa, who beat out Thomas in training camp, now has Thomas' old locker, and practice squad safety Brandian Ross wears Thomas' old No. 33. Thomas now wears No. 30 and took everything in stride.
Thomas was once expected to develop into Miami's long-term solution at running back, but that never came to fruition. His NFL future was in question after Miami released him before the regular season.
"You never know in this league," Thomas said. "But I knew I would get a call. I just didn't know if it would be like Week 3 or Week 8. It's just a process."
"I don't expect anybody to call me," Albert said sternly. "It's a business. We've got a game to win and they've got a game to win. We'll see [each other] on Sunday."
Expect an intense game between Miami (1-1) and Kansas City (0-2). Both teams are in need of a win after a pair of losses in Week 2. A case can be made that Sunday is already a must-win game for the winless Chiefs.
Albert was one of Kansas City's Pro Bowl players last season but the team didn't want to pay his hefty price tag in free agency. Enter the Dolphins, who had a major need at left tackle and were willing to fork up $47 million to bring Albert to Miami.
"It was tough to leave, but the Dolphins wanted me here and I'm here now," Albert said. "The situation, at the time, I had to go."
Sunday presents a tricky game for the Dolphins. Kansas City made the playoffs last year and is probably better than its record indicates. The Dolphins, who are 1-0 at home this season, cannot afford to drop this game to a winless team.
Albert knows better than anyone in Miami's locker room what the Dolphins are up against.
"Their whole team is good. I've been there," Albert said. "Like I said, for six years, those guys are some fighters. Even though whatever their record is right now, those guys are not going to give up. On both sides of the ball, they've got good players. They're going to come in here with a fighting mentality and we're got to have a fighting mentality, too."
- Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald writes Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is trying to fix his accuracy issues.
- Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post writes Tannehill is drowning out his critics.
- Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel writes Dolphins safety Louis Delmas is limited with a calf injury.
- Brian Coyle of the Dolphins team site writes cornerback Brent Grimes is ready for Kansas City Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe.
If that thought doesn't hurt enough, torture yourself with this fact. Pro Football Focus has Albert rated their No. 1 performing offensive tackle through two games. His replacement for the Chiefs, Eric Fisher, is rated 63rd among 66 tackles.
It's too late to wish Albert back into a Chiefs uniform. Albert left as a free agent in March and the Chiefs have to live with their decision to draft Fisher No. 1 overall last year and make him their long-term left tackle instead of Albert.
That choice as time passes is looking more and more like a bad one. Fisher hasn't played anything like the No. 1 overall pick and, at times since joining the Chiefs, has been so bad he deserved a spot on the bench.
The Chiefs never seriously considered giving Albert the long-term contract he wanted because they didn't see him as a premier offensive lineman.
"Some people (thought) I was getting older," Albert said Wednesday regarding his departure from the Chiefs. "Some people didn't think I was as good as I think I am. It's my job to prove everybody wrong and I think I'm doing a good job at it. I have no (argument) with anybody. People have their opinions."
The Chiefs' opinion now looks like the wrong one. Instead of Albert protecting quarterback Alex Smith, he will repeat his old practice field battles with Tamba Hali and try to keep him away from Tannehill.
"Me and Tamba have had some classic battles in practice," Albert said. "This one counts."
Here is an update of Miami’s latest injuries:
Did not participate: LB Koa Misi (ankle), DL Terrence Fede (knee), RB Knowshon Moreno (elbow), G Shelley Smith (knee)
Limited participation: LT Branden Albert (shoulder), TE Charles Clay (knee), S Louis Delmas (calf), LB Jelani Jenkins, C Mike Pouncey (hip), LB Jordan Tripp (chest), G Billy Turner (foot), LB Philip Wheeler (thumb)
Full participation: WR Brian Hartline (back), S Walt Aikens (hand), DT Randy Starks (toe)
Analysis: The Dolphins added several new injuries following their Week 2 loss to the Buffalo Bills. Albert, Delmas and Jenkins are among the starters who were banged up in that game. Pouncey practiced for the second day in a row and appears to be making progress. If he doesn’t return Sunday, Miami’s following game on Sept. 28 against the Oakland Raiders looks like a possibility. Moreno will not play and Misi’s chances aren’t looking good. For Kansas City, star running back Jamaal Charles (ankle) and safety Eric Berry (ankle) did not practice Wednesday.
"It’s better to struggle in September than December," Tannehill deadpanned following Wednesday’s practice.
The Dolphins' passing game is ranked 24th in the NFL, and Tannehill is averaging just 209.5 passing yards per game. He also has a passer rating of 76.1. Miami was fortunate enough to split the first two games with its starting quarterback playing mediocre in that span.
Tannehill knows he must be more consistent as Dolphins (1-1) host the Kansas City Chiefs (0-2) Sunday at Sun Life Stadium.
“I haven’t been playing up to my standards and up to my standards as a team,” Tannehill said. “I just have to do better. ... Obviously, I want it to change. I’m not sitting here happy with the way I played.”
Miami’s coaches remain behind Tannehill. Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said the struggles on offense aren't on one person, and Miami offensive coordinator Bill Lazor also said Tannehill has shown encouraging signs in practice.
But so far not much has translated into the games as Tannehill tries to adjust to a new offense. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Tannehill was 0-of-6 on throws of 15 yards or more downfield in last week’s loss to the Buffalo Bills. Miami’s passing game hasn’t been much of a threat through two weeks of the season. Much of that falls on the starting quarterback.
Tannehill has received strong support from Dolphins fans in South Florida. But some of that is starting to change. According to an ESPN.com poll this week, nearly half (49 percent) of Dolphins fans are now convinced Tannehill is not the long-term solution in Miami. About 22 percent believe Tannehill will be the Dolphins’ franchise quarterback and 29 percent remain undecided.
The only way Tannehill can silence the doubters is with consistent play. He has 14 games remaining to have a strong third season.
“Obviously, I don’t want to struggle at all,” Tannehill said. “But there’s a lot of football ahead of us and I’m excited about the opportunity we have.”
Here are some thoughts on Miami’s second practice:
- Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey practiced for the second day in a row, which is a good sign of his progress. In addition, Wednesday was a full-padded practice. That was a first for Pouncey as well. Pouncey believes he can play in Sunday’s game against Kansas City but understands the decision will be made by Miami’s coaching and medical staff. In the meantime, Pouncey needs as much practice as possible to shake off the rust.
- Dolphins starting guard Shelley Smith (knee) did not practice Wednesday in the portion open to the media. This is the second practice Smith has missed, which is not a good sign for his chances to play on Sunday. Miami linebacker Koa Misi and rookie defensive end Terrence Fede also did not practice during the media viewing portion.
- The Dolphins reportedly worked out former San Francisco 49ers running back LaMichael James on Tuesday but did not sign him to a contract. Miami has four healthy running backs to take into Sunday’s game in Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas and rookies Damien Williams and Orleans Darkwa.
Miller is averaging a career-best 4.8 yards per carry this season in two games. The Dolphins (1-1) hope that continues when they host the Kansas City Chiefs (0-2) Sunday at Sun Life Stadium.
"I'm looking forward to it," Miller said. "Every running back wants the ball in their hands. So I feel like the more carries you get, the more comfortable you get with the team you're going against. I'm pretty up for the challenge."
Miller started both games for Miami, but in reality he was the Dolphins' No. 2 option. After signing Moreno, the Dolphins found a good niche with Miller as a change-of-pace back.
However, Miller is back in the lead role that he struggled with last season. The Dolphins only gave Miller 20 carries or more once in 16 games. Miller is aware this may be the type of smash-mouth game where Miller has his number called a lot.
"I wish it was here tomorrow, but we've got to prepare and just get ready for this upcoming game," Miller said. "I'm going to do anything to help this team win."
Behind Miller, the Dolphins also will rely on rookie backups Damien Williams and Orleans Darkwa. Miami also re-signed former Dolphins draft bust Daniel Thomas on Monday, but he's not expected to have a major role with limited practice time.
Williams, who has shown promise as an undrafted rookie, is expected to assume the No. 2 tailback role behind Miller. He rushed for 19 yards on five carries last week in a 29-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
Miller and Williams should get a bulk of the carries Sunday against the Chiefs, who are ranked No. 23 against the run.
"I'm very hungry. You've got to stay that way," an eager Williams said. "Being able to do what I did and then that last Sunday's game, being able to get a couple of carries, that showed that the coaches trust me to have the ball in my hands and do what I've been doing."
- Chris Perkins of the Sun Sentinel writes the Dolphins must run the football to win.
- Greg Cote of the Miami Herald writes the Dolphins should allow quarterback Ryan Tannehill to pass or fail.
- Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports Dolphins center Mike Pouncey will not play Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.
- Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post writes rookies Billy Turner and Jordan Tripp returned to practice.
Pouncey's status will not be determined until later in the week. But Pouncey believes he is healthy enough and ready to make his season debut Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs (0-2).
"I feel like I can play," Pouncey said after practice. "But it ain't my decision. It's really not that tough. Honestly, I'm just listening to what the coaches say and the doctors say because they know best."
Pouncey said he was a full participant in practice on Tuesday. He moved around well and looked fluid in the portion of practice open to the media.
Pouncey missed all of training camp, the preseason and the first two games of the regular season. The initial diagnosis was that he would miss 4-7 games, but Pouncey did very well rehabbing his hip and remains ahead of schedule. Pouncey said twice in training camp that he's targeting Week 4 against the Oakland Raiders in London. A return Sunday would be even better for the Dolphins and their inconsistent offensive line.
The Dolphins were on their way to earning league-wide respect after an impressive Week 1 victory over the reigning AFC East champion New England Patriots. But Sunday’s 29-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills, who currently have the NFL’s longest playoff drought, had plenty of similarities to the “same old Dolphins.”
Miami fell to 1-4 against Buffalo in its past five meetings. The Bills swept the Dolphins last season.
This also reflected in ESPN.com’s Power Rankings, which placed the Dolphins at No. 20 this week. Miami tumbled five spots.
There were many this offseason who didn't expect much from the Dolphins. Miami need to string together wins and play with more consistency in order to earn the trust back of the Power Rankings panel.
Pouncey missed all of training camp, the preseason and the first two games of the regular season to rehab. His participation is a sign that Pouncey could be close to returning, potentially as early as Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs or the following week against the Oakland Raiders in London on Sept. 28.
The Dolphins certainly can use Pouncey. Miami allowed four sacks and struggled in the running game in a 29-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
We will have more on Pouncey following Tuesday's practice.