DAVIE, Fla. (AP)The Miami Dolphins’ roster is becoming as thin as their playoff chances.
Starting safeties Reshad Jones and safety Bobby McCain went on injured reserve Wednesday, further depleting an already shaky secondary.
On Tuesday, Miami cut leading rusher Mark Walton hours after he was arrested on charges of punching his pregnant girlfriend in the head. It was Walton’s fourth arrest in less than a year.
The roster moves leave in further disarray a depth chart that has been a patchwork all season as the Dolphins (2-8) rebuild under rookie coach Brian Flores.
“We’ve had moving parts really the entire season,” Flores said. “It started early.”
He’s right: On Sept. 1, for example, the Dolphins traded three starters and acquired seven players who are still on the roster.
They traded starting safety Minkah Fitzpatrick on Sept. 17 and dealt Kenyan Drake – then their leading rusher – on Oct. 28. Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard went on injured reserve Oct. 30, and top receiver Preston Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury Nov. 3.
Finding replacements has been especially challenging for a team with no talent to spare. The Dolphins, who play Sunday at Cleveland, have been outscored by 16.6 points per game, worst in the NFL.
“It has been a unique year,” quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “There has been a lot of churning and turnover. You try to make the best out of it.
“You find the guys you can rely on, and lean on them. Other guys you’ve got to get up to speed, and they’ve got to figure it out, or there will be another guy in the next week.”
Of the Dolphins’ 53 players, 23 weren’t with the team in training camp. Given such an unsettled situation, many agree Flores has done well to win two games.
“As a staff, we just try to get the guys who are going to be available to us ready to play,” he said.
This week the secondary has the biggest holes to plug. Jones, Miami’s highest-paid player at $13 million, suffered a cracked rib earlier this year and played in just four games, while McCain’s season was ended by a shoulder injury.
They’re two of the 11 starters in the secondary this season.
“It’s definitely different every week,” said safety Steven Parker, who was acquired off waivers just before the season and will make his fourth start Sunday. “There are a lot of moving parts, but you’ve got to be ready to go. Nobody is going to hold your hand.”
Newcomers to the active roster kept coming Wednesday. Safety Adrian Colbert was signed off Seattle’s practice squad, linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel was activated from injured reserve, and defensive tackle Gerald Willis was promoted from the practice squad.
All may get a chance to play Sunday.
“It’s up to the players to make the most of the opportunities,” Flores said. “We’ve had a lot of guys step up when they’ve gotten an opportunity. Not to get on a soap box, but that’s what life is about. When you get an opportunity, it’s a chance to take advantage and carve out a role and try to create a career for yourself.”
Jones has had a 10-year career with the Dolphins, including two Pro Bowl seasons. He got off to a bad start with the new coaching staff by skipping voluntary practices in April, but Flores didn’t rule out Jones’ return in 2020, when he’ll be due $11.5 million.
“This is a good player who has been productive in this league for a long time,” Flores said.
Walton won’t be back. When released, he was halfway through a four-game suspension stemming from three arrests when he was with the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Dolphins signed Walton in May, one month after the Bengals released him. Flores declined to say whether the episode would change the way the Dolphins assess a player’s character.
“As an organization, character is something we spend a lot of time on,” Flores said. “In this case it didn’t work out with Mark. It’s case by case.”
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