By Jeremiah Thermidor
Daniel Thomas has become one of the most efficient backup running backs in the NFL. The second-year star out of Kansas State has been given a heavier workload the last few weeks and it’s paying off for the Dolphins. Last Sunday, with just nine carries, Thomas rushed for 60 yards and a touchdown, averaging 6.7 yards per carry. His performance against the Seahawks is a far contrast from how he started the year, as he averaged below four yards per carry in the first five games. Thomas has taken pointers from starting running back Reggie Bush who is a player he looks up to and respects a great deal. As Thomas continues to improve and display a high level of productivity, he has taken snaps away from his mentor. However, the Dolphins coaches aren’t complaining. With Thomas raising his game, they believe the two performing at a high level provides them with a solid one-two punch at the position. “It gives you more options, more weapons, more ammunition as a play caller,” said Miami head coach Joe Philbin.
Having Thomas strong and healthy for Sunday’s divisional showdown against the Patriots is crucial considering New England’s rush defense has steadily improved since the start of the season. Thomas is probable for Sunday’s game with a knee and ankle injury. He’s one of seven players listed as probable on the injury report. The other guys include wide receiver Davone Bess (Wrist), cornerback Nolan Carroll (Neck/Ankle), linebacker Karlos Dansby (Bicep), quarterback Pat Devlin (Hip), tight end Anthony Fasano (Hip) and linebacker Austin Spitler (Ankle). All the players listed as probable for the Dolphins fully participated in practice on Friday, which means if they’re needed then those guys will certainly see action.
The only player listed as questionable on Miami’s injury report is rookie fullback Jorvorskie Lane who is dealing with a knee injury. He did not participate at all in practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday and Friday. Lane, who has two rushing touchdowns this season, is definitely a guy the Dolphins want on the field, especially in short yardage situations. Although the 25-year-old hasn’t had many carries since Week 5, he’ll still a valuable asset in the backfield and has proven to be a guy who can catch the ball as well with 6 receptions for 57 yards this year. Whether or not Lane sees action on Sunday will likely be a game-time decision. The Dolphins don’t have any players listed as out or doubtful for Sunday’s game.
The Patriots, meanwhile, have three players listed as out for Sunday’s game including star tight end Rob Gronkowski (Forearm/Hip), defensive end Chandler Jones (Ankle) and guard Logan Mankins (Ankle/Calf). Gronkowski broke his forearm in New England’s Week 11 matchup against Indianapolis and hasn’t seen action since then. Tight end Aaron Hernandez has been targeted more in Gronkowski’s absence while tight end Daniel Fells has picked up his blocking assignments.
New England players listed as questionable for the game include defensive tackle Ron Brace (Elbow), safety Patrick Chung (Shoulder/Hamstring), center Dan Connolly (Back), wide receiver Julian Edelman (Concussion), tight end Aaron Hernandez (Ankle), linebacker Dont’a Hightower (Hamstring), wide receiver Brandon Lloyd (Knee), defensive tackle Kyle Love (Knee), center Nick McDonald (Shoulder), wide receiver Matt Slater (Concussion), linebacker Brandon Spikes (Knee), tackle Sebastian Vollmer (Back/Knee), wide receiver Wes Welker (Ankle), linebacker Tracy White (Foot) and tackle Markus Zusevics (Illness). Although they’re listed as questionable, stars such as Welker, Lloyd, Edelman, Hernandez, Spikes, Chung and Hightower will certainly see some action during the game. The Patriots couldn’t afford to not at least make an effort trying to get those guys on the field. There are no Patriots players listed as doubtful for the game, and the only star they have who is probable on the injury report is linebacker Jerod Mayo who currently leads the league in tackles with 112.
The Miami Dolphins (5-6) will play host to the New England Patriots (8-3) on Sunday at 1 p.m. eastern. You can watch full coverage of the game right here on CBS 4.
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Jeremiah Thermidor is a freelance writer covering all things Miami Dolphins. His work can be found on Examiner.com.