First Look At: Miami Dolphins

Coming off their bye week, the Dolphins are waiting to see who will play quarterback for Green Bay. Plus, we have the Dolphins' four-game report card to fill you in on their early-season strengths and weaknesses.

The Dolphins appear as confused as anyone as to whether Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will play Sunday against them after suffering a concussion on his 46th and final pass of Sunday's 16-13 loss at Washington.

"He's a tough guy, a competitor," Dolphins cornerback Sean Smith said. "Didn't they just lose? I'm pretty sure he's going to want to bounce right back."

Certainly Rodgers wants to play, but that decision is no longer up to him.

Since the NFL implemented its new concussion policy on Dec. 2, players must pass a battery of tests, including an independent doctor's examination, in order to be cleared for the practice field, much less a game.

According to the league policy, players suffering concussions must be "fully asymptomatic, both at rest and after exertion," before they can return.

"That's the thing that's kind of still in the air," Dolphins defensive lineman Tony McDaniel said. "With all the new rules they've got with concussions now, you would say (Rodgers) wouldn't be back next game."

If Rodgers sits, the Packers would go with untested Matt Flynn, who led LSU to a BCS championship but has thrown just 17 regular-season passes since entering the league as a seventh-round pick in 2008. Rodgers has 1,304 career attempts, completing 64 percent of them, since taking over for Brett Favre.

Even Dolphins coach Tony Sparano admits there is uncertainty about Rodgers' status.

"I don't know," Sparano said. "We just have to stay tuned here. From our standpoint we have to prepare like he's playing and see where it goes. This could be one of these things that maybe late in the week he could end up playing. I think we'd be smartest to prepare for him playing."

Just to be safe, several Dolphins defenders said they would study preseason tape of Flynn.

The Dolphins have some experience facing backup quarterbacks, beating J.P. Losman and the Bills in Toronto in 2008 but losing to Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills last season.

"Matt Flynn, I've never really seen much of him as a pro, but at the same time you never can underestimate a guy," McDaniel said. "Who's to say he couldn't be as good as Aaron Rodgers? He's just sitting there, waiting on his chance. At the same time, you know who Aaron Rodgers is and you know his ability, so I hope he doesn't play. I'd rather go with Flynn instead of Rodgers."

Say cheese

A color action picture of Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, the NFL's sacks leader, was taped to the locker of every Dolphins offensive lineman on Monday. It is meant to serve as a reminder of the importance of keeping Matthews under wraps.

Sparano pleaded ignorance, but raved about Matthews' ability and said he's an "intelligent player, a really smart guy" who the Dolphins scouted extensively before the 2008 draft. They wound up taking CB Vontae Davis with the 25th pick before Matthews went to the Packers one pick later.

Dolphins notes

— Franchise left tackle Jake Long, absent for both practices during the bye week, was visible again Monday morning at practice. Long, however, was limited to riding the stationary bike. Long has three more practices in which to get up to speed for the Packers, so it's too early to panic. But from the sleeve Long was wearing on his entire left leg, it's clear he's trying to get back to full health. 

— Rookie right guard John Jerry (illness) was back working, as he did last Thursday before the team took off for the bye weekend. It's unlikely Jerry would be popped right back into starting lineup after missing the last two games, but he could start to work back into the mix along with Pat McQuistan.

— Rookie defensive end Jared Odrick was back working with the defensive linemen during individual drills. This was Odrick's first practice work since suffering a hairline fracture of his right fibula in the Sept. 12 season opener at Buffalo. He missed a solid month of work.

Four-game report card


Brandon Marshall
Marc Serota/Getty Images
PASSING OFFENSE: B -- Brandon Marshall has been a game-changer at receiver, but he also tends to disappear for long periods of time as Checkdown Chad Henne plays it safe. Five interceptions over the last 61 minutes -- four of them by Henne -- have hurt the efficiency numbers and spread talk the handcuffs could go back on Henne as Sparano seeks to limit mistakes.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-minus -- Ronnie Brown (4.7 yards per carry) and Ricky Williams (4.1) remain effective, but the overall ground attack (4.0 average) has sagged from fourth in the NFL in 2009 to 15th this year due to the limited surge from a rebuilt offensive line. The Wildcat has gone AWOL as well, even with a healthy Brown back at the controls.

PASS DEFENSE: A-minus -- Despite using three new starters in the nickel secondary -- FS Chris Clemons, CB Jason Allen and nickel CB Benny Sapp -- they entered the weekend tied for sixth in the league in this category. A strong pass rush led by Cameron Wake (three sacks) has made things easier for the guys in the back. 

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- They are allowing opponents to average 4.2 yards per carry, and 117.8 yards (23rd in NFL) rushing per game. After holding the Bills to 50 rushing yards, the Dolphins have allowed an average of 140.3 rushing yards and one touchdown the past three weeks. The past 94 carries against the Dolphins have averaged 4.48 yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- Brandon Fields has killed 10 punts inside the 20-yard-line already but he's also had two punts blocked. The kickoff coverage unit ranks dead last in the league at 35.8 yards per return. And the kick return unit clearly misses the speed of Ted Ginn Jr., if not his penchant for running out of bounds.

COACHING: C -- They opened the year with consecutive road wins for the first time since 1977, but followed up consecutive home night losses to a division opponent for just the second time in club history. Dan Henning's play calling has been curious on offense, Mike Nolan's defense hasn't created as many turnovers as promised and Tony Sparano has seen his team make more mistakes than he'd prefer.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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