Richmond Times-Dispatch

NFL NOTES Dolphins dealing with COVID

Washington

- Mphillips@timesdispa­tch.com (804) 649-6546 Twitter: @michaelpRT­D

DAVIE, Fla. — The Miami Dolphins’ COVID-19 situation appears to have gotten worse.

Just days after securing a comeback victory against the Arizona Cardinals without five assistant coaches, the Dolphins will likely be without two starting defenders this weekend due to COVID-19 protocols.

Dolphins veteran outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy, secondyear defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and practice squad receiver Matt Cole were placed on the NFL’s reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday.

All three players could miss Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers, when the Dolphins hope to extend their four-game winning streak and improve their second-place standing in the AFC East and seventh-place standing in the AFC playoff race.

The team also removed rookie receiver Lynn Bowden Jr. from the list, which denotes a player has either tested positive or been in contact with someone who did test positive. got to get past that. That’s how I feel about it, and that’s just the way I see it.”

Asked what improvemen­t would look like, Rivera was blunt: “I’d like for them to play better and be more productive.”

The trio of Jon Bostic, Cole Holcomb and Kevin PierreLoui­s weren’t on anybody’s all-preseason teams, but Rivera wants to see the group be more aggressive in the coming weeks.

With defensive end Chase Young drawing double- and even triple-teams, there should be opportunit­ies for plays to be made. Giants quarterbac­k Daniel Jones, for instance, didn’t have a single turnover last week.

“One of the things we want these guys to understand is that once you’ve read your key, once you’ve got going, you’ve got to go,” Rivera said. “You can’t hesitate. You can’t second guess, because the defensive line is counting on you to be definitive in your actions. If you’re not definitive, they can’t be definitive.”

Rivera had big-name talent in his years coaching the Carolina Panthers, with Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly anchoring dominant defensive units.

In the 4-3 scheme Rivera favors, the middle linebacker (in this case Bostic) is the quarterbac­k of the defense.

Davis, 37, signed with Washington this offseason, but his usage has been a source of confusion. He was injured during training camp, but hasn’t been on the field since recovering, and hasn’t practiced this week.

“At this point, we like the guys that we’re playing,” defensive coordinato­r Jack Del Rio said. “He’s not going to be a core special teams guy, so therefore he’s inactive.”

Del Rio said he thought Sunday’s lapses weren’t characteri­stic of the season as a whole, and the defensive line and linebacker­s will be ready to rise to the challenge again.

“I feel good about our front seven,” he said. “I feel like we put a lot on their plate. We play to them. We lean on them to take care of things. For the most part, they have. It wasn’t quite to the standard that we expect last week. But I think throughout the course of this season, it’s been pretty darn stout.”

One concern is that the switch from the 3-4 of past seasons to this year’s 4-3, zonecovera­ge based approach has slowed the team down. Without a full offseason of practice, Washington’s players may still be learning the intricate defense.

Cornerback Ronald Darby, who played primarily man coverage in Philadelph­ia before signing this offseason, said there are major difference­s.

“Man (coverage) is more difficult, but, and not to sound crazy, but it’s dumber,” he said. “You just worry about your guys. You keep your eyes on your guy, you’re doing your job. With zone, you have to be worried about two to three guys on your side. You get one block down, you’ve still got to worry about others coming up the field.”

Darby also said he wasn’t sweating things.

“Just do what we do, better,” he said. “That’s all we’ve got to do. We’re not going to be perfect, but you can’t sit there and dwell on it. The little mistakes you made last week, just try to minimize them next week.”

Rivera said he’s not considerin­g any changes this week at linebacker in terms of playing time.

“Probably the biggest thing right now is we’ve got two young guys we want to see play a little bit more right now,” he said. “That’s kind of where we are with it. We’ll continue to work it and see what happens. We’ve still got eight games left to play.”

Note: Running back Antonio Gibson (shoulder), who sat out Wednesday’s practice as a precaution­ary measure, practiced in full on Thursday. Rivera said he had “no concerns” about Gibson’s availabili­ty for Sunday.

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