The Miami Dolphins face the possibility of being without both starting tackles against the Buffalo Bills’ fierce pass rush in Sunday’s 1 p.m. kickoff at Hard Rock Stadium between two AFC East unbeatens.
Three-time Pro Bowl tackle Terron Armstead has his status in doubt going into Sunday’s critical matchup against the Buffalo Bills.
“It is literally up in the air,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said on Friday ahead of team practice. “Only his body really knows, and I don’t think he knows yet if he’ll play.”
This comes as Miami already is without right tackle Austin Jackson, on injured reserve with an ankle ailment, for at least three more weeks. But the team has been pleased with backup Greg Little’s work filling in at his spot.
The Dolphins didn’t send Armstead, who played through a toe injury last Sunday in Baltimore, out to any of the team’s practices this week as he missed a third consecutive day on Friday. Last week, he participated on a limited basis on Thursday and Friday before playing against the Ravens, but McDaniel expressed confidence in Armstead’s ability to play without practice.
“He’s a vet that we can count on if he’s able to play,” McDaniel said. “Traditionally, you don’t really mess with that stuff. Guys have to practice to be able to play. He’s proven otherwise.
“We thought it’d be extra helpful if we didn’t hurt how he’s treating [the toe] by making it worse with practice, and we need to get guys prepared should he not be able.”
If he plays, Armstead will be crucial in blocking Bills edge rusher Von Miller, and the prospect of backup tackles having to deal with him could be scary. Buffalo also has second-year standout defensive end Greg Rousseau, a University of Miami alum, opposite Miller.
Should Armstead be unable to play, McDaniel may opt to insert Robert Jones at left guard while sliding Liam Eichenberg out to Armstead’s vacated left tackle spot, as he did when Armstead missed snaps in the opener against New England. This would keep Little at right tackle.
Little has impressed offensive line coach Matt Applebaum since getting thrown into the lineup for much of the Patriots game and the entire outing in Baltimore.
“He did really well in there. I was proud of him,” Applebaum said on Thursday. “I think it’s been a little while since he played, and he had a great week of preparation. He went out there against some good players and performed pretty well.”
Little could be on a path to revitalizing his career after underwhelming in two years with the Carolina Panthers, which drafted him in the second round in 2019, and not getting game action in 2021 with the Dolphins.
“The guy’s got a lot of physical tools,” Applebaum said. “There’s a reason he was a high pick. I mean, he’s [listed at 6-5, 322 pounds]. He’s got long arms, good feet and can bend. Those guys don’t grow on trees.”
Little said Armstead’s presence has instilled confidence in him.
“We speak all the time. He always says I’m a good player,” said Little, adding that Armstead teaches teammates how to watch film. “Hearing that from a guy like that is always cool and stuff. He’s been helpful to the room, understanding football mindsets and stuff. Every vet doesn’t willingly help.”
Armstead’s status is just one among a series of injury concerns for both teams going into Sunday’s divisional matchup.
McDaniel was cautious in detailing cornerback Xavien Howard’s potential availability after he missed Wednesday’s practice but was limited on Thursday with a groin injury. Howard and cornerbacks coach Sam Madison, on Thursday, indicated they’re confident he’ll be ready.
“I’m confident he’ll be able to go if he’s able to go,” McDaniel said. “And then, I’m confident in the players that will play if he doesn’t go.”
The Bills will already be down at least four key defenders for Sunday’s game as Buffalo coach Sean McDermott said safety Micah Hyde, cornerback Dane Jackson and defensive tackle Jordan Phillips are out. Cornerback Tre’Davious White is out on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list. The same goes for Dolphins cornerback Byron Jones. Additionally for Buffalo, safety Jordan Poyer (foot) has his status in doubt for Sunday.
“They’re very good players,” McDaniel said of the injured Bills defenders. “But their whole defense is productive because it’s a team defense.”
Along with Armstead, tight ends Hunter Long (ankle) and Cethan Carter (concussion protocol) were not seen at Friday drills. Wide receiver Cedrick Wilson Jr. was no longer wearing a red, non-contact jersey as he looks to return from an injury to his ribs.
“Ribs are tricky because it’s hard to play football and keep them out of the equation — or breathe,” McDaniel said.
This story will be updated.