The Dolphins are pleased with rookie defensive linemen Phillip Merling and Kendall Langford. But there is a gap between being pleased and being satisfied.
The Dolphins are by no means satisfied with either because, well, both are struggling lately.
Langford has managed only two tackles the past two weeks. Merling hasn't had more than one tackle in a game since the San Diego game, three weeks ago. Both are big bodied men with much promise. But they are also rookies.
And they've been playing like it lately.
“You see at different times during the course of games, you see different peaks and kind of valleys with them a little bit," coach Tony Sparano said Friday.
Seems the valleys come as the two players are on the field longer or later in games, which suggests some sort of conditioning or stamina issue.
"You’ll see them make some plays early in the ballgame," Sparano said. "Maybe you’ll see them, the longer the drive goes, flatten out, maybe flatline just a little bit there ... With all due respect, our two young guys there, Phil and Kendall, are good players and they’re going to be really good players for us. I think [consistency's] what they struggle with. That’s what we’re trying to get out of them -- more consistency, fundamentally and cut it loose a little bit."
Sparano says he has suggested to both players they should have more fun playing the game. Maybe a little energy and buzz will keep them going longer.
"I keep telling them, ‘Play like it’s a college game," Sparano said. "Go out there and play the game like it’s a college game,' " Sparano said. "I need that kind of enthusiasm out of them because they’re young guys, not far removed. They understand exactly what I’m talking about. Go out, have fun, cut it loose for as long as you can go."
The interesting question is how long either will be able to maintain their stamina in the Denver thin air Sunday. It should be interesting.