Tyson Clabo is realistic about the player he has become nearing the end of his career at age 32.
“I understand that there are probably four right tackles in the NFL that can block Elvis Dumervil and Marion Williams consistently one-on-one,” Clabo said Tuesday. “At this point in my career, it doesn’t appear that I’m one of them. But I still have confidence in my ability to start at right tackle in this league."
The Dolphins may have to test that confidence Thursday evening.
That's because starting right tackle Jonathan Martin has missed the past two days of practice with what the team is describing as an illness.
And as the game is Thursday, there are serious questions whether Martin will be able to start, much less play the entire game. So either way, Clabo has to be ready.
And he sounded that way Tuesday.
“Roles change constantly in this league,” Clabo said. “Last week my role was to be ready in case anything happened. This week, my role might be a little different. That’s just life in the NFL week to week."
Last week, Clabo lost his starting job after yielding eight sacks in the season's first six games. And there is little chance Clabo could reclaim that starting job except that Martin is, well, sick.
So the Dolphins are hoping Martin responds and if he doesn't they hope Clabo responds.
“He’s a true professional," coach Joe Philbin said, offering a ringing endorsement of Clabo. "Comes into work every single day wanting to get better and wants to improve."
The Bengals are a good but not great pass-rushing team. They are tied for 12th in the NFL with 22 sacks.
But left defensive end Carlos Dunlap has been good and has four sacks this season. He would match up against Miami's right tackle. Right defensive end Michael Johnson, who would line up against the left tackle Bryant McKinnie, has 1 1/2 sacks.
And while the possibility of Clabo vs. Dunlap poses questions for Miami, I would say the other side also has issues.
That's because while Johnson is not having an attention-grabbing season, he plays next to All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who has five sacks and has been virtually unblockable for the past year or so.
Left guard Richie Incognito will have his hands full with Atkins and will likely require help from center Mike Pouncey. That means Incognito, who did fine work helping McKinnie with double teams in the New England game, won't be able to help the left tackle as much this week.
It seems this week the Dolphins will find it harder to slide their protection to the left side with their right tackle either fighting off an illness or coming into the game having allowed eight sacks already.
Tough matchup for Miami.