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Don't expect sympathy, seek the silver lining

The New England Patriots are down a lot of talent today.

Vince Wilfork and Sebastian Volmer went to the injured reserve list long ago. Rob Gronkowski went to the injured reserve list this week. As I reported last night, the team downgraded two wide receivers from questionable to out for Sunday's meeting with the Dolphins. And backup right tackle Marcus Cannon may not play so they'll be using their third-stringer against Cameron Wake.

We all feel sorry for them ...

... Said no one.

The nature of the NFL is teams lose talent they counted on. The Dolphins lost Dustin Keller and Brandon Gibson.

And no one felt sorry for them.

The Dolphins lost Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin in the NFL's most publicized scandal of the year. And no one felt sorry for them.

But the Dolphins have risen out of that scandal. They have done what good teams with depth and heart do when they lose talent. They overcome. The find a silver lining to the storm.

And as I write in my column in Sunday's Miami Herald, there is a face to that silver lining for the Dolphins: Sam Brenner.

I tell you the improbable journey of the rookie and Brenner talks about what drives him.

As to what kind of player he is ...

“I’d say I’m a scappy guy. But at the same time, you can’t play this game and be dumb," Brenner told me last week. "You have to use your mind to excel. So I take aspects of both of those things into my game."

The amazing thing about the jettisoning of Incognito and Martin is that the offensive line is actually performing better without them. No, the line is not grading out better individually. No, they are not more talented.

But the sum of the parts seems to be an upgrade over the unit that included Martin and Incognito. Even coach Joe Philbin agrees.

"Well, we’re pleased with the way the guys are playing right now," he said. "There’s certainly still a lot of room for improvement out of our guys who are playing right now and we really haven’t sat back and said we’re playing a lot better this week than we did in week six or seven or eight.  I think there’s been some improvement, the guys seem to be working well together, this group that we have out there and that obviously has to continue on Sunday."

A silver lining out of a dark cloud.

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