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Miami Dolphins reserve LBs great, or were starters not?

During the offseason, Jason Trusnik visited with coach Joe Philbin and during their chat the Miami Dolphins player wanted the head coach to get the idea that he wasn't just about playing special teams.

"Playing defensive football is important to him," Philbin said. "He felt he could make a valuable contribution. I thought Sunday was a great example of that."

It was an example brought about by necessity. The Dolphins needed Trusnik to start at the strongside linebacker because Philip Wheeler was out with a thumb injury. But when Dannell Ellerbe went down and Koa Misi went down, suddenly Trusnik was the senior member of Miami's linebacker corps.

This week? No different because even if Wheeler and Misi return (questionable at best for the moment) Ellerbe is out for the year. Jelani Jenkins is available but it seems obvious Trusnik will be the guy -- a certainty if the Dolphins are again two linebackers down.

Trusnik says he's ready. 

“I mean everything that happens in the game, we’re in front of them so we’re going to get the same type of blocks and we’re going to have to deal with the same type of stuff regardless of who’s behind us," Trusnik said. "So I guess in a way, we feel like we’re going to have to step it up just because we’re going to be the guys on the field who probably have been a part of, I guess knowing the defense a little bit longer than some of the guys that are coming in to fill the roles.

"But you know we’ve got plenty of guys at the linebacker spot who can play, who can fly around and make plays. Jason Trusnik is a guy who’s very important to our team and vital to our team as you can see now he’s filling in, but he’s one of our special teams captains. He’s our special team captain and I think he’s the type of guy that’s going to be able to come in and have a seamless transition.”

This needs to be said: It is great that Trusnik and Jenkins and to a lesser degree rookie Chris McCain, who is mostly a pass rusher at this point, played so well on Sunday.

There was virtually no drop in performance from the starters to the backups.

But I think everyone recognizes one possible reason for that is that Miami's reserves were prepared. And another possible reason is that Miami's starters are, well, just so-so.

Both Trusnik and Jenkins graded out with plus-grades for the game on Sunday. Misi and Ellerbe, meanwhile, already had minus grades in the 17 and 18 snaps respectively they took against the Patriots.

So if the arc of what had alread happened is to be believed, the Dolphins upgraded when they went with their reserves.

Nonetheless, I don't want to be the guy raining on these guys' parade so let's just say the reserves such as Trusnik and Jenkins and Jonathan Freeny played worthy of being recognized.

The question is assuming Misi and Wheeler cannot play against the Bills and Jenkins and Trusnik play well, what happens when the starters return?

I believe Misi starts. Coaches love him.

Wheeler? Not too sure.

McCain, by the way, is still not ready to start. He is slowed by a hip injury that kept him out of practice Tuesday and some last week. And he's still learning the defense and all the assignments. Think of him as a pass-rusher.

 

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