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Donald Butler gets opportunity if Misi can't play; Albert ankle a concern; Joseph explains defensive players freelancing

Short week for the Miami Dolphins and so the team's coordinators are speaking to reporters Tuesday rather than Thursday. And it was a newsy few minutes with defensive coordinator Vance Joseph and offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen.

Joseph said Donald Butler will be the starting SAM linebacker if Koa Misi (neck) cannot play and Neville Hewitt will start and play if Jelani Jenkins (groin) cannot play.

"It's his chance, his turn to show us what he can do," Joseph said of Butler.

My sense is the Misi injury is such that the Dolphins are planning to go with Butler and then if Misi suddenly recovers, all the better.

Christensen said Ja'Wuan James remains the team's starting right tackle despite the fact he struggled on Sunday, giving up strip sack and being benched eventually. But James is back at his spot against the Bengals.

"Yeah, I think he's still our starting right tackle," Christensen said. "He's no different than anyone, we're looking for the right combinations who can do it day in and day out. Probably like a baseball pitcher, he's a starter, but sometimes you have to give some guys relief. Sometimes it's short term but that doesn't change thgt you're a starter.

"He's a good player. He's an athlete. And the thing everyone wants out of him is for him to establish himself as an elite right tackle and to be a leader. We're dying for guys to be owners in this thing and this is my unit, my franchise, my team. Follow me. Do what I'm doing. We're looking for guys to be owners. The good teams they have veteran good players that take ownership of the thing ... That's what we want to see out of him and what we want him to see out of himself."

Christensen said he was still holding out hope center Anthony Steen, who is nursing a high ankle injury, could play. Steen said in the locker room he expects to play. Christensen sounded less optimistic that either Mike Pouncey and Arian Foster would play. Christensen said it would be "on the miraculous side" for Pouncey to play.

We already know Jordan Cameron is not playing.

Interestingly, Christensen spoke about left tackle Branden Albert in the same terms he did as Steen. Albert injured his ankle on the Cleveland game's final play but there was no suggestion his injury was as serious as Steen's -- until now.

"The truth of the matter is it's a short week and it's hard," Christensen said. "And the hardest thing is who you give the reps to. The hard thing is you can't count on 'em. You put them out there and then all of the sudden in the first quarter they can't go. That's the complicated question. You put Steen and BA up and all of a sudden in the first drive they say, 'Hey, I tried and I can't go.' Now you're stuck because the other guys are inactive. That's the tricky part and that's where coach Gase and the front office will have to make a tough decision."

The decision on these players is as simple as this: If they start, will they finish?

If the answer is yes, they play. If the answer is uncertain, then they probably do not.

"Having two starters in the same predicament is extremely complicated," Christensen said. "It makes it extremely sensitive."

I told you earlier this week that the Dolphins are getting more mistakes on defense than anyone thought they'd get because the defense is not exactly a lesson in rocket science. The Miami defense should be easy enough to learn.

Joseph agrees. 

"I don't think it's super hard but you have to be detailed," the defensive coordinator said. "We've had a lot of errors. We practice very well each week but in the game we have a lot of errors. We've had probably eight to nine plays a game where we've had critical errors that cause explosive plays. Aside from those 8-10 plays it's been pretty good. I think It's a case of a new system. It's a case of having some young guys playing out there. That's what I have to attribute it to. It's a system where it's almost the same job whether it's pressure or zone so I'm not sure why there's a lot of error right now. But it's got to be fixed. Quickly. But again, it's been 8-10 snaps where there's error and the other 60 snaps it's been pretty good."

I also explained there was freelancing by some defensive linemen going on and that needed to stop. Joseph agrees.

"Yes. Yes," Joseph said. "That happens when guys are pass-rushing every snap. We've got to play blocks better. Every snaps can't be a pass rush. When you're pass rushing, you can be softer in your gap. But you still have to be in your gap. It's soft so it gets moved so for the linebacker instead of it being a smaller gap it becomes a big gap.

"We've got to recognize run and pass better and play blocks better up front. And that's an issue when you're an attack front. We've preached, 'Attack, attack, attack.' but in the same aspect they've got to play blocks better."

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