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The Dolphins ended up with only four active linebackers for the season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers, making for a larger-than-anticipated role for second-year player Mike Hull.
But Hull responded in fine fashion, playing every defensive snap and leading the team with 10 tackles.
“He knows how to play football,” Head Coach Adam Gase said Monday. “He has a knack for finding the ball. He anticipates probably better than a lot of guys. He can kind of see things different. Anytime anybody tries to run anything that just seems like a misdirection play, he never falls for it. He’s always going the way the ball carrier is going. He’s one step ahead of most guys when it comes to just anticipating run plays or pass plays.”
Hull took over as the first-team linebacker during training camp after rookie second-round pick Raekwon McMillian sustained a knee injury in the preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons, but the media speculation was that he would go back to being a backup after the Dolphins signed veteran Rey Maualuga in August.
But with Maualuga and Lawrence Timmons both inactive against the Chargers, Hull got an increased role.
“It was awesome,” Hull said. “It’s a great opportunity to be able to play every snap. Just had to find a way to get it done. Not what I was expecting, but at the same time we all pulled together and we made it work, and that’s all we can ask for — getting a win.”
Hull has made his mark so far on special teams. He didn’t play one defensive snap in 12 of the 17 games he played last season, including the playoff matchup at Pittsburgh. This, however, wasn’t the first time he played every defensive snap because he did the same last December at Baltimore. That kind of action brought back memories of Penn State for Hull, who was the Big Ten Linebacker of the Year in 2014.
“For sure, every time you’re out there playing defense and playing the whole game, you forget how fun it is to play that much linebacker,” Hull said. “It was good to get out there again and just run and make some plays.”
Timmons take: Head coach Adam Gase said he had no update Monday on the status of Timmons, who was not with the team and declared inactive for Sunday’s game. Gase said he had not talked to Timmons and wasn’t ready to make any predictions or statements as to what might happen with the linebacker the Dolphins signed as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. “I haven’t even gotten through step one yet,” Gase said “Kind of got in a little late last night (from Los Angeles). Kind of dealing with the guys that played.”
Run stoppers: Throughout the offseason and training camp, run defense has been a big topic of conversation around the Dolphins after they finished 30th in the NFL in that statistical category last season. Well, they certainly passed their first test of 2017 with flying colors. The Dolphins held the Chargers to only 44 yards on 14 carries for an average of 3.1 yards a pop. And that figure includes only one defensive breakdown that led to a 26-yard run by Branden Oliver. The Dolphins really took care of Chargers starting running back Melvin Gordon, who had 13 yards on nine attempts. “We felt like we had very few missed tackles,” Gase said. “The entire defense did a good job playing off each other. We had one that kind of got us for a longer run, but for the most part everybody was in the right gaps, playing fast, a lot of gang tackling. A lot of guys were on the ball just collapsing everything. It was really good to see.”
Reshad’s return: Safety Reshad Jones made his return to action against the Chargers when he played in a regular season game for the first time since Oct. 16, 2016. Jones played every snap on defense and ended up with six tackles. “It felt great,” he said Monday. “It felt even better that we got the W. It just feels good to be back running around, getting my pads, getting my feet back wet a little bit. First live rep in a while after shoulder surgery. But the good thing was I wasn’t really thinking about my shoulder. I was just going out there and playing.”
Back home: The Dolphins flew back from Los Angeles after the victory against the Chargers, and for the players it was great to be back home. “Oh man, amazing,” tackle Ja’Wuan James said. “It feels good to be back in your own bed finally, get to see your family. A lot of stuff was going on and we were not really in control, so it’s good to see everybody’s family is safe and get back home.” For those Dolphins players who left town once the scheduled season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was postponed Sept. 6, they were away for 11 days. It also was the first time the players went to the Baptist Health Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University in a week and a half. “Just to lay in your own bed, get in your own shower, it just feels amazing to be back home,” center Mike Pouncey said. “But we had a good time out in California and came home with a W, and nothing could be better.”
College pride: The weekend hardly could have been more perfect for Mike Pouncey, who not only enjoyed the Dolphins victory with his teammates but also got bragging rights on fellow offensive lineman Ja’Wuan James with the University of Florida’s victory against the University of Tennessee on a Hail Mary in the final seconds of a tie game. It was a painful loss for James, who watched the start of the game in Oxnard, California, then got to see the ending after the team arrived after making the drive to Los Angeles. “Everyone was telling us they are about to going to overtime, so we ran into the room and turned on the TV and literally that play (Hail Hary) happened,” James said. “I just turned the TV off and walked out. He (Pouncey) gave me a lot for it.” In the secondary, Bobby McCain got bragging rights over Alterraun Verner after Memphis beat UCLA in a shootout.
Parkey’s presence: New kicker Cody Parkey sure found a great way to endear himself to his new teammates with his 4-for-4 field goal performance capped by his game-winning 54-yard kick. “He could do no wrong, especially for this next week,” safety Michael Thomas said. “We welcome him. That was a great win for us. That was huge for us. For them to be that confident in him to kick that long of a field goal, that’s great.” Ja’Wuan James said Parkey being able to make the game-winning kick wasn’t surprising because of what he’d seen in practice since Parkey joined the team Sept. 3. “He hasn’t missed since he’s been here at practice, so we knew every time he kicked it, it was probably going in,” James said. “He’s a hometown hero right now. We’re happy for him and he definitely helped our team.”