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Monday, January 24, 2022

Christian Wilkins steals the show with TD Utsav vs. Jets; Dolphins adjust without Jevon Holland, Jaylen Waddell

The Miami Dolphins may have earned a vital victory in keeping their late-season playoff hopes alive, but defensive tackle Christian Wilkins stole the show when he scored a forward touchdown on offense in the fourth quarter and turned it into an epic Capped with celebration.

Wilkins was first on the New York Jets’ 1-yard line and on goal as a fullback in a goal-line formation. He slid from the backfield to catch a pass to flat for a touchdown from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, which led the Dolphins 24-17 in a 31-24 victory.

What happened after Wilkins came down with safe football in the end zone was pure pandemic.

First, Wilkins was moved to the front row of seats immediately behind the end zone. He nearly bullied Durham Smyth on the way. Wilkins jumped into the stands to crush some unsuspecting fans with his 6-foot-4, 310-pound frame.

He was not done. Wilkins went back to the end zone and started break dancing. He hit the worm and transformed into a windmill with a roster of about half the dolphins as his hypemen all around him, with several teammates running from shore to have fun.

“I was holding back, honestly,” Wilkins joked after the game. “You haven’t seen me at a wedding or a bar mitzvah or anything like that, and that’s when the trick is on full display.”

Utsav received good reviews from teammates.

Defensive end Emmanuel Ogba, doing a joint web conference with Wilkins, rated it 10 out of 10. Outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel was excited to see another member of Miami’s defensive front score seven on offense.

“That’s what I love about Christian,” Van Ginkel said. “He brings that same energy every day. Just to see him go out there and play well – plays like flashy touchdowns, he does so much more than what people don’t see.”

Added right guard Robert Hunt: “Christian went crazy. He was very good. … He must have brought the juice.”

Hunt, impressed by Wilkins’ move, said that he would still take it upon himself to win the dance-off over Wilkins.

A big man who is familiar with crossing the plane of the goal line with the ball in his hands though illegal in his November 11 win over the Baltimore Ravens, Hunt put Wilkins’ hands above his run-after-catch ability. The determining factor was that their game was a penalty and Miami did not actually score points.

Wilkins only regretted that he forgot to take out the Waddle dance as a tribute to receiver Jaylen Waddell, who had to miss Sunday’s win on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

no holland, waddle

The Dolphins were without rookie safety Jevon Hollande against the Jets despite being removed from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Saturday.

Holland made a questionable admission to reports of the team’s injury on Sunday, but he was officially downgraded with a “non-injury-related illness” more than four hours before kickoff on Sunday morning. He didn’t practice it last week after he was originally on the COVID list on Monday.

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As it turns out, Hollande had not yet approved the COVID protocol, although they were dropped from the COVID list on Saturday, a move a team can take if it misses kickoff. The first player who cannot be cleared is willing to forfeit a roster spot. Teams have a deadline of 4 p.m. Saturday to make any final game-day roster moves for Sunday’s games and then announce inactive players 90 minutes before kickoff.

“We activated him on the off chance that we will remove him from the COVID list,” Miami coach Brian Flores said. “We weren’t able to do that, so he wasn’t active.”

The Dolphins topped the Jets without a top offensive and defensive rookie. In addition to being out of Holland, the slot receiver, Waddle, missed Sunday’s game against an AFC East rival after being placed on the COVID list on Thursday. Holland has 51 tackles, two interceptions, two sacks, and a pair of fumble recoveries in his first NFL season, while Waddell is on pace to break a rookie reception record, with 86 passes for 849 yards and four touchdowns. There is also a rushing score.

Without Hollande free protection, the Dolphins started Nick Needham right there.

Albert Wilson was about to start against the Jets, and Duke Johnson started running back. He had a 9-yard catch, but Isaiah Ford made the most of his extra span with three receptions for 51 yards. DeVante Parker had four receptions for 68 yards and the winning touchdown, and tight end Mike Gesicki caught five passes for 43 yards.

“We knew that, without Jaylen, we would need some people to step up,” Ford said. “We knew it was going to be a collective” [effort],

Receiver Tomlie Lewis, signed into the practice squad on Monday and advanced to the game-day roster on Saturday, handled the kick and punt returns with Waddle and Hollande.

Lewis is a West Palm Beach native and Dwyer high grad who also played at the Palm Beach Lakes earlier in his high school career. He has played for the New Orleans Saints over the past four seasons after a college career in northern Illinois.

other inactive

Along with Holland, the other Dolphins declared before kickoff were inactive Adam Shaheen, safety Will Parks, defensive tackle John Jenkins and cornerback Trill Williams.

Shaheen entered Sunday with a knee injury, but Parks, Jenkins and Williams were inactive.

Starting left guard, Austin Jackson played against the Jets after dealing with a non-COVID illness and being limited in three drills last week. Safety Clayton Fejedelm was also suspected of having an ankle injury but played.

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