“Next man up” is one of the oldest clichés in professional sports, a line often repeated over and over again by every team like the chorus of a song.
When there is a loss of personnel due to injuries, suspensions, or COVID-19 positive test results, which happened to many NFL teams like the Miami Dolphins last week, the next person needs to step up and fill to capacity.
Football, a sport whose collision often equates to a car accident, has the largest roster of sports. Therefore, the league must survive on players raising the depth chart and pressing the line, or linebacker unit, or secondary, or receiver room.
This past week because of the recent outbreak of COVID-19, which has tested more than 100 positive and prompted the NFL to push back one game to Monday and two others to Tuesday, dozens of players were referred to as “next-man-” will be kept in up” situations and backup to a major contributor.
“It’s the same old, the same old. It’s the guys who are ahead, they need to understand that their number can be called and they need to be ready to help this team win, Center Michael Dieter said. “It is the same with the coaches. It could even be the next person with the coaches. Everyone involved needs to be ready to be the next guy, whether you [practice] squad, third [team] on the depth chart. It doesn’t matter because apparently it’s real. COVID is real. ,
The Dolphins (6-7) would be without their sensational rookie receiver Jaylen Waddle, who was among six Miami players who tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 10 days.
Tailbacks Miles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed were the first two players to test positive last weekend, and both returned to the team on Friday after testing two negative within a 24-hour period. Tailbacks Philip Lindsay and Gerid Doux, and Waddles are not eligible to play.
Safety Jevon Holland tested two negative, and was cleared to play by the Saturday evening deadline of 4 p.m. to be eligible for Sunday’s game against the New York Jets (3-10). Whether he starts his 11th match or not is the decision of the coach.
Because the Dolphins, and most of the NFL, have transitioned to remote work—meeting as a larger group only for practices, and more social distancing than usual when they’re inside the facility—there’s a chance that Gaskins and Ahmed have been involved in this. Stayed with the game plan of the week, and could contribute on Sunday.
But the Dolphins raised former Hurricanes standout Duke Johnson from the practice squad and he served as first-team tailback throughout the week, impressing his teammates in the process.
However, players who have been ruled out due to COVID are virtually taking part in situation and team meetings, so they should provide momentum.
Coach Brian Flores also said that Gaskins and Ahmed’s experience in Miami’s offense over the past two seasons made for a lot of carryover from a learning standpoint.
It’s also not sad that this is Miami’s second game against the Jets in a month.
Even though the entire tailback room was affected by the virus, Miami’s big challenge would be to play without Waddell, who has been the Dolphins’ only reliable receiver.
Waddle was on pace to set a new NFL rookie record for receptions in one season, breaking the limit (101) set by former Pahokey High standout Anquan Boldin in 2003.
Waddell, who contributed 86 receptions for 849 yards and scored five touchdowns this season, has become the centerpiece of Miami’s passing game this season. He has played all three receiver spots, and has been a well-known playmaker for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
His absence means DeVante Parker will have to play a bigger role in his second game with a hamstring injury that led to him being ruled out for a month in November.
Parker, who has a record 30 receptions for 389 yards and a touchdown, has caught at least four passes in every game he has played this season. On his return to the team two weeks earlier, he caught five passes for 62 yards in Miami’s 20–9 win over the New York Giants.
It also means that Mike Gesicki could have a great package of snaps on the slot receiver, a role he has now played for three seasons. And more importantly, the Dolphins will need four other receivers on the roster, Preston Williams, Albert Wilson, Mack Hollins and Isaiah Ford, to choose their contribution level.
“We take pride in that next-man-up approach and it will take all of us to play Jaylen as well as cover running back,” said Ford, who caught eight passes for 110 yards and two. Touchdowns this season. “It’s going to take a full team approach.”
All four receivers have shined from time to time over the past few seasons, but they have all lacked consistency this season, including the struggles of the run game (ranked 3.3 yards per carry average ahead of the previous in the NFL) and the offensive line. There are security issues. , explains why Miami ranks 25th in offense points per game (19.5) this season.
If they had time to rise to the occasion and become the “next guy up there”, it is now.