DAVIE, Fla. >> With the emergence of Jelani Jenkins and the return of Koa Misi, linebacker is becoming a position of strength for the Miami Dolphins.
When Misi and outside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe left the season opener against New England with injuries — with Ellerbe’s proving to be a season-ending injury — the middle of the defense was suddenly exposed. Philip Wheeler, the other starting outside linebacker, missed that game with a thumb injury.
Jenkins has filled in seamlessly for Ellerbe and leads the team with 38 tackles, while Misi is ready to resume his role at middle linebacker thanks to some extra rest during the bye. They will be tested Sunday by the Green Bay Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has thrown 12 touchdown passes to just one interception.
Jenkins credits Misi and the other veterans with helping him evolve as a linebacker and he is also eager to team up with Misi on the field.
“We’ve got a great comfort level. I’m really excited about having him back and I think that we can only get better from week to week. I know as a leader he gets the whole defense fired up and I learn from him every play. It’s an exciting opportunity and I like the fact that it’s early enough to where those mistakes, I see them and I can correct them and keep moving forward and keep getting better every week. . I’ve still got a lot to learn.”
As for Misi, all eyes were on from the start of training camp because he was making the switch from outside linebacker to the middle, and then his ankle injury against the Patriots set him back slightly.
“I think, for us, as we watch practice and have evaluated him, we feel confident that he’s going to be a very significant factor for us, moving from here on forward,” Coyle said. “He hasn’t had a lot of experience. He’s anxious. We’re anxious. I believe he will continue to progress at the position, we hope it can be as quickly as Sunday at one o’clock.”
Notes: Former Dolphins defensive tackle Manny Fernandez was announced as the 27th member of the Dolphin Honor Roll two years after being added to the team’s Walk of Fame. He will be inducted at halftime of Miami’s game against the Minnesota Vikings on December 21st at Sun Life Stadium in recognition of his eight seasons (1968-75), during which he recorded 35 sacks and stood out for his 17 tackles in Super Bowl VII.