Fearless Prediction: Dolphins-Titans
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
TV: CBS (Dick Enberg, Dan Fouts)
KEYS TO THE GAME: Titans QB Vince Young is day-to-day with a
right hamstring injury, and his availability could determine the
outcome. His mobility forces opponents to take another running
option into account, creating more holes for RB Chris Johnson. If
Kerry Collins plays, he’ll have to complete more downfield passes
to pull Miami’s safeties away from the line. The Dolphins use the
run to set up the pass, but QB Chad Henne needs to be a factor.
Tennessee is far better defending the run and the secondary is
often vulnerable due to a weak pass rush.
FAST FACTS: The Dolphins are 6-0 in December under coach
Tony Sparano. … Titans CB Cortland Finnegan is averaging 38.8
yards on his five interception returns.
- Rookie QB Pat White, who has only four carries for three
yards in the last five games, including no action in Sunday’s win
over Jacksonville, mourned the death of Bengals receiver Chris
Henry, who was a redshirt freshman at West Virginia in Henry’s
last season there.
“The media made him out to be a criminal and a bad guy,
but any question I had he answered,” he said. “If I ever needed
help with anything he helped me. It’s a sad situation, but
hopefully he’s moving on to a better place.”
- SS Yeremiah Bell, the Dolphins’ leading tackler with 98, was
already limited in practice with a splint on his left thumb. He
practiced on a limited basis Thursday with a knee injury.
- ILB Reggie Torbor, a key cog in Miami’s linebacker rotation,
returned to practice on a limited basis with a hamstring injury.
- OLB Joey Porter, who has been nursing a right knee injury for
most of the season, practiced on a limited basis.
- RT Vernon Carey, who’s been hampered by a back injury,
practiced on a limited basis.
- C Jake Grove, who has missed the last three games with an
ankle injury, continues to practice on the second unit behind Joe
Berger, who took over when Grove went down.
- QB Vince Young’s hamstring probably won’t keep him from
starting on Sunday, barring a setback. Young is 6-1 as a starter
and has thrown seven touchdowns to just three interceptions with
a passer rating of 90.9 this year.
- RB Chris Johnson needs 374 yards over the final three games
to become the sixth running back in NFL history to run for 2,000
yards in a season. Johnson has his eyes on Eric Dickerson’s
single-season record of 2,105.
- C Kevin Mawae sat out Wednesday with a back injury but
practiced fully on Thursday after getting what amounted to a day
- LB Keith Bulluck, who had 10 tackles and two interceptions
Sunday vs. St. Louis, was back on the practice field after
getting Wednesday off.
- DT Tony Brown has missed two days of practice with a minor
knee problem but expects to practice on Friday.
- TE Craig Stevens has not practiced this week because of a
- LB David Thornton has not practiced because of a shoulder
injury, and there appears to be a chance he could be shut down
for the season, though the Titans would only do that as a last
Inside The Camps
While the Dolphins’ sixth-ranked run defense in the AFC is
feeling good about itself after holding pesky Jaguars tailback
Maurice Jones-Drew to just 59 yards on 3.3 yards per carry, it
knows it has a true Titan on its hands this week in Chris Johnson,
the league’s leading rusher.
“He is amazing. Little guy can fly. He is becoming a pest
and I know he is going for a record and he is going to be fired
(up) for that,” said Dolphins outside linebacker Jason Taylor. “Him
in the backfield with Vince Young, it makes it more difficult to
defend that football team. He is probably the most dynamic back in
the league right now.”
Johnson has gained at least 100 yards in each of the last
eight games and leads the NFL with 1,626 yards at 6.0 yards per
carry with 11 rushing touchdowns and two reception touchdowns. The
Titans are ranked first in rushing yards per play (5.4) and second
in rushing yards per game (165.3).
However, the Dolphins have allowed just two 100-yard rushers
all season — Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams (122) and the Jets’
Thomas Jones (102). Both were victories for Miami.
Johnson leads the NFL with 20 carries that went for 20 yards
or more. This includes TD runs of 91, 89 and 85 yards, something no
runner in league history has done in a career let alone one season.
“If you watch him, he’s the best back in the game, period.
He’ll kill a pursuit lane. Half the team’s got to over-pursue and
half the team’s got to under-pursue and hopefully he doesn’t split
the middle,” said middle linebacker Channing Crowder. “You know how
I like to talk about players and say they’re good but then I’ll put
a little something on the end that he can’t do. He has it. Whatever
‘it’ is he has it as a running back and he is amazing.”
However, while the Dolphins have given up 25 passing plays
of 25 yards or more, they’ve only given up five running plays of 15
yards or more, and just one over 35 yards.
A big reason for that has been the solid play of nose tackle
Paul Soliai, who took over for injured nose Jason Ferguson the last
three games, as well as the breakout season for defensive lineman
Randy Starks. Soliai, who had four tackles, including one for loss,
while consistently collapsing the middle of the Jags’ line last
week, will be up against seven-time Pro Bowl center Kevin Mawae on
Although the Dolphins will certainly go after the Titans’
31st-ranked pass defense, they’ll be sending a rejuvenated Ricky
Williams at Tennessee’s seventh-ranked rushing defense. Since
taking over for injured running back Ronnie Brown, Williams has
gained 100 yards or more in four of the last five games. Williams
is a huge fan of Johnson’s.
“It’s hard to miss. I mean he’s having a great year,” said
Williams, who set the Dolphins’ single-season record in 2002 with
1,853 yards. “I mean he has a chance to get 2,000 yards and he’s so
fast. Anytime we have SportsCenter on here you always see him
running up and down the field so it’s hard to miss.”
Williams needs just 25 yards to reach 1,000 yards for the
first time since 2003. The six-year gap between 1,000-yard plateaus
would be the longest by any back in NFL history, surpassing the
current mark of five years held by five runners: O.J. Anderson,
Mike Garrett, Gary Brown, Mike Anderson and Ernest Byner.
For running backs with 200 or more carries, Williams is
third in the NFL with a career-best 4.9 yards-per-carry, trailing
only DeAngelo Williams (5.3) and Johnson (6.0).
“That is pretty remarkable,” coach Tony Sparano said of
Williams. “One of the big things is that for a large part of the
season the guy is sharing time. Now it says a little bit about us
running the football and what we have done that way with him. Also,
his average per carry, if I am correct, is one of the best, if not
the best that he has had.
“That tells you a little something about him making the most
of his opportunities early on when he wasn’t getting the ball 25
times a game. Ricky is a guy, as I have said before, takes
tremendous care of himself and is really ready for this coming into
Vince Young was back on the practice field for the Tennessee
Titans on Thursday, testing his injured right hamstring.
Young split the first-team reps with veteran Kerry Collins,
who got all the reps in Wednesday’s practice.
Young not only is battling a hamstring problem, but
according to coach Jeff Fisher, is also still having issues with
the right knee that kept him out of last Friday’s practice. He
injured his hamstring in Sunday’s 47-7 win over the St. Louis Rams,
pulling up gimpy at the end of a 44-yard run in the second quarter.
He did not return to the game.
After Thursday’s practice, Young said he felt pretty good,
considering it had only been five days since he pulled the muscle.
He was able to drop back without limping or any obvious
“It felt good. From pulling it on Sunday to right now on
Thursday, it’s kind of crazy to me right now, but God works in
mysterious ways,” he said.
Fisher was happy to have Young back on the practice field on
Thursday, and said he hopes to add to his workload on Friday.
“It was a huge step for him, and hopefully we’ll take
another one tomorrow. He still has a lot of time. Today is
Thursday, and like we said, he’s been a quick healer,” Fisher said.
The Titans are 6-1 since Young was reinstalled as the team’s
starting quarterback after an 0-6 start. Tennessee (6-7) is in a
crucial game at home Sunday against the Miami Dolphins (7-6), one
of a host of teams ahead of them in the chase for the AFC’s final
wild-card playoff berth.
Young said he was glad to be able to practice, and though he
did not fully say that he would be under center on Sunday, it is
likely that barring a setback Young will start against the
“It’s always good to practice. You can’t go out there and
think you can just turn it on and do well. That’s not how I think.
You’ve got to practice,” Young said.
Teammates indicated that Young looked good to them during
his work on Thursday.
“He’s doing the things he’s supposed to do. I thought he
looked good out there today and was really in tune to everything
that was going on yesterday,” tight end Alge Crumpler said.
PREDICTION: Dolphins 19-17