DAVIE, Fla. -- Injuries remain the big story for the Miami Dolphins, but to varying degrees. Rookie middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan, the projected starter, sustained a torn ACL in his right knee in Thursday's preseason opener against Atlanta.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who sustained an ACL injury on Aug. 3, has been placed on the injured reserve list and will have season-ending surgery on his left knee soon.
Center Mike Pouncey, the three-time Pro Bowl selection who hasn't practiced since November due to a hip injury, participated in 11-on-11 drills Saturday. Pouncey, the team's best offensive lineman, only participated for a few snaps, and the Dolphins were only in shoulder pads and helmets, but there was contact.
With those events as the backdrop, Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler, who came out of retirement to sign as Tannehill's replacement on Monday (Aug. 7), continued getting reacquainted with head coach Adam Gase, his offensive coordinator in Chicago in 2015, and getting to know Miami's players.
That's a process that's been slowed by missing offensive personnel, most notably running back Jay Ajayi (concussion) and right tackle Ja'Wuan James (shoulder). Left tackle Laremy Tunsil returned Saturday after missing three practices with an excused absence.
As for McMillan, the second-round pick from Ohio State, he was injured on a punt coverage unit. He never got a snap from scrimmage.
For now, Miami has Mike Hull, undrafted in 2015 out of Penn State, starting at middle linebacker. But the Dolphins have position flexibility as they search for a possible replacement.
Outside linebackers Kiko Alonso and Lawrence Timmons have experience playing inside, and Miami is likely looking for a two-down linebacker considering Timmons and Alonso stay on the field for the nickel package.
Still, losing McMillan is a big blow. He was being counted on to help revamp a defense that finished 29th in the NFL, and 30th against the run last season.
But it seems the trio of Hull in the middle, Alonso on the weak side and Timmons on the strong side will get a look.
"I like those three guys together," Gase said, "and we'll see how it kind of plays out."
Pouncey's performance was encouraging.
Gase is keeping an eye on the Dolphins' practice at Philadelphia (starting Monday, Aug. 21) and their game against the Eagles (Thursday, Aug. 24) for Pouncey in the big picture.
"I think that Philly week will be a great indicator for us because he's going against somebody different," Gase said. "You do those practices against other teams it's a game feel for you every day."
Gase didn't reveal a surgery date for Tannehill, and he didn't say whether a date has been set. Tannehill, who has been an occasional guest at practice since sustaining his injury, will be ready for the 2018 season.
"Absolutely," Gase said.
Notes: Cutler, signed Aug. 7, continues working to get to know his new teammates. After impressing with his arm strength in his first practice, Cutler both impressed and disappointed Saturday. Cutler had a nicely-thrown, 30-yard back-shoulder touchdown pass to DeVante Parker, but he also threw two interceptions in the end zone. Cutler has had limited time on the field and with the offensive personnel, it should be noted. Still, he's seemed OK so far. And Gase has spent a lot of time in Cutler's ear between possessions.
"We're just trying to get back in that game day feel," he said. "That's just kind of our routine and it's just the communication, kind of the tempo of the play, how it's coming in. If we change anything, I can still communicate with him. That's more of our routine on game day, so we just kind of keep it consistent and work on it in practice." ... Running back Jay Ajayi, who went through some non-contact, individual drills Saturday, remains in concussion protocol. Ajayi has appeared at practice the last few days but has spent the vast majority of his time running, catching passes or watching. ... Safety Reshad Jones, one of the key players on a defense that finished 29th last season, took the field for the first time since last season against Atlanta on Thursday, and although the starters only played two series he said it felt good. "It was just good to get out there and run around a little bit and get the feel back," said Jones, a 2015 Pro-Bowl choice who was limited to six games last year due to a shoulder injury. "There was no hesitation." ... Right tackle Ja'Wuan James (shoulder) has sat out the last three practices but Gase said there's no major concern. "We're getting him a little rest right now," Gase said. "He's been playing extremely sore. With what he's got going on it's one of those things it's not going affect his play, it's a pain management deal. We're trying to just take some of the hits off him and get him a little rest."
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