For the Dolphins, Richie Incognito, who is suspended, and Jonathan Martin, who is away from the team given the NFL‘s ongoing investigation into claims he was “bullied” by Incognito and other teammates, obviously won’t play.
The statuses of cornerback Dimitri Patterson, linebacker Koa Misi and linebacker Jelani Jenkins have been a mystery, however. All three players missed practice time this week for the Dolphins.
On the team’s official injury report for Monday night’s game, Patterson is listed as “doubtful” with a groin injury, while Misi and Jenkins are listed as “questionable” with knee and foot injuries, respectively.
The likely absence of Patterson in the secondary is unfortunate for the Dolphins. Despite playing in only half of the team’s games so far this season, Patterson leads Miami in interceptions with four, which is an average of one per game. Pro Football Focus ranks Patterson 15th among all cornerbacks with a +6.0 overall rating. He has only been targeted an average of 6.75 times and allowed an average of 3.75 receptions per game.
The Buccaneers will be starting a rookie quarterback in Mike Glennon, which suggests the Dolphins should be able to survive without Patterson for the fifth time this season.
But Tampa Bay owns one of the NFL’s most productive receivers in Vincent Jackson, who has 634 receiving yards and four touchdowns this season. And they love to move Jackson all over the field, lining him up on the right and left sides of the formation and oftentimes in the slot.
When Patterson is healthy, the Dolphins allow him to cover the boundary in their base defense and the slot receiver in their nickel package. Without Patterson, Jimmy Wilson will likely be assigned with the task of slowing down Jackson in the slot.
By comparison to Patterson’s 15th-overall rating on Pro Football Focus, Wilson ranks 62nd of 107 eligible cornerbacks and has allowed 21 receptions for 256 yards. Needless to say, Jackson is capable of exposing Wilson if Tampa Bay’s rookie passer continues to show improvement on Monday night.
The Dolphins could allow Brent Grimes, who has been very solid in coverage all season, to shadow Jackson throughout Monday’s game, much like he did in Week 5 versus Torrey Smith and the Baltimore Ravens. Jackson does have a seven-inch height advantage on Grimes, however.
At linebacker, Misi’s 50-50 chance of playing should also be a concern for Miami. Tampa Bay was able to gash the Seattle Seahawks for 205 rushing yards last Sunday with some hard running from Mike James.
Misi is one of the Dolphins’ best run defenders, and currently grades as the NFL’s eighth best 4-3 outside linebacker against the run, according to Pro Football Focus.
If Misi is a no-go, Jason Trusnik will likely get the call up from the second team to start his second game of the season. Trusnik has played less than half of the snaps Misi has in 2013, but has been stout against the run in limited action, possessing a +3.6 run defense grade according to Pro Football Focus.
Rookie Jenkins, meanwhile, has only played in 77 snaps this season, in which 51 times he dropped back into coverage. His absence likely won’t be felt if he’s forced to sit out Monday night’s game.
Nolan Carroll (concussion), Chris Clemons (hamstring), Dannell Ellerbe (calf), Nate Garner (knee), Dion Sims (toe) and Caleb Sturgis (groin) are all expected to play on Monday night for Miami.
For the Buccaneers, Carl Nicks hasn’t played since Week 4 with a foot injury and is listed as “out” for Week 10, as well. His replacement, Jamon Merideth, had a solid game against the Seahawks in Week 9, producing a +1.7 run blocking grade according to Pro Football Focus, but Miami’s talented interior defensive line could give him fits on Monday night.
At receiver, Chris Owusu is listed as “doubtful” with a foot injury for Tampa Bay. Owusu has only caught six passes for 55 yards on the season, though, so his expected unavailability shouldn’t play a huge factor.
Mason Foster (elbow), Dashon Goldson (knee), Danny Gorrer (groin), Davin Joseph (knee), Erik Lorig (toe), Akeem Spence (wrist), Keith Tandy (ankle) and Dekoda Watson (shoulder) are all expected to play on Monday night for Tampa Bay.
Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twiter @CodyJStrahm.