For the Dolphins, right tackle Jonathan Martin is listed as “out” again for obvious reasons and cornerback Dimitri Patterson (groin) and center Mike Pouncey (illness) are listed as “doubtful.”
Miami hasn’t missed Martin since he went AWOL as Tyson Clabo has filled in nicely at right tackle. Since regaining his starting spot in Week 9 Clabo has only given up two sacks and one quarterback hit, and he didn’t concede either for the first time all season this past Sunday.
The likely absence of Patterson and Pouncey will be felt, however. Cornerback Nolan Caroll, who has replaced Patterson on the boundary opposite Brent Grimes, has struggled in recent weeks after a solid start to the season. Carroll was beaten badly on a double move for a touchdown back in Week 8 against the New England Patriots and has surrendered a combined 110 yards in coverage over the past two games.
The Dolphins’ interior offensive line played decently last week without Pouncey at center, but that was against a San Diego Chargers‘ front seven that has struggled to stuff the run and rush the quarterback this season. Left guard Sam Brenner and center Nate Garner will have their hands full with a talented Carolina defensive front on Sunday.
Rookie defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short are in the midst of stellar first seasons. Lotulelei is ranked 14th and Short is ranked 27th among all interior defensive linemen by Pro Football Focus. The two could make running the football between the tackles very difficult for the Dolphins on Sunday without Pouncey paving the way in the middle. Also, expect the Panthers’ talented defensive end Greg Hardy to stunt inside on many plays to rush the passer against Brenner.
Hardy will also be a tough matchup for left tackle Bryant McKinnie and right tackle Tyson Clabo rushing from both edges. But the Dolphins will be getting a huge break on Sunday as defensive end Charles Johnson has been ruled out with a knee injury.
Johnson registered 8.5 sacks in the Panthers’ first 10 games, and only four 4-3 defensive ends in the entire league have a better pass-rushing grade this season according to Pro Football Focus. Expect third-year defensive end Mario Addison to fill in for Johnson on Sunday. Addison has 0.5 sacks, five quarterback hits and nine quarterback hurries on 111 pass-rushing snaps this season.
Tight end Ben Hartsock (knee), linebacker Chase Blackburn (foot) and guard Chris Scott (knee) have also been ruled out for Carolina. Hartstock hasn’t caught a pass in 2013, but Blackburn and Scott have started six and eight games this season, respectively.
A.J. Klein hasn’t played great filling in for Blackburn at weak side linebacker and currently possesses a negative overall grade according to Pro Football Focus. Meanwhile, Nate Chandler has struggled at right guard replacing Scott, giving up three sacks and six quarterback hurries over the past two weeks while also owning a negative run-blocking grade.
Safety Chris Clemons (knee/shoulder), linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (knee), safety Reshad Jones (groin), wide receiver Rishard Matthews (back), linebacker Koa Misi (knee), defensive end Derrick Shelby (ankle), running back Daniel Thomas (ribs), wide receiver Mike Wallace (hamstring) and safety/cornerback Jimmy Wilson (abdomen) are listed as “probable” for the Dolphins while cornerback Drayton Florence (groin) and Hardy (knee) at defensive end are both expected to play for the Panthers.
Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.