One game into the season, the Miami Dolphins’ situation is already so dire that their game plan to defend Tom Brady calls for significant help from a player who wants to be traded.
Disgruntled defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick has requested and received permission to seek a deal to play elsewhere. Even so, the Dolphins are counting on him Sunday against the Patriots.
‘‘He’s got a big role in the game,’’ Dolphins coach Brian Flores said. ‘‘I expect him to play well.’’
Fitzpatrick has been displeased with the way he’s being used by Flores’s staff. In the wake of last week’s season-opening 59-10 loss to Baltimore, there have been rumblings other players are also unhappy with the coaches and the organization’s emphasis on the 2020 Draft over this year’s roster.
Flores said he didn’t consider the situation with Fitzpatrick unusual, but he declined to say whether he expects the 2018 first-round pick to be with the Dolphins the rest of the season.
Flores, a former Patriots assistant, recalled that veteran defensive back Patrick Chung was unhappy in New England four years into his career.
‘‘I've gone through this a little before,’’ Flores said. ‘‘Patrick Chung didn’t like the way things were going in New England. He left and went to Philly, came back and that whole thing turned around. This is not my first go-around with a situation like this. That turned out well for Patrick.
‘‘Things change quickly. We'll just see how this thing shakes out . . . I think we'll be able to move past it.’’
Fitzpatrick declined to discuss his trade request, or whether he expects to be with the Dolphins all season. But he pledged his best effort against New England.
‘‘I'm going to go out there and give my all to this team,’’ he said. ‘‘I can’t focus on the trade and this and that. I just have to focus on being my best right now.’’
Fitzpatrick has apparently been unhappy for some time. When the Dolphins put him at strong safety during training camp, his mother, Melissa, complained on Twitter that he was being asked to play out of position. He said she wasn’t wrong.
The situation came to a head following the loss to the Ravens, when the Dolphins tied a team record by allowing six touchdown passes in the most lopsided defeat in franchise history.
Fitzpatrick played only 49 of 73 defensive snaps, dividing his time among safety, linebacker, and nickel cornerback. Last year as a rookie under coach Adam Gase, the 202-pound Fitzpatrick played mostly nickel cornerback but also boundary corner and both safety spots.
Flores’s defensive play calling helped the Patriots to a 13-3 Super Bowl victory over the high-scoring Rams. He mixes 4-3 and 3-4 schemes that require players to play multiple positions.
‘‘In a team sport, you do what’s best for the team,’’ he said.
But that scheme was shredded when Miami allowed a franchise record 643 yards against the Ravens. And shaky locker room morale won’t be helped by talk of players looking for an exit.
‘‘If you don’t want to be here, I don’t want you here,’’ team captain Daniel Kilgore said Monday.
Safety Bobby McCain struck a more conciliatory tone Friday regarding Fitzpatrick’s desire for a trade.
‘‘If he feels that way, that’s how he feels,’’ McCain said. ‘‘Minkah loves football, so I know he is going to be all in Sunday. I would never question that.’’
Safety Reshad Jones was ruled out of the game because of an ankle injury, meaning Fitzpatrick’s primary role will likely be to fill in for him. The Dolphins are the week’s biggest underdogs.
‘‘Going out and getting the job done and winning, that'll calm things down for sure,’’ McCain said.
Also Friday, right tackle Julién Davenport (leg), who started last week after being acquired from the Texans on Sept. 1, went on injured reserve. J'Marcus Webb, signed as a free agent last week, will replace him. Wide receiver Albert Wilson (hip) was also ruled out of the game.
Giants’ top WRs hurting
The Giants may be without their top starting receivers for the home opener against the Bills.
Coach Pat Shurmur said that go-to wideout Sterling Shepard will miss Sunday’s game with a concussion and Cody Latimer is questionable with a calf injury. Rookie receiver Darius Slayton will miss his second straight game with a hamstring injury and veteran Golden Tate III is suspended for the first four games for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing substance policy.
Shepard was hurt in the season-opening loss to Dallas last weekend, while Latimer injured his calf in practice Wednesday.
Bennie Fowler, who had five catches for 40 yards in the 35-17 loss to the Cowboys, probably will start at one of the wide receiver spots. Latimer might be the other starter, but the role could also go to Russell Shepard, Cody Core, or TJ Jones, who was re-signed earlier this week after leading the team in receptions in the preseason.
This is not a group of inexperienced backups. Fowler is in his fifth year and won a Super Bowl with the Broncos and Latimer. Russell Shepard is in his seventh season. Jones is in his fifth and Core his fourth.
Steelers look for fresh start
Coming off a 33-3 loss at New England, the Steelers are itching to get back on the field.
Forget waiting until the release of the league-mandated injury report, veteran center Maurkice Pouncey wasn’t even going to delay word of his status in the amount of time it takes to ask a question.
More than three hours before the Steelers listed him as questionable with an ankle injury for Sunday’s home opener against the Seahawks, Pouncey was much more direct.
‘‘I’m playing this week,’’ he said Friday, ‘‘so this can be a short interview, honestly. Especially after last week, man. who wants to miss a game?’’
Among the seven starters who have missed practice time this week because of injury or illness, only Joe Haden’s shoulder remains in question after the final practice of the week.
Haden joined Pouncey, receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (toe) and outside linebacker T.J. Watt (hip) as former Pro Bowl players who left last week’s blowout during the fourth quarter because of injury.
Jaguars’ Ngakoue sidelined
Fourth-year defensive end Yannick Ngakoue will miss the first game of his NFL career when the Jaguars play at Houston on Sunday. Coach Doug Marrone ruled Ngakoue out Friday because of a hamstring injury suffered in the opener. Ngakoue is third in franchise history with 29½ sacks. Left tackle Cam Robinson has been cleared to play, but Marrone will hold him out as a precaution. Robinson hyperextended his right knee a few days before the opener. Second-year pro Will Richardson will make his second consecutive start at left tackle . . . Falcons offensive tackle Matt Gono will miss his second consecutive game with a back injury . . . Broncos linebacker Todd Davis appears to have a better chance of playing against the Bears on Sunday than cornerback Bryce Callahan. Both missed the opener and were listed as questionable for Week 2 after limited participation in practice Friday. Coach Vic Fangio said Davis has improved every day since returning to practice Wednesday for the first time since tearing his left calf July 18. Fangio wasn’t as optimistic about Callahan’s return from a sore left foot, the same one that he broke last December, ending his season and requiring surgery . . . The Buccaneers sniffed out a key fourth-and-1 play from the 2-yard line with Vernon Hargreaves shoving Christian McCaffrey out of bounds with 1:22 left to preserve a 20-14 win over the host Carolina Panthers and cap off a terrific defensive performance on Thursday night. Jameis Winston threw for 208 yards and a touchdown, Chris Godwin had 121 yards receiving and a score, and Peyton Barber ran for 82 yards, but it was the Bucs’ defense that won this game. Tampa Bay held the Panthers without a touchdown and limited McCaffrey to 53 total yards to give coach Bruce Arians his first victory with the team.