The Dolphins have been very strong against the run so far this year, allowing an average of just 3.1 yards per carry and 77.7 yards per game, both fourth best in the league.
They’re about to get even stronger.
The long-awaited arrival of middle linebacker Rey Maualuga in the Dolphins starting lineup should finally come Sunday when Miami takes on the Titans in their equally long-awaited home opener.
The timing couldn’t be better. The Titans like to run DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry behind a massive offensive line, but the Dolphins believe Maualuga can help them neutralize that downhill charge.
“He’s a big man, a physical player, in the run game in particular,’’ Burke said. “He’s probably one of the best I’ve been around at taking on offensive linemen because he’s such a big, powerful guy.
“I mean, he knocks offensive linemen back. In fact, I don’t know if I want to put this out here because he might get mad at me, but ask (Mike) Pouncey about it.
“When we first signed him, (Pouncey) told me that when we played them last year (Maualuga) probably hit me as hard as anybody I’ve ever been hit by. Sop he brings that element obviously with some extra beef in there in the middle.’’
Maualuga will be joining a linebacking corps that already got a boost from the return of Lawrence Timmons. The only question that remains unanswered is how much Mauluga might play.
He was out of shape and a little overweight when he first arrived in Miami and then he suffered a hamstring strain that extended his time away. It’s likely then that the Dolphins will limit his snaps a bit.
But Maualuga spent the past week working almost exclusively with the first team and he said he’s been hydrating himself more regularly to avoid further soft-tissue issues, so a heavy workload is possible.
“That’s been part of our focus,’’ Burke said when asked if Maualuga was ready to play as many as 40 snaps or more. “And I think he’s close. So I think it’s going to be a game-time decision with him.’’