By Jeremiah Thermidor
Miami's Brian Hartline entered the season as a backup receiver on the depth chart, even though Brandon Marshall was traded to the Bears in the off-season and Chad Johnson got the boot during training camp. The coaching staff simply didn't have enough confidence in Hartline's abilities to elevate him to be a No. 1 receiver on the roster. Miami finally gave him a chance to prove he could be an effective starter, only after it became evident former Miami wide out Legedu Naanee had become a liability.
Hartline has certainly proved all his doubters wrong. Although he isn't one of the top receivers in the league, he has shown when given the opportunity he can definitely come through for his team and make the plays which count. The 26-year-old is definitely having his best season yet. Last Sunday, he surpassed the 1,000 receiving yards mark for the first time in his career, putting up 77 against the Jaguars. He's caught 67 passes for a total of 1,002 yards this season.
Hartline may miss this Sunday's final home game versus the Bills with a back injury, which limited him in practice on Wednesday, forced him to sit out completely on Thursday, and kept him from staying throughout the entire duration of practice on Friday. He's one of four Miami players listed as questionable for this weekend's contest. The other players include cornerback Nolan Carroll (Knee), tight end Jeron Mastrud (Hamstring) and defensive tackle Randy Starks who has a non-football related issue. With Hartline questionable and Davone Bess ruled out with the same back injury which kept him out of last Sunday's game, the Dolphins will be looking to their much younger receivers to step up. Guys such as Marlon Moore, Rishard Mathews and Armon Binns will be targeted a lot more, giving them an opportunity to shine and show the coaching staff what they'll have to offer come next season.
In addition to Bess being ruled out for the game, linebacker Koa Misi won't play with a lingering ankle injury and kicker Dan Carpenter will sit out with a right groin injury. Carpenter's injury forced the Dolphins to place him on injured reserve, so he will miss the final two games of the season. On Friday, the Dolphins signed kicker Nate Kaeding to replace Carpenter for the rest of the year. Miami has five players listed as probable for game including wide receiver Armon Binns (Ankle), safety Chris Clemons (Neck/Ribs), linebacker Karlos Dansby (Biceps), defensive end Derrick Shelby (Groin) and safety Jimmy Wilson (Hip).
As for the Bills, they have a total of five players ruled out of Sunday's contest. Those players include defensive end Mark Anderson (Knee), receiver Marcus Easley (Hamstring), cornerback Leodis McKelvin (Groin), linebacker Arthur Moats (Ankle), and linebacker Chris White (Hamstring). The only player listed as questionable is center Eric Wood who was limited in practice on Friday with a knee injury.
Eleven Buffalo players are listed as probable for the matchup, most of whom will see action in the game. Those players include linebacker Nick Barnett (Knee), free safety Jairus Byrd (Foot), tight end Scott Chandler (Foot), defensive tackle Marcell Dareus (Knee/Wrist), guard Andy Levitre (Knee), cornerback Justin Rodgers (Foot), tight end Lee Smith (Back), running back C.J. Spiller (Shoulder), cornerback Aaron Williams (Knee), defensive tackle Kyle Williams (Ankle) and defensive end Mario Williams (Wrist).
The Miami Dolphins (6-8) will play host to the Buffalo Bills (5-9) on Sunday at 1 p.m. eastern.
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Jeremiah Thermidor is a freelance writer covering all things Miami Dolphins. His work can be found on Examiner.com.
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