Dolphins outside linebacker Jaelan Phillips sustained a back injury in practice on Friday, and he and left tackle Terron Armstead were listed as questionable for Sunday’s game at New England (8:20 p.m., NBC).
Armstead missed the opener but practiced the past three days, with contact work the past two days. Asked if he expects to play on Sunday, Armstead said: “Good week of work... We’ll see what happens Sunday night.” Kendall Lamm would start if Armstead cannot play.
Phillips’ status is murky for Sunday. If he cannot play, Emmanuel Ogbah would figure to have a larger role opposite Bradley Chubb. Inside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel also could play more outside linebacker, his natural position, if needed.
Safety Elijah Campbell (knee) and tight end Julian Hill (ankle) were also listed as questionable.
When the Dolphins watched Mike Gesicki leave for New England and decided not to spend much money to replace him, they had a reason: immense faith in Durham Smythe and his ability to expand his role in Miami’s offense.
Smythe played all 67 of the Dolphins’ offensive snaps against the Chargers, blocked effectively (as is usually the case) and caught three passes for 44 yards.
Most eyebrow-raising was this: He was targeted on seven passes, after being targeted just 20 times all of last season, when he caught 15 passes for 129 yards and played 57 percent of Miami’s offensive snaps.
“If you watched how he practiced, you wouldn’t be surprised [how he played against the Chargers] on Sunday,” offensive coordinator Frank Smith said. “He’s what you’re looking for in [terms of] mind-set. He’s a detail-oriented guy, does everything the right way.
“He’s available [durable], knows the intent of concepts and timing of when he has to be. He recognizes defense very well. He’s the blocker, but the blocker catches too.”
Smythe has never lobbied for a bigger role in the passing game but certainly embraces it.
“A lot of these last few years, I’ve been more involved in the run game than anything else,” he said. “And I’m happy to do that. But in a week-by-week basis, if things call for me to have to make a play in the passing game, that’s always fun. Obviously, when you have receivers like we do on the edges, they’ll draw a lot of attention. So that gives opportunities for guys on the inside.”
Smythe and Gesicki joined the Dolphins in the same draft class (2018) and became very close friends in their five years as teammates.
“We obviously stay in very close contact,” Smythe said. “He’s enjoying [New England], enjoys what they’re doing up there. He enjoys the area. It’s closer to home for him…. But this week, ever since really the day after the game last week, it’s been kind of radio silence.’”
Smythe joked of Gesicki: “That’s the enemy. They’re all the same. Enemies are faceless, as they say. He’s definitely faceless for me.”
Gesicki caught five touchdowns last season, but his playing time diminished in his only year in Mike McDaniel’s offense and so did his overall numbers — from 73 receptions for 780 yards in 2021 to 32 catches for 362 yards in 2022.
With this game, “people are going to try to make it something that it’s ultimately not,” he said of playing the Dolphins.
Gesicki — who caught three passes for 36 yards in his first game for the Patriots — indicated he looks back fondly at his Dolphins experience.
“People were awesome down there,” Gesicki said. “I was always thankful for them and grateful for it, but I’m definitely happy where I am now and I’m happy to be a Patriot.”
▪ Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Friday that Dolphins defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is “one of the best defensive coaches in the league. He has his style, defensive philosophy and system — and he’s had a lot of success with them.”
▪ Belichick, who played Isaiah Wynn at tackle for four seasons, on Wynn moving to guard with the Dolphins: “His frame is probably more of a guard frame. … Same player we’ve seen — strong and athletic.”
NBC is holding viewing parties in participating cities for some Sunday Night Football games this year, and one will be held on Sunday evening at Grails Restaurant and Sports Bar at 2800 N. Miami Ave in Miami.
The network said there will be “giveaways, photo ops, special guest appearances, a sweepstakes, self-care experiences from On Her Turf and great food at some of the best bars in the country.” For more details, go to NBCSports.com/ScaryGoodSNF.