The chances of Dolphins right guard Robert Hunt returning to play Sunday against the visiting Raiders (1 p.m., CBS) seemed to diminish Thursday when he sat out practice for the second day in a row with a hamstring injury.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins’ likely starting guards flipped positions this week.
The Dolphins have suggested they will be cautious with Hunt’s injury — which sidelined him against Kansas City — and with other soft-tissue injuries. Pro Football Focus rates Hunt the ninth-best guard in football this year.
Guard Robert Jones (knee) also remained sidelined on Thursday. Like Hunt, he’s “week-to-week,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said.
If Hunt and Jones don’t play on Sunday, Liam Eichenberg and Lester Cotton likely will start at guard.
But there’s a twist: Eichenberg, who started 10 games at left guard last season, moved to right guard during Wednesday’s and Thursday’s practices after playing left guard against Kansas City and working at left guard during Monday’s practice.
“I feel more comfortable on the right side,” he said.
Cotton moved over to left guard after playing right guard against Kansas City. Cotton played left guard after Isaiah Wynn left the Eagles game with a long-term injury.
An Eichenberg start at right guard would mean he would have started NFL games at all five offensive line positions.
“Liam has been doing a very steady job with it,” offensive coordinator Frank Smith said of Eichenberg toggling between backup center and guard. “Liam works as hard as anyone to get it right.”
Offensive line coach Butch Barry said of Eichenberg and Cotton: “The approach and how they handle from the meeting room to the field is exactly what we want them to do.”
Once Hunt returns, coaches will need to decide whether to stick with Cotton at left guard or move Eichenberg back there.
Besides Hunt and Jones, one other player missed Thursday’s practice: receiver Chase Claypool, who has a knee injury. Claypool was ambulatory in the Dolphins locker room this week.
Receiver Braxton Berrios (hamstring) returned to practice, and special teams coordinator Danny Crossman said “we feel good about where Braxton is for this weekend.”
Tight end Durham Smythe (ankle) and fullback Alec Ingold (foot) returned to practice on Thursday after missing Wednesday’s session. Berrios, Smythe and Ingold were all limited Thursday.
Running back De’Von Achane, who was a limited participant in practice but is expected to come off injured reserve before Sunday’s game, continues to look spry at practice after missing four games. A spot on the 53-man roster opened Thursday when receiver Robbie Chosen was released.
“It’s been good to have him on the field,” Smith said of Achane.
Asked jokingly if the team felt shock and awe watching Achane average an absurd 12.1 yards per carry before his knee injury, Smith said: “It’s a good start to his rookie season. Ultimately, when you’re having that level of success, the challenge is to work and maintain that standard, which he does. He’s an awesome guy. Really works at it and diligently.”
Raheem Mostert (ankle/knee) also was a limited participant in Thursday’s practice but said the bye week helped his “nicks and bruises.” Left tackle Terron Armstead was limited with a knee injury on Thursday, but he said following the Chiefs game that he’s feeling healthy.
THIS AND THAT
▪ The Dolphins don’t have a lot of depth at defensive tackle, but defensive coordinator Vic Fangio suggested they haven’t pursued accomplished veteran tackle Akiem Hicks.
Asked if Hicks has been broached in his discussions with general manager Chris Grier and coach Mike McDaniel, Fangio said: “A while ago it did, but it has never gotten any momentum.”
According to ESPN, Hicks has had conversations with some teams but remains undecided whether to play this season.
Christian Wilkins and Zach Sieler have played the 10th and 12th most snaps among defensive tackles.
“Usually most teams will rotate the d-linemen a lot,” Fangio said. “We’re low on d-linemen so we don’t do it as much. We don’t have a lot of d-lineman on the active roster, compared with other teams.”
Starting nose tackle Raekwon Davis and backup defensive tackle Da’Shawn Hand are the other defensive linemen on the roster.
Emmanuel Ogbah, whose playing time has been minimal in recent weeks, is listed as a defensive end but has been playing mostly as a stand-up edge player, in an outside linebacker type role.
▪ Fangio on the defense, which is 12th in yards permitted per game: “I’m optimistic. We’ve gotten better at every level.”
Linebacker Jerome Baker said Fangio has emphasized the need to improve with in-game communication among players.
Asked who is his best communicator on defense, Fangio said: “It needs to be your inside linebackers and safeties. It’s getting better. Part of that communication involves getting the play call in on time.”
▪ Fangio said cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who’s preparing for his third game back since August knee surgery, is “going to keep getting better and better.”
And speaking about linebacker Jaelan Phillips, who missed three games previously with an oblique injury, Fangio said: “It took him a game or two to get his timing back. He’s playing really good now.”
▪ Center Connor Williams on Wednesday took full responsibility for the errant snap that Tua Tagovailoa couldn’t corral on Miami’s failed final play against Kansas City.
“It was a bad snap,” Williams said. “I take it all on me. It’s something I’m working on.”
Offensive line coach Butch Barry said there’s no need for him to admonish Williams because the player takes it very seriously.
“That guy is very difficult on himself so” Barry’s approach is “how can I help you,” Barry said. “If it was a guy who wasn’t working on it, you would say we need to put extra time in it. But he’s putting a tremendous amount of extra time on it.”