Dolphins’ McDaniel updates status of De’Von Achane, Robert Hunt; Miami has eyes on division crown

MIAMI GARDENS — Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel did not want to commit to having either running back De’Von Achane or right guard Robert Hunt play Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders, but he offered updates on their respective statuses from injury.

After Achane was designated to return Monday, marking his return to practice while on injured reserve for a knee ailment sustained more than a month ago, signs have pointed up for him as he was back at drills after the minimum four-game absence on IR.

“I do know that he really wants to play. He’s shown that,” McDaniel said ahead of Wednesday’s practice, Achane’s second since being injured Oct. 8 against the New York Giants. “We feel good about where he’s headed. If he’s ready to roll for this game, he’ll play.”

McDaniel noted that Achane “checked all the boxes” in a light Monday practice, which wasn’t padded with tackling involved and that the rookie phenom “looked like a pro.” The rookie tailback was limited Wednesday, according to the team’s injury report.

“He’s come a long way in a short amount of time,” McDaniel said. “It feels like he’s not a rookie within the locker room.”

Achane, in four games as a rookie, has 460 yards and five touchdowns on 38 rushing attempts for a whopping 12.1 yards-per-carry average. He also has two receiving touchdowns. In the Sept. 24 win over the Denver Broncos, Achane burst onto the NFL scene with four total touchdowns and 203 rushing yards.

The Dolphins (6-3) have Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr. and Salvon Ahmed at tailback, should Achane not make his return Sunday at home against the Raiders (5-5).

Hunt, who missed the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 5 in Germany with a hamstring injury, did not practice Wednesday after McDaniel said he and fellow offensive lineman Robert Jones (knee) are week to week.

McDaniel said Hunt is “like a cat being in water” with how unfamiliar the usually healthy guard is with dealing with injuries.

Hunt worked on the side of Wednesday drills with trainers.

“I could see him playing in this game, I could see him playing in the next game,” McDaniel said of Hunt.

Jones was not seen at Wednesday practice. Without either of them, the Dolphins would likely start some combination of Lester Cotton and Liam Eichenberg at left and right guard.

The Dolphins also worked out a number of offensive guards Tuesday, including veteran former All-Pro Andrew Norwell. McDaniel said that was about the organization getting ahead of different scenarios where they may reach out to a free agent. Miami also worked out fellow guards Colby Gossett and Wes Martin, along with defensive backs Bubba Bolden (a Miami Hurricanes alum), Dane Cruishank and A.J. Moore.

Along with Hunt and Jones, Dolphins to miss Wednesday’s practice were tight end Durham Smythe (ankle), wide receivers Braxton Berrios (hamstring) and Chase Claypool (knee) and fullback Alec Ingold (foot).

Left tackle Terron Armstead (knee) and running back Raheem Mostert (ankle/knee) went through a limited day of drills.

Eyeing the divisional crown

The Dolphins separated themselves by a half a game on the whole rest of the AFC East as they were idle over the weekend.

The New England Patriots (2-8), New York Jets (4-5) and Buffalo Bills (5-5) lost to the Indianapolis Colts, Raiders and Denver Broncos in Week 10 — the Jets and Bills on Sunday and Monday night.

Miami (6-3) is 1 1/2 games ahead of Buffalo, two full games up on New York, and you can pretty much forget about New England having any chance.

“The goal is to win the division,” McDaniel said Wednesday. “That is the only way you ensure that you’re, for one, in the playoffs, you have a home game in the playoffs and you set yourself up for a journey, not a game.

“You play these teams twice a year, so there’s no hiding. I put a huge emphasis on that. I don’t think that’s unique. I think a lot of people do. … That’s a big point of emphasis, as well as just getting better in the process. My bottom line is that we continue to improve and we’re at our best at the end of the season. Does it mean the only way that can occur is if we win the division? It doesn’t. Maybe you have to learn the lessons while not winning the division, but then you’re going to have a harder journey in front of you and that’s your path.

“It’s very important to us to win the AFC East.”

The Dolphins already swept the Patriots, still have their home-and-home against the Jets remaining and have a home game against the Bills left to finish the regular season after losing to them in Buffalo.