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The Dolphins offensive lineman and linebacker who are blossoming. And what Csonka noticed

A six-pack of Miami Dolphins notes on a Tuesday:

One encouraging sign of this 4-3 start is the growth of the young players, with Tua Tagovailoa and Jaylen Waddle at the top of the list.

But don’t forget Robert Hunt and Jaelan Phillips.

Hunt has become one of the league’s best guards, according to Pro Football Focus, which rates him seventh of 77 qualifying players at the position.

And Phillips has played very well the past few weeks and is rated 23rd among 112 edge players in PFF’s rankings.

Rob Sale, who is now the Florida Gators’ offensive coordinator but was the offensive coordinator at Louisiana when Hunt played there, was on the phone with a reporter days after the Dolphins drafted Hunt 39th overall in 2020 and made a prediction:

“I think his value in the National Football League is through the roof. He might play at tackle and might never play inside. But he also can be an All-Pro guard.”

Two years later, Hunt seems closer to making that second sentence a reality someday.

After playing tackle during his rookie season, Hunt has thrived in his second year at right guard.

Hunt said becoming a Pro Bowler is “definitely a goal. I would be extremely happy for that.”

Hunt said as a rookie, “I thought I played well at tackle, but the team had different ideas. It took a year to get the hang of guard” — even though he had played some guard in college.

And now?

“I’m comfortable at guard,” he said. “I’ve looked [at tape] of different guys — Zack Martin, Brandon Scherff, Rodger Saffold, tried to take things from different guards.”

A Bengals coach made a point after the Thursday night game to tell Hunt what a good job he’s doing.

As a run blocker, PFF rates him the fourth best guard in football.

As a pass blocker, Hunt has permitted two sacks in 295 pass blocking chances.

The improvement actually began last season. From Week 10 on last season, PFF graded Hunt a top-15 guard in the league.

And this is a change from recent years: Three Dolphins offensive linemen are rated among the top 25 at their position (Hunt, Terron Armstead and Connor Williams).

Phillips cracked before the season that he wasn’t a fan of Pro Football Focus because it rated him poorly last season — 93rd of 113 qualifying edge players. That was primarily because of his run defense, which the website rated 102nd.

But Phillips’ run defense is much improved; PFF rates him 38th among 112 edge players as a run defender.

He had a team leading seven quarterback pressures against Pittsburgh and was on the field for 26 of the Dolphins’ 30 fourth-quarter defensive snaps.

Per PFF’s Ryan Smith, his 90.1 overall grade during the past four weeks trails only Myles Garrett at the edge defender position.

“I saw some of the best effort that I’ve witnessed from a player playing 60 snaps in the final 10 snaps of this game with Jaelen Phillips,” coach Mike McDaniel said. “He’s known as a strainer and a hard worker, but he was playing at a speed at the end of the game that his teammates noticed and felt and it gives him a chance to do some cool things for us later in games with effort and strain like that.

“It speaks to all of his preparation and how good of shape he’s in. It was pretty impressive.”

PFF ranks Williams fifth among centers; his move to that position has been a rousing success.

PFF rates Armstead 14th among 77 tackles.

And though Liam Eichenberg ranks 70th of 77 guards, he played well Sunday (aside from two penalties).

Austin Jackson might have trouble regaining his right tackle job if Brandon Shell continues to play well this week.

Jackson, who has missed six games with an ankle injury, practiced two days — nearly two weeks ago — but hasn’t participated in four practices since. He remains on injured reserve.

“I’m not sure if we’re going to see him in practice this week,” McDaniel said Monday. “I’m not ruling out that possibility. Here’s the thing, it’s been going good with him. We’re also in real time kind of figuring out — the player is just so eager. He’s put in such a good offseason. He just was getting into the rhythm of the game before he had his injury.

“So we’re learning that we have to be a little protective because what we don’t want is for him to come back and it to be a week long and then further setback. We have to be kind of proactive with him because he is chomping at the bit. But things are going well with him and love where he’s staying mentally while he progresses back.”

If Shell plays well again Sunday at Detroit (1 p.m., CBS), one question the Dolphins might face: whether to have Jackson compete with Eichenberg at left guard. But the Dolphins believe Jackson can be a very good right tackle.

Larry Csonka, on what he observed about McDaniel during his August meeting with McDaniel and the team:

“When coach [Don] Shula came to us, [we saw] how drastically things changed. We were the worst team in the NFL. In his tenure in the first two years, we became one of the contenders.

“I saw some things [with McDaniel] that were reminiscent. Sitting there, when the coach came in the room, I saw everyone take their ear buds off and unplug their phones and all sat up and cleared their voices and were ready.

“And I thought that was very reminiscent when I saw Shula first walk in the room, which means those players respect that coach — for whatever reason, whether he’s strong willed or whatever. I felt in that room [that] they respect their head coach. If they do that and listen to him, I think they will have a future.”

Offensive tackle Larnel Coleman left the Dolphins’ practice squad to sign with the Carolina Panthers’ 53-man roster.

Coleman, a seventh-round pick of the Dolphins in 2021, spent his rookie season on injured reserve and spent seven weeks on the practice squad this season. The Dolphins elevated him three times this season and he appeared in one game.