The Miami Dolphins are in Las Vegas this morning ahead of their Week 16 primetime clash against the Raiders, but the Dolphins will not have everyone eligible to play in tonight’s contest. We know this because when the team boarded their flight to ahead to Las Vegas, they left a key member of their defensive front behind — DE Shaq Lawson did not travel with the Dolphins and therefore will not be playing tonight as the two AFC playoff hopefuls clash.
Lawson was designated as questionable this week with a shoulder injury; an issue that was apparently too much to overcome for Lawson on a short week. Lawson could at one point against the Patriots on Sunday be seen grabbing at his shoulder pads on the field between plays — and Lawson has been tied to a shoulder injury for a longer portion of the season as well.
Without Lawson in tow, the Dolphins will likely find a much larger role for OLB Andrew Van Ginkel tonight against the Raiders — either he or LB Kyle Van Noy should be expected to make their presence felt on the edge. The challenge, of course, is that neither of those two players has the size or power of Lawson. And so Miami’s defense may have to tweak some schematic strategies ahead of tonight’s game. But given how well the Dolphins schemed up an offensive game plan the week prior to account for the losses of DeVante Parker, Jakeem Grant and Mike Gesicki, Dolphins fans (and the team) should trust whatever proposed game plan the Dolphins cook up to account for Lawson’s absence.
The week off could be a big one for Lawson, who will now hope to get healthy ahead of Miami’s Week 17 contest against Lawson’s former team, the Buffalo Bills. If Miami wins today against the Raiders, the Week 17 contest would be a potential elimination game for the Dolphins — and having a “Shaq Lawson revenge game” on the table would certainly help Miami’s cause.
There are a few steps needed between now and then, starting first and foremost with defeating the Raiders tonight.