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Jones' season-ending injury hurts Dolphins defensively
Pro Bowl strong safety Reshad Jones (rotator cuff) is out for the season and the Miami Dolphins are now faced with replacing the guy who was having the best season among all players.
Worse, the Dolphins (2-4) must find a way to replace Jones before Buffalo (4-2) figures a way to exploit his absence this week.
The best idea they have for now is promoting fourth-year safety Michael Thomas, an on-and-off starter the past three seasons. Thomas (12 tackles, one sacks, one forced fumble) is a capable defender, but he's not in the hard-hitting class of Jones.
"We've got to have a next man up mentality," coach Adam Gase said. "It's tough when you lose a player of his caliber not only as far as a player but as far as leader. He's done a great job showing guys the right way to do things. The way that he goes about his business on and off the field he does it right."
Jones was among the NFL's best safeties the last two seasons. In 2014, when he served a four-game suspension for violation of the NFL's drug policy, he totaled 79 tackles and three interceptions.
Last season, he had a career-best 135 tackles to go along with a career-best five interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.
This year, Jones' 51 tackles ranked 12th in the NFL.
Buffalo, which rushed for 312 yards a week ago against San Francisco, will probably force Miami to play lots of eight-man fronts, a specialty for Jones, known as a hard hitter and perhaps the team's best tackler.
Miami uses its safeties interchangeably and so in reality both Thomas and starting free safety Isa Abdul-Quddus will replace Jones.
"It's a team effort," said Abdul-Quddus, who has a team-leading two interceptions. "We've got to just come together more when you lose a player as great as Reshad is. We got to come together, make sure we detail everything and make sure we all play together."
Thomas said the Jones injury was no shock when it became official.
"We knew almost immediately after the game," he said. "He talked to us, so it's tough. He was like, 'It sucks.' Obviously, he never missed anything. He didn't want to not play, but he was just like, 'Y'all got to step it up, that's it.'"
Gase is hoping his team can find what's necessary to make the change work. But it won't be easy. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is probably the Dolphins' best player overall, but Jones was the best player in 2016.
"It's unfortunate for him and for us because he was having a good year and I know it hurt him a lot just for the fact that he wasn't going to be out there with those guys anymore," Gase said. "We'll go through this process. I know he's got a tough rehab ahead of him, but he's an extremely competitive and tough guy that's going to be able to come back from this."
SERIES HISTORY: 101st regular-season meeting. Dolphins lead series, 57-42-1. Buffalo won the last meeting 33-17. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins had eight receptions for 168 yards, and Karlos Williams (110 yards rushing) and LeSean McCoy (112 yards) crushed the Miami defense. The Bills swept the two games last season, have won four of the last five, and are 6-2 against Miami in the last four years.