James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer 66d

Rey Maualuga hopes to start in Dolphins debut vs. Titans

DAVIE, Fla. -- Free-agent pickup Rey Maualuga has yet to make his debut with the Miami Dolphins since signing with the team in late August. However, the veteran middle linebacker believes he has a chance to not only play, but start, in his first game Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.

“I’ve been practicing all week with the first group,” Maualuga said Thursday. “I would hope that I’m ready to go and they trust in me to line up and get the job done.”

The Dolphins signed Maualuga six weeks ago with hopes that he eventually can start. However, he came to Miami overweight and suffered a hamstring issue that sidelined him several weeks. Maualuga said he is hydrating better to prevent muscle injuries.

Miami used career backup Mike Hull at middle linebacker with mixed results. Its run defense is fourth in the NFL, but the linebackers and secondary are struggling against the pass.

Maualuga’s specialty is being physical, which is good timing because the Dolphins (1-2) will host the run-heavy Titans (2-2) Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium. Tennessee boasts a physical offensive line and two solid, downhill runners in DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. The Titans rushed for 235 yards in last year’s win over the Dolphins.

If Maualuga starts, that makes for a productive veteran trio of Maualuga, Lawrence Timmons and Kiko Alonso.

“I think collectively we can do something special,” Maualuga said. “Everyone is going to contribute and do some good things for this defense.”

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