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Safety Michael Thomas is Dolphins' next man up before playoffs

Dolphins safety Michael Thomas on stepping into a starting role Sunday against New England: "I just gotta understand assignments, get other guys lined up and just know it inside out." Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

DAVIE, Fla. -- It's been a phrase used over and over for the Miami Dolphins this season: "Next man up."

That phrase is en vogue again this week as starting safety Isa Abdul-Quddus went on injured reserve with a knee injury. Backup safety and special teams captain Michael Thomas is the player who will fill in for the rest of the season.

"That’s part of the game," Thomas said. "It just speaks volumes to how this team is built. ... It’s just communication. For us, that’s going to be the biggest thing. I just gotta understand assignments, get other guys lined up and just know it inside out. You’re not just doing it as a role player anymore."

The Dolphins now will enter the playoffs without their two starting safeties from Week 1. They also lost former Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones for the season in October because of a shoulder injury.

Thomas rotated with starter Bacarri Rambo prior to Sunday. Now, Thomas and Rambo are the starters Sunday when Miami (10-5) plays host to New England (13-2).

Look for future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady to test this pair often. Arguably Thomas' biggest play of his career happened in 2013 when he intercepted Brady to close out a Miami win against New England.

"It's crazy it's been three years," Thomas said. "Everyone constantly reminds, fans or anybody who was at the game when they see me, they remind me of that play. Obviously it was great."

Here are some other notes for the Dolphins:

  • Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said No. 1 cornerback Byron Maxwell (ankle) and starting outside linebacker Jelani Jenkins (knee) are not expected to play against New England. Neither practiced during the media portion on Wednesday.

  • Injured starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill made an appearance during practice. He wore a brace on his left knee while helping the receivers work on the passing game. Tannehill was walking better than he did a couple weeks ago. The team is keeping the quarterback on the active roster in the event he might be able to return.

  • Dolphins special teams coach Darren Rizzi explained he was trying to be a peacemaker on the sidelines when Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes made contact with his face. Rizzi confirmed they will not address this with the league and the team has moved on.