Just five months after suffering a torn Achilles' tendon, Miami Dolphins third-year defensive end Phillip Merling has been activated from the non-football injury list and added to the active roster.
Merling, who returned to the practice field earlier in the month, had to be activated today or remain on the NFI list for the remainder of the season.
The return to the active roster caps off a good month for Merling, who is finally ready for football activity and had charges of domestic battery from a May arrest dropped in Broward County two weeks ago.
Quarterback Patrick Ramsey, who was signed on Nov. 15 after injuries to Chad Pennington and Chad Henne, was placed on waivers to make room for Merling.
With Ramsey gone and Pennington on injured reserve, the Dolphins now have just two quarterbacks—Henne and Tyler Thigpen—on the active roster. Former Fresno State and Denver Broncos quarterback Tom Brandstater is still on the practice squad.
Getting the Ramsey release out of the way, it's not surprising to see it happen now that Chad Henne (knee) appears to be near 100 percent. Plenty of teams go with only two quarterbacks during the season, and the Dolphins still have Brandstater on the practice squad if they want to call him up to be a third-stringer.
While Merling hasn't developed into quite as good a player as the team hoped when they drafted him in the second round out of Clemson in 2008, he has absolutely been a contributor and a solid rotational guy on the defensive line.
It's difficult to analyze Merling's return because we still don't know just how healthy he is or how well he'll play, if at all. While Merling will probably see time for the Dolphins this year, they lost nothing by cutting Ramsey and had to activate Merling today if they wanted to even have a chance at playing him this year.
So there's no guarantee he's actually ready to play just based on his activation.
Assuming Merling does play, I expect him to be eased back into the rotation with limited snaps over his first few games.
He should see some time in Jared Odrick's old spot of right defensive end, which would allow Randy Starks to play more nose tackle as he did earlier in the year.
Merling's return to the field would absolutely boost a Dolphins run defense that ranks a very average 14th in the NFL through 11 games.
The Dolphins will have an immediate test in Week 13 against Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis, but it seems unlikely Merling will be able to contribute so much that early.
As always, check out the updated projected depth chart reflecting these transactions here.
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Chris J. Nelson majored in journalism at Georgia State University and is currently a programming coordinator for Turner Sports in Atlanta. He operates his own Miami Dolphins website, The Miami Dolphins Spotlight, and he can be followed on Twitter here.
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