The Miami Dolphins opted not to sign undrafted rookie safety Verone McKinley to the active roster on Saturday, ahead of Sunday’s game at the Chicago Bears and elevated offensive lineman Kion Smith.
McKinley, the former college teammate of fellow safety Jevon Holland at Oregon, had recently become a vital piece to the Dolphins defense with strong safety Brandon Jones out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in a knee.
In last week’s win over the Detroit Lions, McKinley earned his first NFL start and played 80 percent of defensive snaps, mostly at free safety off the ball while the versatile Holland switched to Jones’ former role of playing down in the box.
The Dolphins had already used the three practice-squad elevations allotted to McKinley, calling him up against the Lions, the week before against the Pittsburgh Steelers and in the opener against the New England Patriots. McKinley also saw snaps late in the win over Pittsburgh on Oct. 23 when Jones initially was injured.
McKinley has two tackles on the season. His one di lui against the Lions prevented tight end TJ Hockenson from scoring a long touchdown.
Passing on McKinley against Chicago likely means veteran safety Eric Rowe will be back in the mix at Soldier Field. Rowe was a surprise healthy scratch against the Lions when McKinley got heavy playing time.
Smith had been elevated once before this season, for the Week 6 loss to the Vikings. Smith provides depth on an offensive line that will be without Liam Eichenberg, who landed on injured reserve for his knee injury last week. Miami has activated Austin Jackson off injured reserve, but he is doubtful for Sunday’s game.