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Dolphins hope for better play in trenches against Bengals

October 3, 2018

FILE - In this Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018, file photo, New England Patriots defensive tackle Adam Butler (70) and linebacker Kyle Van Noy, rear, pressure Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) during the first half of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass. The Dolphins were dominated in the trenches in a 38-7 defeat, and to have a chance Sunday at Cincinnati, they’ll need significant improvement up front. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — The drubbing the Miami Dolphins endured last week at New England has tested their vocabulary as they keep searching for new ways to describe the humiliation.

“We just got crushed,” coach Adam Gase said Wednesday.

He was talking about his offensive line, but the depiction also fits the defensive line. The Dolphins were dominated in the trenches in a 38-7 defeat, and to have a chance Sunday as one-touchdown underdogs at Cincinnati, they’ll need significant improvement up front.

It won’t come easily, with manpower in both lines depleted. Center Daniel Kilgore suffered a season-ending triceps injury against the Patriots, and inconsistent defensive tackle Jordan Phillips was released after another poor game punctuated by a sideline outburst.

“We’re looking to play better on both sides,” Gase said. “Having a week to get ready for the game, that’ll be helpful for us. When you start throwing guys in and they haven’t really gotten a ton of reps with the first group, especially at center, that’s a tough spot to put a guy in. It’ll be good to get a full week’s worth of practice with him and the quarterback and the rest of the guys.”

Veteran Travis Swanson will replace Kilgore. The Dolphins earlier lost guard Josh Sitton with a season-ending shoulder injury, and an offensive line once considered among the team’s strengths is now a big question mark.

The Dolphins totaled only 172 yards at New England, and despite a 3-1 record , they rank third-worst in the NFL in yards per game at 286. That’s compared with 308 per game in 2017, when they went 6-10.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has endured plenty of hits thanks to shaky pass blocking, tried to sound cheery about the situation Wednesday. He said he feels fine physically and remains confident about the team’s blocking.

But he acknowledged that with substitutes in the line, the play-calling changes.

“It’s tough to come in off the bench and not miss a beat,” Tannehill said. “As the quarterback, I’ve got to make sure we’re in the right play and can get the ball out quickly and into our playmakers’ hands. It’s tough to ask those guys to protect for long periods of time on each play.”

The defensive line is also trying to integrate new personnel. Top run-stopper William Hayes suffered a season-ending torn ACL in Week 3, and the departure of Phillips further depleted depth.

Phillips’ former teammates had little to say about his unexpected release.

“It had nothing to do with me or none of the d-linemen,” tackle Davon Godchaux said. “It’s just what they thought was best for the team. I don’t get paid the big bucks to make those decisions. Maybe someday.”

The defense was gashed for 175 yards rushing by the Patriots. It was a performance reminiscent of last year, when Miami allowed 127 yards per game rushing over the final 10 games — and won only twice.

The goal now is to avoid a similar collapse.

“We’re trying to correct everything from last week,” defensive end Charles Harris said. “Ain’t nobody who’s got their heads down.”

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