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Dolphins' Philbin confident o-line can hold up against Panthers

The SportsXchange

DAVIE, Fla. -- While the Miami Dolphins' ground game continues to scuffle, ranking 25th in the NFL at an average of 122.6 yards per game and 4.1 yards per carry, the Carolina Panthers will bring the league's third-ranked run defense to South Florida on Sunday.

Miami's issues have been a combination of constant fluctuation along the offensive line and inconsistency from running backs Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas. The Dolphins continue to shuffle their lineup with guard Richie Incognito suspended indefinitely, offensive Jonathan Martin having left the team and center Mike Pouncey dealing with a stomach ailment that leaves his status for the Panthers game in doubt.

"I think we've had a good week of practice," coach Joe Philbin said of his offensive line. "Carolina absolutely has a very, very good front seven. I totally agree with that assessment. That being said, our guys are professional and are prepared for play.

One player who could be thrown into the fire is Sam Brenner, who started at guard against San Diego last Sunday after being promoted from the practice squad. He'll start again if Pouncey is sidelined.

"He went (and) banged heads with (Panthers defensive tackle) Star Lotulelei for three years at practice every single day (at Utah)," Philbin said. "Star is an excellent player doing a great job. Colin Cole is a good football player. Kawann Shorts is good. They have some good players, and so do we. It will be a good matchup."

The Panthers feature a deep group of defensive tackles and good speed rushers, although Charles Johnson has been ruled out due to a knee injury suffered in Sunday's victory over the New England Patriots.

Carolina also features a strong linebacking corps led by Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis.

"The defensive linemen and linebackers are tied together, especially in the running game with the fits, and their defensive line does a good job on the double teams and not allowing a guy to get off and allows players with good speed like Davis, like Kuechly to roam sideline-to-sideline and get to the football," Philbin said. "Their young player, A.J. Klein, when they are in base defense has been contributing nicely as well. It's a well-coordinated front seven. They are well coached, and we are going to have to sustain our blocks. We are going to have to take good aiming points to sustain those blocks."

Philbin continues to praise Miller and Thomas, but neither one has been able to establish himself as a true feature back. Miller is averaging 4.5 yards per carry, but lacks the bulk to move piles, while Thomas is averaging 3.7 yards after a season-best 5.7-yard average on 10 carries against the Chargers.

"We like both of them," Philbin said Friday. "They both perform well, and I envision us using both of them as the season progresses. Both are good football players who have worked hard, they deserve opportunities, and they've been doing a good job."

SERIES HISTORY: 5th regular-season meeting. Dolphins lead series, 4-0. Clearly this isn't a long and storied history between these teams. They last played in 2009, a 24-17 Dolphins victory.

--C Mike Pouncey (illness) missed last week's game with what sounds to be food poisoning, but was also listed as doubtful Friday to face the Panthers.

--CB Dimitri Patterson (groin) is listed as doubtful to face Carolina.

--S Chris Clemons (knee/shoulder) is probable to face Carolina.

--LB Dannell Ellerbe (knee) is probable to face Carolina.

--S Reshad Jones (groin) is probable to face Carolina.

--WR Mike Wallace (hamstring) is probable to face Carolina.
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