The Dolphins were hopeful that Mike Pouncey’s return would help fortify their offensive line.
Then shortly before kickoff Sunday against the Titans they were left without two starters — Laremy Tunsil and Branden Albert.
The result was another catastrophic performance that ended with the Dolphins allowing a season-worst six sacks in a 30-17 defeat.
“We’ll watch the film; we’ll see what went wrong,” said Pouncey, who had not played since sustaining a hip injury in the preseason. “I know we all have to do a better job. That’s every player on the offense. It [isn’t] just one person. It [isn’t] one group. We all have to do better to win football games.”
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Injuries and illnesses have kept the Dolphins from starting the same five offensive linemen since Week 3 against the Browns.
Already having missed the Dolphins’ Week 4 game against the Bengals, Albert entered the week dealing with flu-like symptoms and was limited in practice.
“We didn’t think that [Albert] was going to be down at the beginning of the week,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. “He loses 12 pounds throughout the week, and we can’t put him out there. He tried to practice. It just would be wrong for us to try to do that.”
But Tunsil’s setback blindsided the Dolphins just before kickoff.
The Dolphins’ rookie, who started at left tackle last week in Cincinnati, injured his ankle and left Miami scrambling to patch up the left side of its offensive line.
“He was getting ready for the game [when he got injured],” Gase said. “I’m still sorting everything out right now. You’re trying to get ready for the game and all of a sudden he lets you know that he’s not going to be able to go. We had to make some quick adjustments.”
The Dolphins’ solution Sunday was to start Billy Turner, who saw action at right tackle two weeks ago, at left tackle. Dallas Thomas started at left guard.
“It’s tough,” Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “It puts those guys that are put in spots they’re not used to playing in tough positions. It puts our offense in a little bit of a tough position, but things happen. You have to adapt and find ways to move the ball and score points.”
Jermon Bushrod started at right guard with Ja’Wuan James at right tackle.
When asked if he was considered to start at left tackle Sunday, Bushrod, a two-time Pro Bowler, said: “No. Coaches, whatever decisions they make, you roll with it. The majority of my reps all week are at guard. If things would have got a little weird then I would have been the next guy up.”
In addition to the lack of pass protection, the Dolphins’ running game was ineffective again, compiling only 51 yards and averaging 3.0 yards per carry.
Albert and Tunsil were among seven projected starters that were out for the Dolphins.
“[Injuries] happen as far as week-to-week and then usually you have a couple guys down,” Gase said. “You never like to have this many guys, a couple of them being some flu-type thing.
“Obviously, those guys can help you, but I feel like we have plenty of guys that can fill the roles we need them to fill. We just have to do a better job.”