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Banged-up defense a concern for Bengals

Preparing for practice on Tuesday morning, linebacker Vincent Rey spoke enthusiastically about an expanded role when the Bengals play the Dolphins in Miami on Thursday Night Football.

What is that role?

“I’m not exactly sure yet,” Rey said before heading out to the practice field across from Paul Brown Stadium. “We’ll see what happens.”

Like Rey, the Bengals are hoping for the best when they take on the Dolphins with a defense hamstrung by injuries.

Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga (concussion, knee) hobbled through the locker room on crutches Tuesday. His backup, Michael Boley (hamstring), didn’t practice Monday or Tuesday. Neither did defensive end Wallace Gilberry (groin). Defensive back Taylor Mays (shoulder), who played some linebacker in nickel packages, is ruled out. So is defensive tackle Devon Still (elbow).

That’s in addition to cornerback Leon Hall (Achilles), who was placed on season-ending injured reserve Tuesday.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said he’s fine with taking four healthy linebackers — Vontaze Burfict, James Harrison, rookie Jayson DiManche and Rey — to Miami.

Soon after the Bengals added a fifth when La Salle High School graduate and University of Cincinnati product J.K. Schaffer was promoted from the practice squad. The team released defensive end DeQuin Evans, who was on a roster exemption after returning Monday from an NFL suspension.

Weak-side linebacker Burfict, who leads the NFL with 85 tackles, will continue to make the defensive calls on the field.

“I don’t feel any pressure. I don’t think anyone feels pressure,” said Rey, a goal-line specialist and special-teams player. “We know what we have to go out there and do. Every week I know I have to go out there and make plays. This week I have to go out there and make more plays. I don’t have to do anything out of the ordinary, which is cool. I just have to play within the system, play hard and play smart.”

That might be enough against a Dolphins team that followed a 3-0 start with four straight losses. The Dolphins offense is ranked No. 28 (23rd rushing, 18th passing) and has allowed an NFL-worst 32 sacks. The Bengals’ defense is ranked No. 8 overall (9th rushing, 11th passing).

Lewis, meanwhile, remained tight lipped about the injuries to both Maualuga and Mays.

“It’s a matter of letting everything calm down, which was better today knowing they can get a better picture of what the prognosis is,” Lewis said of getting a better look at Mays’ shoulder. “After the game it’s cloudy and they have to wait until the body kind of calms down.”

When asked for more details Lewis responded, smiling: “He’s injured. He’s got an injured shoulder.”

Maualuga, reported to be out 3-4 weeks, updated his status as he passed a group of reporters. When asked how he’s doing Maualuga responded, “I’ve seen better days.”

Rey and the defense hopes for one of those days on Thursday.

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