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Monday, 3 November 2014

The Miami Dolphins: Sizing Up the Chargers

After a so-so performance last week, the Miami Dolphins come home with San Diego paying a visit to south Florida.

While the offense showed it had some issues in the 27-13 win over Jacksonville, the defense was able to put pressure on Blake Bortles and slow the rookie down and forcing him into mistakes which cost the Jaguars the game.

The Chargers are a more powerful offense – with Philip Rivers the trigger man and a defense that looks to stop Ryan Tannehill his is weapons of choice.

Here is a look at the Chargers, according to the Dolphins website.

THE CHARGERS’ STRENGTH ON OFFENSE: The Chargers rank 30th in the NFL in rushing yards per game and they’re eighth in passing yards, so this one is not tough to figure out. But this is pretty much all about quarterback Philip Rivers, who is having another tremendous season.

Rivers has never been very mobile and he has an unorthodox delivery, but he’s tough, accurate and has a knack for making throws in difficult situations. The Dolphins also need to keep close tabs on tight end Antonio Gates, particularly in the red zone. The former college basketball player is tied for the NFL lead with nine touchdown receptions.

THE CHARGERS’ QUESTION MARK ON OFFENSE: The Chargers running game has struggled pretty much all season, and it’s not just because of a rash of injuries at running back. Yes, Danny Woodhead is on injured reserve and starter Ryan Mathews and Donald Brown both have missed games, but it’s worth noting that none of them have averaged better than 3.1 yards per attempt.

The only back with any kind of success has been rookie free agent Branden Oliver, who had back-to-back 100-yard games against the Jets and Raiders but was shut down last week by the Denver Broncos. Another issue on offense for the Chargers is the offensive line. The loss of former Pro Bowl center Nick Hardwick was a tough blow.

THE CHARGERS’ STRENGTH ON DEFENSE: The secondary was the weak link on the Chargers’ playoff team last season and they went out and did something about it in the offseason, selecting cornerback Jason Verrett in the first round of the NFL draft and also signing former Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers after he was released following his first Pro Bowl appearance.

Verrett likely will miss the game Sunday because of a shoulder injury, but Flowers appears on track to return after missing one game with a concussion. With Flowers and safety Eric Weddle, the Chargers have two elite players in the secondary and they’re two big reasons San Diego is ranked sixth in the NFL in pass defense.

THE CHARGERS’ QUESTION MARK ON DEFENSE: San Diego’s pass defense ranking is even more impressive when you consider the Chargers don’t have a great pass rush. Dwight Freeney once was an elite pass rusher with the Colts, but he’s on the down side of his career. Former first-round pick Melvin Ingram was counted on to help the pass rush, but he’s on injured reserve-designated to return.

As it is, the Chargers don’t have a single player on the team with more than 2.5 sacks through eight games. The Chargers’ run defense also hasn’t been that great, as evidenced by their opponents’ 4.5-yard average.

THE CHARGERS’ STRENGTH ON SPECIAL TEAMS: There are four kickers in the NFL who have yet to miss a field goal attempt this season and one of them is the Chargers’ Nick Novak, who will bring a 14-for-14 mark into the game Sunday. This is just the continuation of a great run for Novak, who was 34-for-37 in 2013. The Chargers also rank eighth in the NFL in terms of kickoff return average allowed.

THE CHARGERS’ QUESTION MARK ON SPECIAL TEAMS: Whether it’s a matter of bad luck or whatever the cause, the Chargers haven’t been very active in terms of returning kickoffs. They’ve only brought back five this season, the lowest number in the entire league. The low number probably doesn’t matter much considering the Chargers are averaging only 16.0 yards per kickoff return and their long is only 22 yards. The Chargers rank last in the NFL in kickoff return average, and they’re not that much better on punt returns with an average of 7.1 yards and a long of only 29 yards.


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