5 Keys to Dolphins-Chargers in Week 10
The Miami Dolphins (5-3) enter their Week 10 matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers (2-6) coming off perhaps their best win of the last several seasons. The 34-31 victory over the Cardinals, coupled with the breakout performance from rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, has most Dolphins fans excited for not only this season but also the future.
Tagovailoa and the Dolphins return home to face another up-and-coming AFC team in the Chargers. LA has Justin Herbert, who they selected with the No. 6 pick in April’s NFL Draft, manning the helm. Although their record doesn’t show it, this Chargers squad is a good team.
Here’s a look at five keys for the Dolphins against the Chargers in Week 10.
Dolphins-Chargers: Deal with Injuries
The Dolphins lost Preston Williams to the injured reserve this week. Miami’s wide receiver room took the loss and will pivot to young players to fill the void. Lynn Bowden Jr. returned from the COVID-19 list. Kirk Merritt remains an option from the practice squad.
Antonio Callaway seemed to be an option, too, but he’s reportedly not performed well in practice. Callaway is coming off a knee injury and may not be ready to contribute.
Matt Breida missed last week’s game with a hamstring injury. He’s been limited in practice throughout the week. Jamal Perry (foot) and Durham Smythe (concussion) were limited participants as well.
The Chargers, meanwhile, officially ruled South Florida native Joey Bosa out for Sunday (concussion). They’ll also be without RB Justin Jackson. OG Trai Turner (groin) and OT Bryan Bulaga (back) are questionable for Sunday.
LA is already without a number of stars, including RB Austin Eckler, CB Chris Harris Jr., S Derwin James and former Dolphin C Mike Pouncey.
Manage COVID Concerns
COVID-19 continues to complicate matters for the Dolphins. Kyle Van Noy and Christian Wilkins, two starters on the defense, landed on the COVID-19 list on Thursday. According to reports, Van Noy’s move to the list comes from contact tracing. It’s unclear with Wilkins
NFL’s contact tracing protocols force players to isolate for five days from the time he was in close contact with an infected person before he’s eligible for return. The five-day count doesn’t start from the day the player is put on the list, so there’s a chance both Van Noy and Wilkins can play.
Miami elevated defensive tackle Benito Jones from the practice squad. Rookie defensive end Jason Strowbridge could see additional time on the field.
Matt Cole, who would’ve been an option at wide receiver off the practice squad, landed on the COVID list as well.
Miami also announced quarterbacks coach Robby Brown, defensive line coach Marion Hobby, quality control coach Kolby Smith and outside linebackers coach Austin Clark will miss their second game in a row due to COVID protocols. Last week, the Dolphins were without five assistants in Arizona.
Defensive backs coach Gerald Alexander seems to be on track to return to the sideline for Sunday.
Dolphins-Chargers: Pressure Herbert
Justin Herbert has been impressive in his seven starters despite winning just one game. He’s piled up stats and excels in the vertical passing game. Herbert’s arm allows him to attack downfield. When he’s protected well, Herbert completes 71 percent of his passes for 8.1 yards-per-attempt, with 10 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
When pressured, though, his numbers drop. He completes 59 percent of passes under pressure for 7.7 yards-per-attempt. He’s thrown seven TDs and two INTs under pressure.
LA’s o-line has allowed 111 pressures in 2020 and they may be without Bulaga, who’s only allowed four of those. Herbert faces pressure on 29.1 percent of drop backs, which is third most in the league. He’s been blitzed 65 times, hurried 52 times, hit 21 times and sacked 14 times.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, blitz on 41.6 percent of pass plays, which is the fourth-highest rate in the NFL.
Miami’s 20 sacks are 13th-most, and their 75 pressures are 14th-most. Hurrying Herbert seems to be the plan heading into this one, however, the Dolphins may flip the script and force Herbert to show his patience against zone coverage.
Emmanuel Ogbah leads the Dolphins with 34 quarterback pressures. His seven sacks are tied for fourth-most in the NFL. His 13 QB hits are tied for seventh-most and his three forced fumbles are tied for second-most this season.
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Handle LA’s four-man rush
While the Dolphins send extra men at the fourth-highest clip in the league, the Chargers blitz the least in the league. LA blitzes on only 13.6 percent of the time. The Chargers deploy three deep defenders on most pass plays.
LA relies on a four-man rush to generate pressure. Normally, the Chargers sport a pair of elite edge rushers in Bosa and Melvin Ingram, but Bosa’s been ruled out. That’s a huge loss for LA, considering Bosa’s generated 37 QB pressures. Ingram, meanwhile, has generated 23 pressures, but he’s missed three games this season.
Miami’s offensive line has done well protecting Tagovailoa over the last two weeks. He’s been pressured just 8.3 percent of the time. He’s been blitzed 27 times in his two starts. When not facing a blitz, Tagovailoa has completed 72.7 percent of his passes, connecting on two touchdowns.
Ereck Flowers and Ted Karras have played particularly well this season. They’ve played a combined 604 pass-blocking snaps this season and have allowed with just 15 pressures.
Dolphins-Chargers: Sort out RB
The Dolphins lost Myles Gaskin to the injured reserve last week. Breida then missed the Cardinals’ game with a hamstring injury. So Miami turned to Jordan Howard and rookie Salvon Ahmed.
Howard underwhelmed, gaining just 19 yards on his 10 carries, though he did score a short touchdown. Ahmed played the majority of the snaps and picked up 38 yards on his seven carries. Tagovailoa gained 35 yards on seven scrambles.
The Dolphins could add DeAndre Washington to the mix this week. He sports a 4.0 career yards-per-carry average and has reliable hands out of the backfield. He’s a shifty back who could fit what the Dolphins do well with Tagovailoa.
Miami may need the pass to set up the run. The return of Bowden and the activation of Malcolm Perry affords Dolphins offensive coordinator Chan Gailey with versatile playmakers to incorporate. Jakeem Grant could play a role in the running game as well with jet sweeps.
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