Yes, the Dolphins are on a 4-game winning streak, yes they went into Arizona and won a hard-fought game against the game’s premier young QB (who is putting up MVP numbers by the way) and they did it all while missing five coaches, and it was only Tua’s second start. Tua by the way, looked like the real deal in that game. So why, oh why do you think I’m saying this is Coach Flores’ toughest game? Simple, expectations.
Last year everyone expected the Dolphins to lose, this year everyone expected the team to keep rebuilding, compete but not necessarily win. The victory at Arizona last week changed all that. This team looks like the real deal, and I am convinced this coach is definitely the real deal. But now comes the hard part. How do you keep the team focused on the next game after such a big victory, how do you avoid a hangover, or drop down, how does he stop the team from coming out flat on Sunday and laying an egg the way so many young and promising teams have done in the past? It’s sometimes easier to keep losing teams focused on the next game because with that comes the hope of a victory, but it is harder to prevent a winning team from becoming arrogant after such a big win.
When? 4:05 pm EST pm at Hard Rock Stadium
How we got here?
The Dolphins come into this game after winning a thriller in the desert 34-31 thanks to Tua’s heroics and Don Jason Sanders’ perfection. The Chargers on the other hand continue to prove that there are many ways to lose a game and lost a heart-breaker to the Raiders 31-26.
When the Chargers have the ball.
Yes, by now we have all heard of how Justin Herbert is the second coming of (insert your favorite QB comparison here). And stats-wise the kid seems to have it all. He threw for over 300 yards in each of his first two games, has thrown multiple touchdowns in five consecutive games (including a career high 4 at New Orleans) and has yet to throw under 264 yards. The Chargers have also been able to run an average of 4.1 yards per carry and 4.7 over the last three games even without Austin Ekeler. This is not a bad team, and they definitely play a lot better than their record indicates. The Dolphins will also seemingly be two key players short on defense. Their human dynamo on the DL Christian Wilkins and unit captain Kyle Van Noy are both out after landing on the COVID IR list. That means that Zach Sieler and Raekwon Davis will see an increase in their snap count and Benito Jones might be getting signed into the 53 (he is already at the limit for PS call-ups this season).
On the LB Unit I am not as concerned as I think Van Ginkel has been playing lights out and this should open more opportunities for him, but Baker will have to play his best game of the season to replace KVN’s production in the middle of that defense. I also think that the absences on defense will impact the offensive game plan, how? The Dolphins will be forced to control the ball and clock to make sure the defense doesn’t get gassed as they did v the Rams. It is also worth pointing out that Herbert is not only facing the Dolphins D but also Boyer and Flores scheme which has been really good as of late. It will be interesting to see how they will try and shut down Keenan Allen, by far the best WR on the Chargers and I expect Byron and X to have a strong rebound game after a below-par performance in the desert a week ago.
When the Dolphins have the ball:
So Tua is the real deal, right? Yes, he is. But it’s only been two games, he still has a lot of things to clean up and improve on and I’m sure that when he reads this he’ll be nodding along (Hey Tua!). The Dolphins offense looked much better last week, and it was thanks to Chan Gailey really trusting his young QB and letting him throw the ball. Tua also made some great plays with his feet which was great because any semblance of a running game was missing in the second half. So, this week they face a Chargers defense that won’t have their best pass-rusher (Bosa) and who is also playing without their best safety this year (Derwin James). Honestly, the Dolphins can and should open the floor doors on this Chargers team but a lot of that will depend on the Dolphins not coming out flat. And once again, that’s the challenge this week. I expect to see motion, quick throws and RPO’s like we did last week but complemented much better with a power running game behind fullback Chandler Cox to control the tempo of the game. I also expect to see Lynn Bowden Jr, Jakeem Grant and Mack Hollins make the most of the opportunity to impress the staff with Preston William being out this week (And for the foreseeable future).I think we will see Malcolm Perry having a greater impact, and as I mentioned in this podcast I expect him to get his first score of the season in this game. All in all, the Dolphins offense should not have such a hard outing IF THEY EXECUTE, and once again it will come down to the players not coming out flat after a big win last week.
What to expect?
I expect the Dolphins defense to make Herbert look like a rookie, and for Flores and Co to make a statement on why they preferred Tua. That being said, the big challenge is overcoming the absence of 4 coaches (QB, OLB, DL and quality control) and of two key defenders. The Dolphins will probably switch coverages a bunch on Herbert and bring pressure from different places and will try to exploit the injury-ridden Chargers OL. If the Dolphins can force Herbert to throw it quickly without the routes have time to develop then the Oregon grad should be in for a long, long day. On the offense the Dolphins will need to control the ball and clock, allowing their short-staffed defense to rest up on the sideline, if the Dolphins are able to not come out flat, then they should dominate this one and win by 10 or more points, BUT if they don’t come out swinging they could be in for a long day and lose by a FG. As I mentioned in the podcast I expect this game to be a good indicator for the rest of the season and in fact, I’ll put it in writing. If the Dolphins win this game, they aren’t losing another regular season game the rest of the year (yes, I know they play the Chiefs, but I said what I said), but if they lose this game, then I’m afraid 7 wins is all we are getting this year. If you ask me, Flores and co will have this team ready to play and will be able to dominate the game from the start.
Please welcome Jorge Hinojosa to the PhinManiacs team! Please follow him on Twitter @FranciscoHinoPe