Miami Dolphins @ San Diego Chargers
Qualcomm Stadium – San Diego, California
Sunday, December 20
4:25 PM E.T. on CBS
What to Watch For:
“For anything worth having one must pay the price; and the price is always work, patience, and self-sacrifice.” John Burroughs
For Dolphins fans across the country, one word pretty well sums up the past 10 years of following this team; patience. Patience has been what all Dolphins supporters have been practicing year after year as this struggling franchise always appears to be a few pieces short of playoff contention. The real question is: How long must the Dolphins struggle before reemerging as a competitive team again? It is true that all teams go through rebuilding years. What is so discouraging is that Miami has been rebuilding for going on 20 years now. When will this Dolphins front office finally put together the right pieces to be a competitive organization? No one knows. Owner, Stephen Ross is clearly not happy as he has fired multiple GM’s and coaches in his tenure as the majority owner. Will a regime change in Miami really be enough to turn things around? It seems unlikely. This team’s issues run deep. It’s not just the coaching, it’s the overall talent on the roster. The Dolphins are a mediocre team on paper and a mediocre team on the field. It is time to shake things up. Unfortunately, the Dolphins failed to make any trades this season to acquire any future draft picks despite it being evident they weren’t a playoff team early in the season. Now it will be imperative for Miami to build through the draft.
These last three games for the Dolphins will be for nothing more than pride. If the Dolphins coaching staff is smart they will use these three games to develop their young talent (i.e. Jay Ajayi, Devante Parker, Bobby McCain, Jordan Philips, Zach Vigil, Billy Turner). By giving extra touches to Lamar Miller just to help him reach his goal of 1,000 rushing yards this season both cuts in to Ajayi’s development (potential starter next year) while simultaneously raising Lamar Miller’s offseason price tag. Similarly, Rishard Matthews who is questionable to play this Sunday should also be kept on the sideline. Why would you risk getting Matthews or Miller hurt when they are on expiring contracts anyway? This is a perfect opportunity for Miami to drive down Matthews and Miller’s asking prices, while developing their younger potential replacements. No one would judge them in the slightest since the season is over anyway. After all, what is the worst that can happen? Miami loses their final 3 games? That would actually be a blessing in disguise as this Dolphins team could desperately use the addition of a top 10 draft pick in the 2016 NFL draft.
In regards to strategic game plan for this matchup, it’s pretty much the same as the past three weeks. Run more and pass less. So we’re predicting the Dolphins will come out and do the exact opposite. That is what the Dolphins are known for after-all. Doing the exact opposite of what every other team would do, and even defying the will of their own fan-base on a weekly basis. This San Diego Chargers team that Miami faces on Sunday is currently 27th in run defense. They are giving up a whopping 126.5 rushing yards per game to opposing running backs while retaining a much more respectable ranking against the pass (currently ranked 12th). The stats make it crystal clear what the Dolphins game plan should be. Now whether the Dolphins will stick with the run will likely depend heavily on the pace and score of the game. If for some reason the Dolphins find themselves down at half-time they will have no choice but to go to the air just as they did in the second half of last week’s game vs the Giants. Miami should lean on their run game and allow Jay Ajayi to lead the way with 15+ touches. However, we are predicting the Dolphins run the ball just 23 times (16 for Miller and 7 for Ajayi). If the Dolphins cannot establish their run game in the first half, and continue to keep Tannehill upright, the Dolphins will fall yet again this season.
Defense/ Special Teams:
The defensive strategy is virtually unknown this week. While the Chargers have struggled all season to run the ball, don’t be shocked if they come out trying to run anyway (considering how bad the Dolphins run defense has been). The Chargers are currently ranked 31st in rushing this season. They haven’t scored a touchdown in 4 weeks, and in that same time they have only accumulated 1 field goal. Needless to say, the Chargers offense is a complete mess. The Dolphins don’t need to come out and do anything special. They just need to cover the fundamentals and prevent mental errors. The Dolphins cannot afford costly penalties, leaving receivers wide open down field, or any of the other mental errors that have plagued this team throughout the 2015 season. Look for Miami to try to establish their run defense early in an attempt to get San Diego to take the game to the air. With Both Earl Mitchell, and Jelani Jenkins questionable for Sunday’s matchup, Miami’s run defense is completely up in the air. And until the Dolphins find an improved corner to start across from Brent Grimes, and a legitimate free safety to start next to Reshad Jones; expect to see more struggles within Miami’s secondary for all three remaining games this season. Miami should lock their focus on to rookie, Melvin Gordon. If they can contain him, this game should fall right in to Miami’s lap.
Six Keys to Victory
- Don’t overthink the game plan- RUN the ball
- Give Jay Ajayi a heavier workload (more touches for Miller = higher 2016 price tag)
- Involve DeVante Parker more- elite young talent just waiting for more opportunities
- Don’t let Melvin Gordon get going
- Zach Vigil and Neville Hewitt must step up with Jelani Jenkins questionable
- Ndamukong Suh must re-establish himself as a dominant force up-front
Dolphins 24 – Chargers 17