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Week 10: Bills at Dolphins
The San Diego Chargers, coming off of back to back losses with the latest coming to the Denver Broncos 35-21, travel to South Florida to take on the 4-3 Miami Dolphins, riding a 2 game winning streak after beating Jacksonville 27-13. As we have reached the half way point in the season, this is shaping up to be a HUGE game in regards to Wildcard playoff positioning. Both teams still have a chance in their respective divisions, but the Wildcard playoff spot is a spot both are battling over as well. San Diego travled to Miami last year in a game the Dolphins won 20-16. The game is a 1:00 kickoff.
Let's take a look at these 2 teams and how they matchup.
Offensively, Miami comes into the game averaging 355.0 yards per game, 217.0 of that coming via the passing game while 138.0 yards of that comes via the run game. Miami ranks 6th in the NFL in rushing and are scoring 24.9 points a game, which ranks 12th. They face a very good San Diego Chargers defense that is giving up 330.0 yards a game, 219 yards per game via the pass and 110.9 yards via the run game. The Chargers are giving up 18.6 yards per game, which ranks 4th in the NFL.
QB Ryan Tannehill is compleing 62.3% of his passes for 1,619 yards and 11 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. One of the things that frustrates you with Ryan is his inconsistency. He had one of his better games of his career a few weeks ago against the Bears, and the following week he has one of his worst games against the Jaguars. The roller coaster ride has to come to an end. Utilization of the run game, which ranks 6th in the NFL would be a big plus to Ryan and it is up to OC Bill Lazor to utilize the run game MORE. Lazor himself has been inconsistent in his play calling. RB Lamar Miller leads the rushing attack with 95 carries for 469 yards, while WR Mike Wallace leads the receivers with 32 catches for 418 yards. Miami has to be balanced if they want to have success against this Chargers defense.
Defensively, the Dolphins come into the game giving up 322.7 yards a game, which ranks 7th in the NFL. They are giving up 211.6 yards in the passing game and 111.1 yards per game in the run game. Miami is giving up 21.6 points per game, which ranks 11th in the NFL. They face a San Diego offense lead by MVP candidate Phillip Rivers. The Chargers are averagin 353.2 yards per game, 267.5 yards per game, which ranks 8th in the NFL, while only averaging 85.8 yards per game. The Chargers are scoring 25.6 points per game, which ranks 10th in the NFL.
A big key to this game as ususal with be the battle up front and the front 4 for Miami, lead by DE Cameron Wake and DT Randy Starks. First and foremost, they MUST contain a struggling San Diego run game, which ranks 30th in the NFL. Miami must make the Chargers one dimenstional and attack QB Phillip Rivers with pass rush up the middle. Rivers is having an MVP type of season, completing 68.3% of his passes for 2,213 yards and 20 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions. His main weapons are WR Keenan Allen has 43 catches for 427 yards and TE Antonio Gates, who has 32 catches for 417 yards. The back 7 for the Dolphins will need to have a solid game as well.
Alot is on the line in this game in regards to positioning for the Wildcard playoff spot and keeping themselves in position to battle for division titles as well for these 2 teams. Does the maturation of this Dolphins team continue? We will find out.
Also, my thoughts and prayers go out to Coach Philbin and his family, as his dad passed away this week.
Let's go Miami.
How Good Is This Defense?
You will be a bit impressed to see that the Dolphins pass defense ranks 3rd in the NFL is yards per game. The run defense ranks 15th in yards per game, but that can be attributed to injuries to our group of linebackers. Overall, the Dolphins rank 7th in the NFL in total yards per game.
Of course, statistics can be a little misleading as the Dolphins defense actually ranks 2nd in the NFL is yards per attempt. What would attibute to that? An inconsistent offense learning a new offensive system would be one big reason as the defense is overworked. Last week the offense kept the defense on the field for most of the first half. Even though they were overworked they were having a heck of a lot of fun out on the field as they were hawking the ball to three turnover recoveries, and took two of them into the end zone on exciting "pick 6" opportunities. When was the last time you saw the Dolphins defense make young quarterbacks pay for their lack of experience? It's been a very looonnng time.
Talk about it here.
Miami's Linebackers are the Weakest Area on Team
The Dolphins have had injuries this year at the linebacker positions, but those injuries have allowed us to get a good look at Jason Trusnik, Jelani Jenkins, Jonathan Freeny, rookie Jordan Tripp, and rookie free agent Chris McCain. I just cannot say enough about the play of Jelani Jenkins as he has become our best linebacker that we have drafted since Zach Thomas. Now, do not put words in my mouth as I did not say that Jenkins is the next Zach. Players like Zach come along very rarely, but Jenkins was drafted in the 4th round while Zach was drafted in the 5th round making them draft steals. Pro Football Focus has Jelani Jenkins ranked as the 4th best outside linebacker in the NFL.
We have not seen a lot of Chris McCain (2 snaps) or Jordan Tripp (4 snaps), but a lot of that probably falls on DC Kevin Coyle as he likes experienced players on the field. If they want to get on the field during games they will have to start to impress him during practice.
I am going to say something that will disappoint you, but OLB Phillip Wheeler isn't having a bad year overall. It is just when he messes up he gives up touchdowns. That is why Defensive Coordinator Kevin Coyle needs to quit trusting him around the end zone ... especially in passing situations. Wheeler is an excellent blitzing linebacker and does a decent job against the run. He is very aggressive and plays all out.
While I have criticized Coyle for his defensive decisions by putting square pegs into round holes, and expecting them to play like they are round pegs, I think we have to understand that this is his first job as a defensive coordinator. Many people around the NFL considered him to be an up-and-coming defensive mind. We are starting to see him turn the corner in his adjustments.
So, sit back and enjoy the youth movement at the linebacker position.
Talk about it here.
I Miss the 3-4 Defense.
While our defense is finally playing well and consistent in the 4-3 scheme, I do miss the 3-4 defense. Maybe it's because I am old school and think that bigger is better. Also, I would think that Dion Jordan would thrive as an OLB rather than having to put his hand in the dirt in the 4-3 as a defensive end. If things do not change about him I would find myself in favor of trading him to a team with a 3-4 scheme as I feel we are wasting his potential. Give Coyle an attaboy as he had him in on 43% of all defensive snaps last week. Jordan has worked very hard to put on weight and muscle mass, and Coyle thinks he can hold up better against the run. It is important to be a certain size at defensive end or you will be pushed out of the play.
So, thinking about the 4-3 scheme, I need to remind myself is that bigger is not always better. The speed and athleticism of the smaller defensive players can be exciting as well. It also takes time to change the size of your linebackers to the 4-3. Former GM Jeff Ireland started the move last year by bringing in Wheeler and Ellerbe as they were young and "up-coming", but that proved to be disastrous as Ireland did not fully evaluate either of them. Their weakness and experience helped to kick Ireland out the door as you just don't waste millions of dollars even if it isn't your money. Owner Steven Ross has always been willing to pay any amount to put a good team on the field, but decisions like this could make him change his philosophy, and we do not want that.
So, the move to the 4-3 was Coach Philben's decision even though it was a strong defense prior to his arrival here, so, we just have to get used to it. Since the defense is performing at a high level, it is hard to complain about it.
I Love Seeing Dan The Man With The Team.
I am very happy to see that Danny is a part of this team, and that Coach Philben has welcomed his presence and input. Dan felt the power struggle with former GM Spielman the last time he took a position with the Dolphins front office, so, everyone is hoping that the Dolphins do have a real plan for him rather than just a media face.
He's working with Ryan Tannehill while watching game tapes with him, and that could possibly put the "thrill" in Tanne-thrill if RT catches on. A lot of Tannehill's problems can be attritubed to his decision-making. Marino can definitely help him with reading defenses and having better pocket awareness ... which can be learned. No one expects Tannehill to fill Hall of Famer quarterback Dan Marino's shoes, but if he plays well we can possibly call him "Tan the Man".
I do hope Dan doesn't teach Tannehill to force the ball to the outside. Danny had a heck of a lot of Pick-6's at the end of his career when the noodle started to wear out, and his Jimmah Johnson's receivers could not gain separation from a wet paper bag.
I humorously pointed out this week that Jaguars quarterback Bortles threw more touchdown passes last week ... to Dolphins:
Talk about it here.
Please Bench WR Brian Hartline
I've always been a big Hartline supporter over the years, so, I was never on board with all the criticism that he would get from some fans. He has a skillset and he did it well (just like Wallace's skillset is mostly the deep pass). This year, however, he has not played well and he is actually hurting the offense. He is not fitting in well with this new offensive scheme and he is dropping passes that he normally catches. Just take a look at PFF's evaluation of him this year vs last year. It is a major drop in performance.
Talk about it here.
Dave "Big Dave" Blake