John Pagano has already come out this week and said that his goal for this game is to stop the Miami Dolphins #1 WR, Mike Wallace. Let's see how that same philosophy has worked for the San Diego Chargers defense in the last few weeks:
- Demaryius Thomas: 7 catches, 108 rec yds, 3 rec TDs
- Pierre Garcon: 7 catches, 172 rec yds
- Justin Blackmon: 6 catches, 58 rec yds
It also should be mentioned that Blackmon was played injured, and looked like it, against the Chargers. Mike Brown, the other WR for the Jaguars that day, had 5 catches for 120 rec yds.
So, while I'm not saying that stopping Mike Wallace is a bad plan, I'm saying that the Chargers secondary may not be up to the task.
The question many are left wondering this season is "What happened to the Dolphins?" They started off 3-0, including impressive wins against the Colts and Falcons, before losing 5 of their last 6 games. All of this without a major injury to obviously point to as the culprit.
Well, the real reason is turnovers. Take a look at this:
- In victory, the Dolphins are averaging 1.25 turnovers on offense and forcing 2.5 turnovers on defense.
- In defeat, the Dolphins are averaging 2.2 turnovers on offense and forcing 1.2 turnovers on defense.
This is great news! Right? Well, no, not really.
The San Diego Chargers haven't just been bad at stopping the pass or stopping the run on defense, they have been insanely bad at forcing turnovers. In fact, they rank dead last in the league with 6 defensive turnovers. By comparison, the Jacksonville Jaguars have forced 12 turnovers on defense. Average in the league is 15, and San Diego isn't even halfway there. (The 2012 Chargers finished with 28 turnovers on defense, good for 11th in the league.)
Outside of a weird game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where they couldn't run the ball, this Miami Dolphins offense is good (they had over 120 rushing yards in each of the previous 3 games). Their problem is that they have been facing teams like the Saints, Bills, Patriots and Ravens that will give up yards and take chances to force turnovers.
This is the perfect matchup for the Dolphins offense. The Chargers defense forces 0.6 turnovers per game, and chances are they won't force more than 1 in Miami. Miami's record when they turn the ball over once or less? 3-2, including an overtime victory against a good Cincinnati Bengals team two weeks ago.
The Miami Dolphins pass rush is the best pass rush the Chargers will have faced this season after Sunday. Pro Football Focus ranks them 2nd in the league, just behind the Seattle Seahawks and just above the Kansas City Chiefs. The only teams in the Top 10 in pass rush that the Chargers have faced this season? The Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans, both games ending in a loss for Mike McCoy's team.
To add to the fun, King Dunlap probably won't play the game with a neck strain. That means there is a good chance that right tackle D.J. Fluker will be starting the game at left tackle, and right guard Jeromey Clary will be starting the game at right tackle, against the league's 2nd best pass rush.
I'd be less concerned about this if Ken Whisenhunt hadn't switched from lots of short, quick passes to lots of long, deep, play-action passes in the last few weeks. If he breaks that habit, the Chargers should be able to mostly ignore the Miami pass rush. If he doesn't, well.... Charlie Whitehurst might want to stay warm.