Training camp officially starts this week, and rosters are almost set as we preview the opponents the San Diego Chargers will be facing this season. Each team has made different moves in order to improve their roster, and this series will help you become more familiar with each opponent.
In other words, KNOW YOUR ENEMY...
The 2013 Miami Dolphins finished with an 8-8 record, beating the Jets, Steelers, and Patriots in consecutive weeks, only to miss the playoffs after losing in the final two weeks of the season to the Bills and Jets by a combined total of 39-7. GM Jeff Ireland lost his job, and Dennis Hickey was hired to replace him, while Miami looks to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Joe Philbin enters his third-year as head coach, but it could be his last, if the Dolphins can't make the post-season.
Offensively, they will be adjusting to a new system, as Bill Lazor was hired as offensive coordinator. Ryan Tannehill entering his third-year, struggled last year, ranking 27th in DVOA among all QBs, after throwing for 3,913 yards with 24 TDs and 17 interceptions. The re-worked offensive line should help, while Tannehill and Mike Wallace continue to build a connection. The running game also needs to show improvement if this offense wants to have a better year.
Defensively, this unit ranked 8th in total points allowed, allowing only 17 passing touchdowns all year, and ranking 18th in defensive DVOA. The pass-defense did an excellent job against opposing wide receivers, as they ranked 12th in pass defense, but were 29th defending tight ends. Along with their additions this off-season, this unit should only improve.
Additions: Knowshon Moreno, Cortland Finnegan, Branden Albert, Earl Mitchell, Louis Delmas
Losses: Paul Soliai, Nolan Carroll, Dimitri Patterson, Chris Clemons, Tyson Clabo
The additions the Dolphins made can have an immediate impact, as Albert is expected to come in and solidify the offensive line, which gave up a league-high 58 sacks last year. Knowshon Moreno is recovering from knee surgery, but when he's healthy, is expected to handle the main-share of the carries. Adding Finnegan and Delmas will only make this secondary better, while Mitchell will help replace the departed Soliai. After spending big money last off-season, Hickey decided for a more conservative approach, while adding players that will help build a better foundation, especially on offense.
19. Ja'Wuan James OT Tennessee
63. Jarvis Landry WR LSU
67. Billy Turner OT North Dakota
125. Walt Aikens CB Liberty
155. Arthur Lynch TE Georgia
171. Jordan Tripp LB Montana
190. Matt Hazel WR Coastal Carolina
234. Terrence Fede DE Marist College
Drafting two offensive tackles in the first three rounds this year shows that the main focus this off-season was improving the o-line. Jarvis Landry will be a good compliment for Wallace and Brian Hartline in the passing game, along with Arthur Lynch being added as another pass-catcher to help Charles Clay at tight end. Jordan Tripp has turned some heads already, and could be an impact player for the linebacking corps, especially if Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler struggle once again.
The Dolphins will need to show improvement in stopping the run for their defense to become a more dominant unit, as they ranked 29th in rush defense, allowing nearly 2,000 rushing yards and 14 TDs last year.
Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon combined for 20 sacks last year, but if this defense wants to take the next step, 2013 first round pick Dion Jordan will need to have a bigger impact. After not starting a single game, and recording only 26 tackles and 2 sacks last year, this high potential defensive end will need to prove that he is what the Dolphins envisioned him to be, after drafting him 3rd overall. But being suspended for the first four games of the season doesn't help him, or the Dolphins.
The San Diego Chargers will have to travel across the country once again for this game, after losing a close one to the Dolphins in Miami last year. This game saw the Bolts out-gain the ‘Fins in total yards, time of possession, 3rd down efficiency, and first downs. However, the Chargers committed 10 penalties for 76 yards, with four off-sides called on one drive, to go along with the 104 rushing yards surrendered behind the Dolphins' makeshift line, after a harassment scandal lost them two starters for the year.
This time around, the Chargers will need to cut down on the high number of penalties if they want to leave Miami with a different result. The Bolts running game should be as effective as it was last year, after rushing for 154 total yards, but the key to this game might be found within the tight end group. If Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green are able to expose some mismatches, they might have a big day against the Dolphins linebackers. Green and Gates were the leading receivers in this game last year, combining for 133 yards and 1 TD against this defense.
The Chargers have lost seven in a row in Miami since their 41-38 overtime playoff victory in 1982, and with the expected improvement from this 8-8 team, the Dolphins will look to continue that streak.
The Dolphins' offensive line should be improved from last year, and protecting Tannehill will help with his development heading into what could be a pivotal year for the young signal-caller. Center Mike Pouncey is expected to be out for 4-6 games recovering from hip surgery, and with an entirely new offensive line to start the year, their season might hinge on how well this unit can come together.