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Takeaways from the Chargers-Dolphins Debacle

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

First things first, that was a terrible loss. The Dolphins are not a good team. They had no business winning that game. 2 missed field goals weren’t the only things that cost the Chargers. Players just weren’t making plays. Last year for Casey Hayward, this is an interception.

To open the drive, you would’ve thought it would be a long day for the defense. Check out these plays. 4 of the first 5 players were a complete disaster for the defense.

Hayes Pullard is the “starting” linebacker in sub-packages. He has been a nightmare up to this point. If he did things in coverage, that’d be one thing. But he’s not. As you can see above, he’s not taking any initiative. He’s just “there.” Against the run, he’s getting rolled over. Literally. The other linebackers aren’t exactly lighting it up behind him, either. Korey Toomer is getting there, but not finishing. Nigel Harris is the most athletic of the 3 but isn’t strong enough at this point. The trio has shown in the first 2 weeks that they are not NFL caliber linebackers.

This play below is linebacker 101 stuff. Nobody crosses your face without getting a hand on them.

Gus Bradley’s scheme is already wildly flawed by asking linebackers to cover receivers 30 yards down the field. The play above is the touchdown where Jatavis Brown got caught guarding Kenny Stills. If Pullard is able to get a hand on and slow Stills down for Brown, the throw likely never happens. There are a lot of little things like this going on in the defense that are killing them.

In a surprise to nobody, tackling is still a big issue.

In a surprise to most of us, Corey Liuget’s role was cut in half. After the 1st series, Darius Philon replaced Liuget with the starters in their base defense. It was for the better. Philon played quite well. Without bashing Liuget too much, let’s just say the change should be permanent. It ended up being Philon playing 53% of the time compared to 19% week 1. Liuget played 47% of the snaps compared to 70% week 1. Here are a few plays where Philon made an impact.

He just brings a motor that Liuget doesn’t have. It’s easy to see why he’s playing more.

Keeping it positive defensively, though a tad reckless still, Jatavis Brown is a very good player. 12 tackles, 1.5 for loss. These tackles aren’t clean up tackles 10 yards down the field. He’s around the line of scrimmage. He does a good job of using his speed to his advantage. Whenever Denzel Perryman gets back, he’ll be even better. Bosa has been good. Melvin Ingram has been lights out. He gave Laremy Tunsil fits all afternoon.

He finished with only 1 sack but I recall 3 other times where he hit Cutler. Another where he came free on a stunt up the middle, only to miss the sack. Miami still punted, though.

Defensively, outside of the first drive where they should send Miami a gift basket for getting fancy, the team didn’t play that bad. They just couldn’t get timely stops against the run. Penalties hurt. As I mentioned before the year this is going to be a unit that feasts off sacks and turnovers and when those things aren’t happening, it’s going to be tough to stop opposing offenses. 2 sacks and 0 turnovers weren’t enough.

Inept offense?

Many people were turned off by the fact that the offense dropped back to pass 40 times and ran it 14. The opening series was run, run, pass punt. That didn’t work. Was there a play or 2 here where they should’ve run the ball? Sure. The Dolphins had a 1-man wrecking crew inside in Ndamukong Suh that was blowing every possible run-up. The team did a good job of getting extended runs like swing passes to Melvin Gordon and quick throws to the flat or over the middle to Keenan Allen or a tight end. Those were clearly their versions of runs during the game so just looking at the run/pass ratio isn’t fair.

Suh manhandled right guard Kenny Wiggins on multiple occasions. Aside from that, I thought the offensive line did quite well in pass protection. 2 plays stick out like a sore thumb. One time the Chargers faked a run and pulled Matt Slauson, he got juked by a blitzing linebacker who hit Rivers and caused his throw to go out of bounds missing a wide open Antonio Gates 15 yards down the field. This was a perfect play-call, just bad execution. Another play, right after he did a great job stepping up and stoning a linebacker, Gordon whiffs on the outside and surrenders the only sack of the game. That was on 3rd & 1. Many would want to run the ball there but up until this point they had shown they couldn’t get any push in about 10 attempts. I have no problem putting the ball in your quarterback's hand and letting him make the best decision. Unfortunately, it was a long developing play instead of a quick hitter.

The whole throw the ball to Hunter Henry thing worked out. He caught all 7 of his targets for 80 yards. He just gets open. He’s clearly one of their better weapons. Keenan Allen seemed to shake off the rust as well. They moved him around and worked him at all levels. He looked like his old self.

The offense should not be scoring on 3 of 9 possessions. Not against a Miami Dolphin defense that frankly isn’t that good. Special teams mistakes hurt, yes. The sack was big. The team needs a spark. Like a 1st round receiver or something.

There’s no need to rehash the missed field goals. We can talk about the punter, though. Drew Kaser’s 2nd to last punt went 23 yards. Having absolutely no impact at all. His final punt went 40 yards with a 14-yard return. So 26-yard net. The Dolphins get 1 1st down. Then go 3 and out and make a 54-yard field goal. It’s amazing that the Special Teams coach is allowed on the bus after games.