The Miami Dolphins are rolling looking for their fifth win in a row heading into a Week 10 matchup hosting the Los Angeles Chargers. Miami is coming off of two big wins against the Los Angeles Rams and the Arizona Cardinals and now find themselves in the playoff hunt, currently in a tie for the seventh and final AFC playoff spot.
Dolphins Fourth in a Row, Chargers Drop Another
The Dolphins (5-3) and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa both played a very strong game in a close win against the Cardinals in week nine. Tagovailoa had a strong bounceback game and passed for 248 yards with two touchdowns and led Miami to their fifth win of the season.
Los Angeles (2-6) is coming off another loss on the last play of the game, to another division rival in the Las Vegas Raiders. Rookie QB Justin Herbert had another strong game with 326 yards and two touchdowns, but the Chargers have yet to figure out how to close games with their new QB. LA has now lost five games this season by one score.
Tagovailoa Fifth, Herbert Sixth in 2020 NFL Draft
We could be seeing this matchup for years to come in the AFC with the Dolphins and Chargers both having drafted their hopeful QBs for the future in the 2020 NFL draft. Miami selected Tagovailoa No. 5 overall, passing over Herbert, who went No. 6. Herbert will be playing in his ninth game this season with just one win during his time at the helm while Tagovailoa will be going into his third week with a 2-0 record after taking over for veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick after the Dolphins bye week.
Herbert Making Case for Rookie of the Year
The matchup against the Chargers will be a test of the Miami defense as well. LA has strong weapons all over the field, and Herbert is on his way to winning Rookie-of-the-Year with the numbers he has put up so far. Herbert has 2,442 yards, 18 total TDs (two rushing) and seven interceptions so far this season.
Keenan Allen, Mike Williams in for Big Game
Wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams have been strong all season long and Miami will have their hands full dealing with Allen’s route running and Williams’ catching abilities. Allen is one of the best route runners in the NFL and Williams has some of the best big-play potential in the league. Los Angeles has weapons at every position on the field and can be a difficult challenge for any defense, including tight end Hunter Henry as well. Henry hasn’t been a star TE like he has been in previous seasons, but the Dolphins did give up two scores to TEs against the Cardinals last season and if Miami locks down Allen like it did DeAndre Hopkins last week he could be a key factor.
LA Rolling with Kelley, Ballage in Backfield
In the ground game, the Chargers will also feature a former Dolphins running back. With starter Austin Ekeler still on injured reserve and Justin Jackson out with a knee injury, Kalen Ballage will take the field alongside Joshua Kelley. Ballage was cut in the offseason after averaging a NFL-worst 1.8 yards per carry in his time in Miami.
“They’ve used numerous different backs due to injury. All of them have been successful. They’ve got a loaded skill receiver group. They’ve got good tight ends and they’re really running at an efficient pace,” Miami defensive coordinator Josh Boyer said on the Los Angeles offense. “It’s going to be a big challenge for us this week. This is a very good offense, so that’s what we’re working all morning on. Like I said earlier, we’re just trying to find ways to put our players in positions to succeed.”
Next Man Up Mentality in Full Swing in Miami
For Miami, the question of Tagovailoa being helpful against attacking the defensive scheme the Chargers have planned will be pivotal. Much like LA with Herbert, the NFL has very little information around how Tagovailoa will play in the Dolphins offense that is still changing weekly. Whether or not head coach Brian Flores wants to, he and the rest of the offense are having to get more creative with the interchanging personnel in recent weeks. However, their “next man up” mentality has been evident since he became the head coach in 2019.
WR DeVante Parker has played well so far this season, but with WR Preston Williams going to IR, the LA secondary will be able to focus more on Parker throughout the game. Parker will have more eyes on him in the coming weeks as the Miami offense will begin to look for who to rely on with so many absences.
Jakeem Grant, Mack Hollins to Start at WR
With Williams unable to go, the Dolphins are expected to elevated WR Jakeem Grant into its No. 2 role. Grant has primarily been a kick and punt returner but will see extended time on the field. Additionally, WR Mack Hollins will start in the No. 3 role. Hollins caught his first ball as a Dolphin, a TD, last week in Arizona.
WR Antonio Callaway Activated
Something else to note, WR Antonio Callaway, who has officially finished his suspension for performance enhancing drugs, has been elevated off Miami’s practice squad and will make his debut in the blue and orange on Sunday. He has been burdened by off-field issues, but originally played for the Cleveland Browns where he had eight receptions for 89 yards. He has big play potential and could take over the role Williams played.
Dolphins Backfield Has Lots of ???
In the backfield, Myles Gaskin is going to miss his second straight game on IR and Matt Breida is a game-time decision. If he misses for the second straight week it will be Salvon Ahmed who gets the official start. However, newly-acquired DeAndre Washington is expected to make his first Dolphins start after being traded for from the Kansas City Chiefs and Jordan Howard is still expected to get the goal line work.
Miami and their defense will have another tough challenge ahead of them with the Chargers. If they want to contain LA and the passing attack, the Dolphins secondary must lock down the WRs and not be fooled by the crossing routes and not be burned by the run game like in Arizona. Of course, another defensive score couldn’t hurt. The Chargers play the Dolphins in Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday at 4:05 p.m. eastern.