The Los Angeles Chargers were happy that their former first-round pick, Justin Herbert, delivered on his potential by leading the team back to the postseason. What the Chargers hope to see their quarterback do this season is push things forward and turn them into AFC contenders. Los Angeles blew a 27-point lead in the first round of the playoffs before losing to Jacksonville and is now hoping to challenge for the AFC West Division crown.
Miami is coming off a successful but tumultuous first season under head coach Mike McDaniel. The Dolphins were able to return to the playoffs and put a scare into the Buffalo Bills but fell short of advancing. With better health and improvements across the board, Miami hopes to be a contender again.
Chargers & Dolphins Have Colorful History
The Chargers are 3-point favorites for the game that will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. Despite being on opposite coasts, Miami and Los Angeles have had a number of memorable matchups over the years. The Dolphins lead the all-time series 19-17 in a battle that has featured four postseason matchups.
Los Angeles won the last meeting between the teams 23-17 last season. Miami has won three of the past five matchups between the two sides. The Dolphins and Chargers haven’t met in the playoffs since 1995, when the Chargers were still in San Diego. The Chargers inched by the Dolphins 22-21 in that meeting.
Tua Looks to Martial Arts for Protection
Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was always going to be under some form of scrutiny. There was always a question of whether the 6-foot-1 quarterback’s body would hold up to the rigors of the professional game. In two seasons as the full-time starter, that hasn’t been the case.
Tagovailoa had issues with concussions last season — which brought attention to how the team didn’t properly handle the situation — and only started 13 games. This offseason, Tagovailoa ended up training in jiu-jitsu. The hope was working with coaches in the primarily grappling-heavy discipline of martial arts would help him learn how to fall and better protect himself. Miami was 8-5 when Tagovailoa started last season.
Tagovailoa built up a nice connection with wide receiver Tyreek Hill that helped open up the passing game. He passed for 3,548 yards and 25 touchdowns during his time as starting quarterback. The problem was that Tagovailoa had the team leaving him in the game after he suffered a concussion against Buffalo early in the season. The union would have to step in to try and create additional safeguards from him being allowed to go back into a game concussed again.
Dolphins’ Rebuilt Secondary Will Get Nice Test
Miami was able to make several splashes in the offseason to beef up their secondary in the hope of turning themselves into AFC contenders. The Dolphins traded for cornerback Jalen Ramsey to give them a strong veteran presence at cornerback. While Ramsey will be out for six weeks of the season due to injury, Miami has Noah Igbinoghene, Eli Apple, Trill Williams, and Nik Needham, who can all contribute.
The Dolphins had to forfeit their first-round pick in last spring’s draft because of their owners’ poor behavior. Miami also drafted South Carolina cornerback Cam Smith with their top draft pick in the second round. The Dolphins’ unit will be led by coach Vic Fangio, who the Dolphins brought in after he served as a consultant for the Philadelphia Eagles last season.
Miami’s pass defense was ranked 27th last season, but Fangio’s teams during his career have never finished worse than 16th.
Chargers Defense Ready for a Close Up
While Los Angeles coach Brandon Staley has helped turn the Chargers around, their defense wasn’t something he had quite figured out yet. Members of the Los Angeles team believe this may be the year they can turn the tide and become AFC contenders once again. The Chargers’ defense definitely let them down last season.
Los Angeles allowed 5.4 rushing yards per game, which ranked 30th in the league, while the defense as a whole allowed 5.9 yards per play, which ranked 29th. The Chargers added veteran linebacker Eric Kendricks to help out this season. In the draft, Los Angeles drafted edge rusher Tuli Tuipulotu and linebacker Daiyan Henley.
The Chargers may catch a break this week as Miami left tackle Terron Armstead hasn’t been practicing and may miss the game with an injury.
Los Angeles Will Have Veteran Offensive Coordinator
The Chargers have the player at quarterback they believe that can turn them into AFC contenders. The question Los Angeles will need to answer is what type of system for play-calling will best support Herbert in his mission to win a Super Bowl.
Los Angeles believes it can push the pace with the no-huddle offense if need be. The Chargers will bring back multi-talented running back Austin Ekeler, who led the team with 904 rushing yards last season and also finished with 722 receiving yards. Mike Williams, who led the team in receiving, is also slated to return.
The Chargers brought in former Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore to help out. Moore was fired by the Cowboys after the team failed to get past the NFC Divisional Round last season.
Hill Would Like to Chase After 2,000-Yard Mark
Tyreek Hill made it clear after leaving Kansas City that he wasn’t a product of only playing well with a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Patrick Mahomes. Last season, playing with Tagovailoa and a few backup quarterbacks, Hill was still an excellent player.
He finished with a career-high 119 catches and piled up 1,710 receiving yards. However, Hill was hoping to break 2,000 yards and challenge the NFL record for most yards in a season all time. He will be extra motivated to make big plays against the Chargers. Hill only caught four passes on 10 targets during the Dolphins’ loss to Los Angeles last season.