Game Preview #2: Breaking Down The Dolphins

A new era begins this afternoon as the Chargers will play their first home game at the StubHub Center. Their opponent, the Miami Dolphins, will also be beginning a new era as Jay Cutler will start his first game with the team after a short-lived retirement. The Chargers enter the game 0-1 after a heartbreaking loss to the Broncos in week 1, the Dolphins are 0-0 after their first game was postponed due to Hurrican Irma.

The Dolphins are looking to build on the success of the 2016 season in which they went 10-6 and made the playoffs, losing in the first round to the Steelers with Ryan Tannehill out after tearing his ACL. Tannehill would go on to re-injure that ACL during training camp this year, leading the Dolphins to lure Cutler out of retirement and reunite him with head coach Adam Gase, who was Cutler's coordinator during what was probably Cutler's best year in Chicago.

In addition to Tannehill, the Dolphins also lost their defensive coordinator Vance Joseph who left to take the head coaching job in Denver. Joseph is a defensive scheming mastermind, getting the most out of limited talent on the Miami defense, and his absence will likely have a great impact. Despite the success last season, many around the league seem down on the Dolphins chances at repeating it this year. Vegas set the Dolphins' season win total at 7.5. Other than Tannehill, the Dolphins return most of their offense from last year, including 2016 breakout star Jay Ajayi who will look to cement himself as one of the league's top running backs.

An underrated storyline for the Dolphins this season is the return of center Mike Pouncey, the anchor of the Miami offensive line who played only 5 games last season. The difference in the way the Miami offensive line plays with and without Pouncey is stark, and his presence is a large boost to a Dolphins team that will likely be trying to take advantage of a Chargers run defense that looked very shaky at times last season and on Monday night.

Another interesting storyline for this game is the revival of the old Cutler and Philip Rivers rivalry from when Cutler played for Denver which had the potential to blossom into one of football's better QB rivalries before Cutler ultimately left the AFC West for Chicago.

Melvin Ingram now famously said "nothing" when asked what kind of problems Cutler presents, so the pressure is now even greater on the Chargers not to let Cutler get anything going. Cutler is somebody that fans love to hate, but he's always had the arm talent and can make all the throws. Cutler loves to throw deep and hates checking the ball down, so I'd expect to see him challenge the now suddenly banged up Chargers secondary with deep balls to 2017 breakout candidate Devante Parker. True to Ingram's comments, I would expect the Chargers' focus to be on taking away Ajayi and the running game. Expect to see some stacked boxes from the Chargers to try to slow down the rushing attack and force Cutler to beat them with his arm, although Ajayi is no stranger to stacked boxes

Although coach Anthony Lynn said after the game last week he wished he had committed to the run more, I'd expect to see the Chargers have Rivers challenge a shaky Dolphins secondary. In addition to being without starting MLB Rey Maualuga, the Dolphins will also be without starting LB Lawrence Timmons, who mysteriously left the team earlier today. The Dolphins are very banged up on defense, with starting CB Tony Lippett lost for the season earlier this summer.

Overall, it's a pretty good matchup for the Chargers, and they should have a great opportunity to pick up the first win of the season in front of the home crowd. Speaking of which, there's been a lot of talk this week about the attendance at the new stadium, so what the crowd looks like will be something to watch. That's my take, check back after the game for a recap and analysis.


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