Dolphins go after fifth straight win, take on Chargers
When the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers square off Sunday, it offers a real-time assessment of rookie quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert.
Tagovailoa’s Dolphins (5-3), winners of four in a row, are set to play host to Herbert’s Chargers (2-6), losers of four of their past five.
Miami had the choice of selecting either 22-year-old in this year’s draft. The Dolphins took Tagovailoa fifth and the Chargers grabbed Herbert with the next pick.
Tagovailoa is 2-0 as a starter, completing 65.4 percent of his passes for 350 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. He has lost a fumble.
“Tua has a tremendous feel for the game,” Dolphins offensive coordinator Chan Gailey said. “That feel allows him to see some things and do some things. His next stride is to understand defenses more.”
Herbert is completing 67.3 percent of his passes for 2,146 yards, 17 TDs and five interceptions in his seven starts. He has been sacked 14 times and has also lost a fumble.
But despite big passing numbers, Herbert is just 1-6 as the Chargers starter.
“I’m going to watch more film and get back at it,” Herbert said of the team’s skid. “I will do better.”
Miami, which has been listed as a 2.5-point favorite, has some injury issues, including starting running back Myles Gaskin, who is out due to a knee injury. Starting wide receiver Preston Williams (foot) is also out for Sunday.
In addition, backup running back Matt Breida (hamstring) missed last week’s win over the Arizona Cardinals and was limited during Wednesday’s practice.
Chargers injuries include the hamstring issue that has kept running back Austin Ekeler out for each of the past four games. Ekeler, who had 92 catches, 11 touchdowns and 1,550 scrimmage yards last season, is expected back in two weeks.
Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa – a south Florida native — is questionable to suit up for his homecoming. Bosa, who was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2016 and a Pro Bowl player in 2017 and 2019, missed last week’s game due to a concussion.
Herbert’s biggest passing targets this year are wide receivers Mike Williams and Keenan Allen.
Allen, who is coming off three straight Pro Bowl years, is on pace for what would be a career-high 124 catches and his fourth straight 1,000-yard season. Williams caught 10 TD passes in 2018 and averaged an NFL-best 20.4 yards per reception last year. This year, he is averaging 17.1 yards per catch and has three TD catches.
The Chargers will be facing a Dolphins defense that has forced at least one turnover in 14 straight games, the second-longest active streak in the NFL.
Miami’s defense has also scored a touchdown in two consecutive games. The Dolphins have allowed 161 points (20.1 average), which puts them tied for fourth place in the league.
Besides Tagovailoa, Miami’s offense is led by wide receiver DeVante Parker and tight end Mike Gesicki, both coming off breakout seasons.
Parker, 27, has a team-high 36 catches, a team-high 431 yards and three TDs. Gesicki has 22 catches for 331 yards and two TDs.
Parker and Gesicki will face a Chargers defense that ranks 18th in the league in points allowed (216).
As for the coaching matchup, Miami’s Brian Flores went 5-11 as a rookie last year but has already matched that win total this season.
For the Chargers, fourth-year coach Anthony Lynn has struggled after a strong first two seasons. Since the start of 2019, his Chargers are just 7-17.
–Field Level Media