(CBS Miami/CBS Local) — The Miami Dolphins welcome the Los Angeles Chargers to Hard Rock Stadium this Sunday. While both teams have struggled early on this season, their outlooks going forward are very different.
The Chargers limp into town with a disappointing 1-2 record. They downed the Indianapolis Colts in overtime to open the season before dropping heart-breakers to the Detroit Lions and Houston Texans. All three games were decided by no more than a touchdown.
Their offense, in some ways, has been humming along. Philip Rivers continues his Hall of Fame-level career, tossing five touchdowns and averaging almost 315 yards passing per game through the first three weeks. Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson have been productive out of the backfield, both on the ground and through the air, in Melvin Gordon’s absence. (Reports suggest Gordon will return Thursday, but he won’t play this week.)
So what’s wrong with the Chargers?
Missing players, for one thing, be it from holdout or injury. Gordon is a special talent, who is tough to replace, even with capable backups. Wide receiver Mike Williams, who started the season with a knee injury and now has a back issue, has been limited all season. Tight end Hunter Henry is also out with a knee injury. And then there’s the sick ward that is their defensive secondary.
But even a depleted Chargers offense can put up points against the Dolphins without much change in game play or personnel. The current line, putting the Chargers at 15.5-point favorites, suggests as much. “They just need to do what they do,” according to NFL On CBS analyst Trent Green. “I don’t think they need to do anything extreme outside the box. They beat Indianapolis in Week 1, lost to Detroit by three, they lost to Houston by seven. The Detroit game, if you look at the number of missed kicks they had in that — both field goals and extra points — could’ve been a different game.”
The Dolphins, however, have much bigger problems. “Miami has had tons of struggles,” according to NFL On CBS analyst Trent Green. “They’re 31st in offense. They’re 32nd in defense. They’ve giving up 44 points a game, nearly 500 yards a game.”
They’ve been blown out in each of their three games, with opponents racking up 133 points. The Dolphins have scored 16 points. Last Sunday’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys did provide some small cause for optimism. Quarterback Josh Rosen kept the game close in the first half, taking his team into the locker room down just 10-6. Only in the second half did Dak Prescott and the Cowboys’ offense get going.
Green, himself a former NFL quarterback provided some insight on the Dolphins still-developing leader, while also tempering expectations. “For him, he’s still a young player. A lot of people tend to forget that. He got bounced around quite a bit in Arizona, in terms of the number of hits that he took. I don’t think that’s going to necessarily change a whole lot in Miami, because of some of the changes they’ve had around there, what weapons he has around him.”
The Dolphins are in for a long season. So Rosen may need to have a more inward focus. “For him, it’s going to be as much of a mental challenge as it is a physical challenge for this year,” according to Green. “It’s just trying to not do too much, when you see the landscape of what’s going on there in Miami.”
The Dolphins play the Chargers Sunday @ 1 p.m. ET on CBS.