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Key Matchups: Chargers vs. Dolphins
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Here are five keys to the game heading into Sunday’s match between the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins:
“He is not underappreciated in here, but he is probably an underappreciated guy on the outside I would think for the most part. I think the guys who play against him certainly respect him, but he doesn’t have that flashy style, is so humble and he just kind of goes about his business. But he’s had a heck of a run. A 12-year career as an undrafted free agent, and staying with one team the whole time, that’s pretty special. And his yards per catch are up there with the best all-time, right there in the top couple. So you’d like to see him (do well Sunday).”
2. Be Stout vs. Suh – It’s impossible to go up against the Dolphins without a game plan to contain Ndamukong Suh. A centerpiece of their defense, the perennial All-Pro continues to dominate in his first season with Miami, logging 48 tackles with four sacks. At 6-4, 320-pounds, Suh is a physical force along the line of scrimmage who plays with a legendary nasty streak. As the Chargers offense looks to get back in a groove after mustering only a field goal in each of their past two games, Head Coach Mike McCoy knows Suh will be a handful to neutralize:
“He’s a force to be reckoned with. Every game you turn on certain plays, and you look at it and say, ‘Holy smokes!’ I think it’s Houston (on) play 11, he’s in there (against) three guys trying to get him at one time or another and he drives them back and tosses them to the ground. He’s a force to be reckoned with inside”
3. Lock Down Landry – Jarvis Landry’s standout season in South Beach has flown under the radar, but he’s in the midst of the greatest campaign for a wide receiver in franchise history. With 89 receptions for 920 yards, he enters Sunday one catch shy of tying O.J. McDuffie’s team record for catches in a single season. He is also on track to become the first player in Dolphins history to surpass both 100 catches and 1,000 yards. Jason Verrett has faced elite wide receivers all season long, so he very well could be lined up against Landry on Sunday. President of Football Operations John Spanos explained what makes the second-year receiver a dangerous weapon:
“He’s a really good player for them. He’s a versatile guy. They do a lot of different things with him. They’ll line him up outside, inside and go in motion a lot. He’s their punt returner, so they get a lot of good use out of him. I think the thing that stands out the most is probably the route running ability. He’s an excellent route runner. Really gets in and out of his breaks well, sets up defenders well and changes gear really well. He has a good feel for his routes, and of course he catches the ball really well, so he has really good run after the catch ability. Plays with a stronger, tougher demeanor to him.”
4. Tame Tannehill– Another player who continues to get better each year is the man under center. In his fourth season, Ryan Tannehill’s game continues to evolve, completing 92 of 476 passes (61.3%) for 3,313 yards and 22 touchdowns this season. He’s also had some of his finest performances against the Bolts in the past. Tannehill completed 24 of 34 passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns along with four carries for 47 yards in last year’s win over the Chargers, and tossed for 268 yards and another score in 2013. Defensive Coordinator John Pagano is well aware of how dangerous Tannehill is through the air and on the ground as the Bolts know firsthand they are in for a challenge:
“Hopefully we can do a better job than we’ve done in the past against him. He’s really grown into the role of a quarterback that not only can run the offense that they are doing with the zone read, but he does a great job of pocket presence of really staying in the pocket. He doesn’t look as much to run, but has the opportunities he does. He throws downfield, and he’s great running the football with that offense. You can see over the last two games how it’s even grown even more of him having the ability to change the play at the line of scrimmage and have those options. He’s a really good quarterback. We have to do a great job. You see him growing and you see his presence in there.”
5. Vanquish Vernon– The Dolphins are without their leading sack artist and one of the game’s elite pass rushers as Cameron Wake is on IR. However, Miami hasn’t missed a beat as Olivier Vernon has more than picked up the slack. The 6-2, 275-pound defensive end has 6.5 sacks on the season, including 4.5 in the last month. A product of the University of Miami where he played with Denzel Perryman, Spanos outlined why Vernon has been so disruptive for the Dolphins in 2015:
“Of his 6.5 sacks, 4.5 have come in his last four games. So he’s really come on the last few weeks, and he’s not just a good rusher, but plays the run really well, also. A strong, physical guy who plays with a really great motor. He’s a tough player. As a rusher, you really see tremendous athletic ability for that size. He’s explosive out of his stance and very quick. Has great feet, and just kind of has a knack as a rusher. Has an array of rush moves, good hand use, has a feel, good fluid hips (and) flexibility to turn the corner and bend.”