The Miami Dolphins are one of the San Diego Chargers' most familiar opponents. Having played each other in the past three seasons, the teams will tack on a fourth match come Sunday.
At 4-4, the Dolphins are currently on a three-game win-streak. While Head Coach Adam Gase said San Diego's offense looks "familiar," there's one important cog who the team is game planning for.
"The challenge again is the running back (Melvin Gordon)," Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph said. "He had a big-time game last week; 196 yards. He's got the most attempts in the rushing game in the entire league. He's a good young back. He's fast to the hole; he breaks tackles. Our challenge again is stopping the run game. It's been that way for the last month it seems like, but that's where it starts. You stop the run game, and hopefully make them one dimensional, and we can rush. That's our strength obviously with Cam (Wake), and Andre (Branch), Mario (Williams) and those guys. Having them in long third downs and having a chance to rush."
Miami stressed a need to put the Chargers in passing situations on third and long in order to keep the ball out of his hands. When he does get the ball, Gase explained his team needs to combat Gordon's aggressiveness.
"It looks more (like) what he did in college to where there's no indecisiveness," he added. "It's (to) attack the line of scrimmage, stick his foot in the ground and use that speed. In this league right now, there are very few good tackling teams. If you can have a running back who hits an open seam and is able to accelerate, it's tough for defenses to get guys down…. I just see that decisiveness of exactly what he's trying to get done on every play."
Familiarity also runs rampant throughout the Chargers and Dolphins' player and coaching rosters. Gase and Chargers Head Coach Mike McCoy coached together for the Denver Broncos from 2009 through the end of the 2012 season.
Gase credits McCoy with getting him to where he is today for opportunities McCoy passed his way.
"I was the quarterbacks coach at that time and (McCoy) was very open with giving me assignments and telling me how I needed to put certain things in the game plan and ideas for him. He would take what he liked and implemented what he liked as well. But he put a lot of responsibility on me in a situation where he probably didn't need or have to do that, but I always felt like he was trying to get me ready for something. That's something that I've always appreciated."
Despite not talking this week, the pair remain close friends and part of that closeness played into the Chargers signing Matt Slauson after the center was released from the Bears. McCoy sought out a recommendation from Gase, who was more than willing to share praise with McCoy for a player he coached in Chicago and has been integral to San Diego's offensive line this season.
"Matt is one of those guys who you just want in your building no matter what position he's playing because he's so flexible as far as what he can do. Matt is one of the best people I've ever been around. He's one of the hardest workers I've ever been around. He's such a great communicator with coaches as far as what works (and) what you should avoid during a game. He sees things like a pro does, and he's an advantage not only as a player who is physical (and) smart, but when he comes off the field, the information he gives you as a coordinator is rare because he sees so much."