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Scouting the Dolphins: Week 14

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The Chargers (6-6) are set for a key AFC matchup Sunday against the 8-4 Dolphins.

The teams meet in Week 14 on Sunday Night Football. Kickoff is at 5:20 p.m. (PT) from SoFi Stadium.

We chatted with Daniel Oyefusi, who covers the Dolphins for the Miami Herald, to get a preview of the game.

The Dolphins are 8-4 and have a strong chance of getting to the postseason for the first time since 2016. What's been the biggest reason for Miami's success this season?

DO: No. 1 has to be the pairing of Mike McDaniel and Tua Tagovailoa. Tyreek Hill has brought an electric dynamic opposite Jaylen Waddle that is unmatched in the NFL but the impact of McDaniel — building a system that fits his skill set and providing positive affirmations — has transformed Tagovailoa in his third season.

Tua Tagovailoa has taken an enormous leap in Year 3. What's been the key to his fantastic season this far?

DO: Tagovailoa has fully immersed himself into this new scheme and it shows with how in control he is on the field. He knows where everyone is supposed to be and it allows him to not only manipulate defenders with his eyes but go through his reads and get the ball out with his quick release.

Check out the best photos of the Chargers Thursday practice at Hoag Performance Center

What kind of vibe/attitude has Mike McDaniel brought to Miami in his first season?

DO:McDaniel isn't your stereotypical coach. He's a bit quirky, can be self-deprecating but is unabashedly himself. But it's created an inviting environment where every player feels comfortable with being themselves. The Dolphins are loose, they're fun but they're also detailed — all characteristics of the head coach.

Who's a name to watch when Miami's defense is on the field?

DO:There are stars on the defense like Xavien Howard and up-and-comers like Jaelan Phillips and Jevon Holland. But how about ex-Charger Melvin Ingram? He signed an inexpensive one-year deal but has been a sturdy run defender and a reliable pass rusher. The Dolphins' pass rush has been spotty at times but Ingram has a sack in four consecutive games, and they always seem to come in key moments.

Finally, what's a realistic expectation for the Dolphins if they do make the playoffs? Will they just be happy to be there … or do they expect a deep run?

DO:The Dolphins haven't won a playoff game in two decades but expectations can quickly change during the season. That's the case for Miami with its 8-4 start. It's a young team but the NFL is a quarterback-driven league and Tagovailoa has showed he can play at an elite level for a stretch of the season. The next step for him and the Dolphins is doing it when it matters most in December and possibly January. A run like the Bengals last season is certainly possible if Tagovailoa continues to play like a top-tier quarterback and the defense rounds into form. The first step, though, is making the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and winning one game.

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