While it typically takes a couple of weeks for teams to settle in and form a sense of identity, here is a mix of Chargers and Dolphins likely to play a significant role in the outcome of Sunday’s game.
Tunsil and fellow tackle Ja’Wuan James have the task of blocking arguably the best pair of defensive ends in the NFL in Joe Bosa and Melvin Ingram.
Since both edge rushers are equally talented and efficient, Tunsil’s primary job will be to protect quarterback Jay Cutler’s blindside to eliminate sacks and potential turnovers. Cutler has a lower-than-average ball placement prior to release, so Tunsil will have to create a wall to prevent these talented edge rushers from getting a hand on the ball as we saw happen in Miami’s week three preseason game against Philadelphia.
Still a big question mark heading into the first game of the regular season, Miami’s linebackers are in store for an immediate test against the Chargers who have shown the ability to beat teams both on the ground with Melvin Gordon and through the air with Philip Rivers and his array of offensive weapons at both wide receiver and tight end.
Due to the number of skill players the Chargers feature that have proven to create game-changing plays, Alonso will have to maximize both his athleticism and intelligence to be in a position to equally play the run and pass.
Odds are Alonso will be asked to make critical plays throughout the game, but only time will tell if he’s put in a position to change the outcome of the game as he did last year against the Chargers with his game-winning pick-six in the Dolphins’ 31-24 week 10 victory.
With the Chargers strong and consistent pass rush, Cutler may look to get the ball out of his hands earlier, which points towards Landry seeing more targets.
If this strategy is put into play, Landry will be asked to move the chains, serve as a quick outlet both across the middle and near the boundary while potentially being put in a position to take a short completion to the end zone like he did week 15 last year against the Jets.
The Cutler to DeVante Parker connection has received the majority of the hype this offseason, but the Dolphins opener may feel a bit more like a game from the last few years with Landry being highly targeted.
As stated earlier, the Chargers feature several skill players that can be a difference maker any given week, but Allen’s skill set puts him in a position to receive a great deal of attention from Rivers on Sunday.
When healthy, Allen has proven to win one-on-one battles with his route running and rarely fails to haul in his opportunities as last Monday night was the first time in Allen’s career he recorded two drops in the same game.
Allen’s skillset and Rivers’ experience gives the Chargers the ability to expose the Dolphins young and inconsistent secondary whether he’s lined up on the boundary or in the slot.
The Chargers right tackle will get a healthy dose of Cameron Wake just one week after facing the combination of Von Miller and Shaquil Barrett.
Barksdale allowed one sack to Barrett on Monday night, which isn’t terrible considering the skill level of Denver’s pass rushers, but he’ll need to play exceptionally well to keep Wake and his relentless pursuit away from Rivers.
While Rivers has a quick release, he does feature non-traditional mechanics that can leave the ball exposed which may be a recipe for disaster against an elite pass rusher who has a knack for creating turnovers in critical situations.