The Miami Dolphins showed some semblance of competitiveness in the first half against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. Josh Rosen was moving the offense, Miami’s defense was keeping Dak Prescott’s revamped aerial attack at bay, and there was a spark in Dolphins players’ eyes.
Then Jason Sanders missed a field goal. Then Preston Williams dropped a would-be touchdown. Then Kenyan Drake fumbled the ball inside Cowboys’ 10-yard line. And then the second half arrived. By the end of the game, following a snowball effect of misfortune, the Dolphins had allowed the Cowboys to rack up 31 points and yielded over 230 rushing yards to Dallas’ ground attack. Unfortunately for Dolphins head coach Brian Flores and company, things won’t get any easier against the Los Angeles Chargers and the team’s dynamic offense, and specifically against a certain dynamic ball carrier (no, not Melvin Gordon).
Each week of the 2019 season, I am highlighting one player on the team squaring off with the Miami Dolphins that ‘phins fans should be watching out for. This week, that player is Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler.
Do you have a player recommendation for next week’s spotlight? Let me know on Twitter @HierJustin.
Fact Check: Austin Ekeler
Experience: 3rd season
Height/Weight: 5’10”, 200 lbs
College: Western State (Colo.)
Though he spent almost the entirety of his first two NFL seasons as a backup to Melvin Gordon, Ekeler has taken the reigns as the Chargers’ primary running back due to Gordon’s holdout. Through three games, Ekeler has 38 rushing attempts for 160 yards (4.2 ypc). He’s shared some of the ball carrying duties with youngster Justin Jackson, but the former has been even more explosive through the air. Ekeler has recorded 19 receptions for 208 yards through the Chargers’ first three contests. He also has four total scores through that same period. The third-year runner is currently fifth in the NFL in yards from scrimmage for the 2019 season.
Though Miami’s defensive line play will be key to stopping LA’s ground game, the Dolphins linebackers will arguably be more important to containing Ekeler because of his ability to catch passes out of the backfield. Through three games, Raekwon McMillan is Miami’s highest graded player overall, according to Pro Football Focus. That being said, McMillan has played very few snaps on passing downs and has yet to be targeted in coverage.
That is why I believe it will be up to Jerome Baker and Sam Eguavoen, Miami’s two every-down linebackers, to corral Ekeler. Baker and Eguavoen earned their every-down starter status because of their agility and athletic ability, meaning it will be their primary responsibility to cover Ekeler when he escapes out of the backfield or lines up out wide.