After an exhausting
After an exhausting week dealing with Irma, Dolphins get their season opener today in L.A.
week dealing with Hurricane Irma, the Dolphins finally get their season opener today in L.A. against the Chargers.
LOS ANGELES – Sometimes the bottom-line truth gets the job done. For example, consider this: The Miami Dolphins play their 2017 season opener at 4 p.m. today against the Los Angeles Chargers at StubHub Stadium. It’s a simple statement, but after enduring Hurricane Irma, and all she brought before, during and after blowing through South Florida, saying the Dolphins will play a game today is all that’s required to get everybody fired up.
“[I’m] anxious, excited,” defensive end Cameron Wake said. “I’m actually looking forward to going out and seeing what we’re made of, really.”
The Dolphins will take the field today for the first time since a wild-card playoff game against Pittsburgh in January with eight offensive starters and six defensive starters from that 30-12 loss. That means they’ll have eight new starters, a significant amount, in-
cluding quarterback Jay Cutler, who has only been with the team five weeks.
The Chargers (0-1), who were 5-11 last year and aren’t projected to make the playoffs this year, should give the Dolphins a good idea of where they stand. Led by quarterback Philip Rivers, who some think is headed for the Hall of Fame after he retires, and dangerous defensive ends Joey Bosa, the former St. Thomas Aquinas High standout, and Melvin Ingram, the Chargers are talented in spots, but not necessarily good as a team.
Of course, the Dolphins have issues, too.
One of the big mysteries entering this game is Miami’s mindset.
Training camp was trying with season-ending injuries to quarterback Ryan Tannehill (knee), linebacker Raekwon McMillan (knee) and cornerback Tony Lippett (Achilles).
But that was only the opening act. Hurricane Irma brought a different level of disarray.
After an exhausting and adventurous week that included having their original season opener against Tampa Bay postponed because of Irma, and then flying to Southern California to escape the storm, the Dolphins are looking for NFL normalcy.
It appears that’s on the way.
“We’ve prepared for a week and we’re ready to go for the game,” coach Adam Gase said. “You know last week it was we were preparing and then it wasn’t there.
“It will be exciting for our guys to just finally stop practicing and play a game.”
On the field, Miami, which says it will employ a no-huddle, up-tempo offense at times today, must do two things primarily — run the ball and stop the run.
The Dolphins were 8-0 last season when Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi had 18 or more carries. He sets a physical tone that has a ripple effect on the entire offense. The Chargers allowed Denver 140 yards rushing on Monday, so there might be a big opportunity for the ground game.
After that, look for Miami’s downfield passing game to be a staple of an offense led by the aggressive, strong-armed Cutler. He’ll likely make wide receiver DeVante Parker his favorite target but fellow wide receivers Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry are also sure to get downfield opportunities.
Defensively, the Dolphins were 30th last season against the run and they used lots of resources to acquire players such as strongside linebacker Lawrence Timmons, defensive end William Hayes and defensive tackles Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor. Improvement over last year is a necessity.
The Chargers, led by coach Anthony Lynn, who came up as a running backs coach, want to get running back Melvin Gordon (54 yards on 18 carries last week) going, and if that happens it probably means bad things for the Dolphins’ defense.
Whatever happens today, the Dolphins are glad it’s putting them back on the road to normalcy, and no one could use that more than Cutler.
Here’s a guy who retired in May, took an NFL analyst job with FOX, then came out of retirement three months later to become the Dolphins’ starting quarterback, only to have the season opener postponed by a hurricane that forced the team to flee to Southern California.
“It’s been a wild ride,” Cutler said.
Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler leads his team against the Chargers in L.A. today. “It’s been a wild ride,’’ he says.