Dolphins vs. Chargers: 6 Best Positional Matchups to Watch on Sunday
Despite San Diego's tremendous success over the past decade, Miami has beaten the Bolts in seven of their last eight meetings. For whatever reason, the 'Fins have the Chargers' number, but will they be able to muster a road victory against a superior team on the heels of an 0-3 start?
It might not be too far fetched.
Antonio Gates, who would have caused a matchup nightmare for the Dolphins' defense, is doubtful for Sunday's game. Both Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd are also questionable, cornerback Quentin Jammer is struggling with a hamstring issue and San Diego is down to their third string defensive tackle.
Regardless of who plays, Sunday's game will feature some highly intriguing matchups. Here are six to keep an eye on.
Sean Smith vs. Vincent Jackson
After San Diego's first three games, Vincent Jackson has already racked up 17 receptions for 266 yards and two touchdowns. That puts him on rate for roughly 80 receptions and 11 touchdowns.
In other words, the Chargers' 6'5" wideout is primed for another huge year, but he might face his toughest matchup this Sunday.
At 6'3", Sean Smith is probably the tallest cornerback Jackson will face this season. Although the rest of Miami's secondary has struggled, Smith has been the lone bright spot (barring that fluky touchdown to Josh Cribbs last week).
Jackson is battling an abdomen injury, but it looks like he'll probably play on Sunday. Rest assured, Phillip Rivers will target his No. 1 wideout early and often, but Sean Smith should be able to keep him in check.
Vontae Davis vs. Malcom Floyd
Malcom Floyd is a physical clone of teammate Vincent Jackson. He stands at a hefty 6'5", 225 pounds, though, he isn't quite as skilled as Jackson.
Nonetheless, Floyd is a lethal and underrated threat who Phillip Rivers loves to target downfield.
In all likelihood, he will be matched up with Vontae Davis. Both Davis and Floyd are trying to recover from leg injuries, and assuming both play, this should be a hard-fought and entertaining matchup.
Chargers' Passing Attack vs. Dolphins' Safeties
Chris Clemons appears to be nearing full health, but the Dolphins remain fervent in their commitment to Reshad Jones.
Assuming Jones maintains his starting role for Sunday (and let's hope he doesn't), Phillip Rivers and his talented wide receiver corps pose a frightening matchup for the Dolphins. Rivers loves to toss deep balls to Jackson and Floyd, and Jones' aggressive nature could have the Chargers' wideouts licking their lips.
However, because both Jackson and Floyd are hampered by injuries, this could turn into a more level matchup.
Koa Misi / Jason Taylor vs. Marcus McNeill
While Cameron Wake should wreak some havoc against Chargers' right tackle Jeromey Clary, the Dolphins will have a far more difficult time generating a pass rush from the left side of the line.
Koa Misi and Jason Taylor will have to battle against San Diego's franchise left tackle Marcus McNeill—a daunting task for even the best NFL pass-rushers.
In order to compensate for the secondary's struggles, it's vital that the Dolphins generate a serious pass rush—especially because Phillip Rivers has very minimal mobility.
Brandon Marshall vs. Quentin Jammer
San Diego's top cornerback, Quentin Jammer, was forced to leave last week's game against the Kansas City Chiefs with a hamstring injury. He is expected to play this week, but Jammer will have his hands full with Brandon Marshall.
Historically, Marshall has torched the Chargers, but he will have a much more difficult time doing so with the Dolphins. Not only is he catching passes form Chad Henne rather than Jay Cutler, but Jammer poses a more difficult matchup than Antonio Cromartie did.
Patrick Crayton vs. Nolan Carroll / Will Allen / Nate Jones
With both Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd dealing with injuries, Phillip Rivers might turn his attention to Patrick Crayton. And that's a scary proposition for the 'Fins.
If Jackson and/or Floyd plays, Miami will be forced to center their focus on that duo, leaving Crayton with one-on-one matchups with either Nolan Carroll, Will Allen or Nate Jones.
These matchups lean in San Diego's favor, but one of those three Dolphins corners should be able to contain Crayton. Either way, this could be the most important matchup of the game.
Scott Altman is a featured columnist for the Miami Dolphins and the National Football League. He is also the co-founder of GentlemensTailgate.com, a sports blog with a classy edge. Check it out and like the site on Facebook here.