The best way to slow down Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa?
The Chargers’ dangerous edge rushers have been a cause for concern for Dolphins offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen all week.
And for good reason. Ingram and Bosa combined for 18 1/2 sacks in 2016.
So there’s no easing into the season for Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James, Miami’s first-round offensive tackles. But coaches won’t rely on skill alone to win the matchup.
They’re also going to try to out-scheme the Chargers.
Namely, they’re going to run the up-tempo, no-huddle offense that Adam Gase has envisioned since he arrived in Miami.
“I think that’s what coach Gase’s intention was from the beginning, to be up-tempo, and it’s important this week that we play some up-tempo and keep those guys breathing hard, those outside rushers,” Christensen said. “I think that’s always been his intention, and we’ll have to see how far we can get with it. But we have wanted to play with tempo. Last year, we kind of pulled it back, and just felt like, at a point with the way some things were going, we were better off huddling at some point. His intention is to be an up-tempo, on the line of scrimmage guy.”
The Dolphins appear to have the quarterback to pull it off. Despite being with the team for just a month, Jay Cutler has shown little rust when asked to go fast.
“Jay has brought that to us,” said James, Miami’s right tackle. “As linemen, we’ve got to get used to it fast. … He’s the man. If he says let’s go, it’s time to go.”
Ultimately, the pace of the game and the play calls are dictated by Gase, although Cutler does have the latitude to make changes based on what he sees.
James expects the offense to go full-throttle in their opener. And the offensive line, not a bunch of marathon runners, have tried to condition their bodies for the coming race. After every passing play in practice Thursday, the line ran an extra 5 to 10 yards to get into better shape.
Now, if Ryan Tannehill hadn’t gotten hurt a month ago, the Dolphins’ high-octane approach probably would have been the same. But with Cutler under center, it’s a no-brainer.
“I think the thing that surprised me was how natural he was with the no-huddle,” Christensen said. “He’s an even-keeled guy. And he picked up things so quickly. I thought it would take a little bit of a while to get back into rhythm. It just shows that they’ve done it for so long. He’s a veteran guy. Just how smoothly he’s come in and went with the thing. I don’t think I would have anticipated it would have been as smooth and efficient as it was. I think that’s one thing that surprised me.”
The Dolphins did a decent job against the Chargers’ pass rush last year; Ingram had the team’s only sack.
Also key to surviving Los Angeles’ pressure? Not getting in obvious throwing situations to begin with. They ranked 25th in third-down conversions a year ago.
“We’ve got to stay on schedule,” Christensen said. “We can’t put ourselves in second-and-11, third-and-12s, and those kind of things where they can tee off. We’ve got to make them play the run and stay on schedule where we’re still a threat to run the ball on third-and-short or third-and-medium. I think all of those things, the tempo also, not letting them get rested and tee off.
“Those two guys can wreck a game.”
Added James: “You game-plan normally for one elite lineman on a D-line, but they have two of them. You’ve got to look at what both of them do and know what’s coming.”