Miami Dolphins

Blueprint For Success: How the Chargers were built (and what the Dolphins can learn)

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Blueprint for Success: How the Dolphins’ 2019 opponents were built

Our weekly series that examines how the Miami Dolphins’ 2019 opponents built their roster, and what lessons Miami can glean as they build theirs.

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This is the fourth of a series that examines how Miami’s 2019 opponents built their rosters, and what lessons the Dolphins can glean as they build theirs.

Team: Los Angeles Chargers.

Coach: Anthony Lynn (third season).

General manager: Tom Telesco (seventh season).

Team owner: Dean Spanos.

Franchise value: $2.5 billion.

2018 record: 12-4 (second in the AFC West).

Last playoff appearance: 2018 (lost in the Divisional Round).

Last Super Bowl championship: Never.

Total 2019 payroll: $162.3 million (31st).

Total 2019 AAV: $155 million (28th).

Salary cap space: $18.2 million (19th).

Dead money: $5 million (31st most).

Percentage of home-grown players: 68.

Overview: The Chargers are the perennial media-darling, Super Bowl pick that never quite gets to the Super Bowl. A major reason — if not the reason — no good, awful, unspeakably bad luck, particularly with injuries. And this season has already brought more of the same. Pro Bowlers Derwin James and Adrian Phillips are both on injured reserve. Russell Okung is out for at least six games with a pulmonary embolism (if he plays again). And then there’s running back Melvin Gordon. He’s not hurt, but until this week, unavailable to the Chargers because he held out for a new contract. No surprise, then, the Chargers have struggled out of the gate, losing one-score games to the Lions and Texans. A team that opened at 14-to-1 to win the Super Bowl is now down to 30-to-1. But the Chargers do have hope. They still have a Hall of Fame quarterback in Philip Rivers and stars in Melvin Ingram, Keenan Allen, Casey Hayward and ex-Dolphin Mike Pouncey. Aside from Allen, they are all older than 30 and take up a huge chunk of Los Angeles’ budget. Roughly one-third of L.A.’s cap is wrapped up in those five players. That means the Chargers have to go cheap most everywhere else, and have. Of the Chargers’ 53-man roster, 34 count less than $3 million against the cap. Luckily for the Chargers, they draft really well. Of their 29 draft picks since 2016, 23 are still on the team.

The lesson: Draft success and an elite quarterback can overcome most calamities, but no team (except for the Patriots) can survive the type of bad luck the Chargers have experienced the past few years. And when injuries hit your best (and most expensive) players, you probably will not have the resources to replace them adequately.

He said it: “[Injuries are] frustrating, but at the same time, you have guys that are stepping up. That’s what they’re here for. As a coaching staff, we’re challenged to win with the personnel that we have. That’s what separates the good coaches from the bad ones sometimes. You’d like to see your guys out there playing for you. I think we have a talented roster, but it is what it is. There are injuries all over this league right now. We don’t make any excuses. We just try to go out there and play the best we can to win a game. ... We like our roster. We bring in guys we think can help us, even if they’re in a backup role. They have to be able to help us be a productive team and win games. I think our coaching staff does an outstanding job of getting those guys ready to play. .... We do our homework. We try to bring the right guys on this team. I think that’s something we’ve been pretty good at. Not flashy, but bringing guys on the team that fit and fit the culture we want to have here.” — Chargers coach Anthony Lynn