Though the upcoming game between the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers is being billed as a clash between Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert, Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel knows running back Austin Ekeler will also play a large role in the game.
Ekeler is one of the most effective pass-catching running backs in the league, and his ability to serve as an outlet for Herbert makes him incredibly dangerous and hard to contain.
McDaniel recently offered some insight into what Miami needs to do to be successful against the 27-year-old on Sunday.
“He is a guy that is a great player and like most great players in the league, the answer for them is not one person,” he said. “He does a great job of taking advantage of space and when there’s not proper tracking or maybe you’re playing a defense that doesn’t come out of the stack that fast and the d-linemen aren’t hunting after their pass rush; he makes them pay every time because he will routinely make the first person miss and as long as the technique’s right, you’re okay with that. But where he makes all of his damage is really exposing defenses that don’t pursue well, so that will be something that we have to execute well for us to be happy with the results.”
On the season, Ekeler has 138 rushes for 589 yards and seven scores, and he’s also got 85 receptions for 564 yards and five touchdowns.
To make matters even more difficult for Miami’s defense, the Chargers are going to have some key players available on offense that have missed time this season due to injuries.
Keenan Allen has played in every game since Week 11 and had played in just two games prior to that this season.
Additionally, deep threat Mike Williams is believed to have recovered from an ankle injury that has forced him to be almost entirely absent since Week 7.
The presence of both players will certainly increase the level of difficulty for McDaniel, Dolphins defensive coordinator Josh Boyer and the players themselves.
However, it doesn’t necessarily increase the pressure that’s on Miami. That’s because it’s already at a pretty high level.
After dropping last week’s game against the San Francisco 49ers, the Dolphins will have to win this weekend if they want to avoid the risk of starting a losing streak near the end of the regular season.
Moreover, the Dolphins are still very much in the running for the AFC East title, but they need to keep winning to keep pace with the Buffalo Bills, who currently have a one-game lead.
With that in mind, the Chargers defense has a lot to worry about in Sunday’s game as well. Not only will it have to contend with Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, but the unit could also be without multiple key players.
In all, it’s shaping up to be a shootout in L.A. this Sunday. NFL fans may be in for a real treat.