Game Scout: Chargers Ready to Net Dolphins

The Chargers look to run their winning streak to three when they take on the Miami Dolphins this weekend. Scout.com gets you caught up with the latest injury updates, keys to the game and news from inside both camps.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/05/08
SURFACE: Grass
TV: CBS (Gus Johnson, Steve Tasker)

SERIES: 26th meeting. Dolphins lead series, 13-12, and the Dolphins have won six straight. The Chargers haven't won a game in South Florida in more than 27 years -- the epic overtime game that is considered among the greatest games in NFL history. Their last win in the series came in the 1994 Divisional Playoffs, the Chargers' lone Super Bowl season.

PREDICTION: Chargers 23-16

KEYS TO THE GAME


RB LaDainian Tomlinson
Andy Lyons/Getty

Chargers: RB LaDainian Tomlinson is coming off his first 100-yard rushing game of the season, and should only become more effective as his toe and offensive line get closer to 100 percent. With temperatures expected in the mid-80s, San Diego would prefer to establish the run and not expose QB Philip Rivers to the Dolphins' aggressive pass rush. But outside of CB Will Allen, there's no one in Miami's secondary Rivers will think twice about attacking.

Dolphins: The Dolphins' offense can't line up man for man with the Chargers and expect to move the ball consistently, so expect more experimenting with looks like the 'Wildcat' formation Miami used to upset New England two weeks ago - especially with a bye week to game plan. RBs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are the backbone of the Dolphins' attack, but the Chargers' run defense has slowly been improving along with the health of DT Jamal Williams' knees.

KEY INJURIES

Chargers: OLB Jyles Tucker (hamstring) looks unlikely and would be replaced by Marques Harris; TE Antonio Gates (hip) and Williams (knee) have been limited in practice but will play.

Dolphins: None.

FAST FACTS: The Chargers will fly 15,771 miles the next four weeks, including games in Miami, Buffalo and London. ... Chargers WR Chris Chambers is the Dolphins' fourth-leading all-time receiver in yards (5,688) and TD catches (43).

PERSONNEL NEWS

Chargers:

--RG Mike Goff (knee) worked the entire practice and is a go for Sunday.

--TE Antonio Gates (hip) was able to get through another practice. He's set for Sunday.


FB Mike Tolbert
Donald Miralle/Getty

--FB Mike Tolbert (ankle) was limited in his work and he's no lock to play Sunday. If he can't go, another rookie, Jacob Hester, would replace him.

--DT Jamal Williams (knees) was limited Thursday. But he's expected to go on Sunday.

--OLB Jyles Tucker (hamstring) didn't work again. If he can't go, Marques Harris gets the start.

Dolphins:

--WR Ted Ginn Jr. doesn't seem as if he will be returning kicks any time soon but he may be involved in the 'Wildcat' formation as a passer. Ginn was a high school quarterback and threw a touchdown at Ohio State.

"You've got to be talented," offensive coordinator Dan Henning said, referring to trying trick plays. "Ricky (Williams) is talented in other ways and Pat Cobbs is talented in other ways. We have some talent in the wide receiver position in other ways. We've got to utilize it all because there's a turnaround taking place here. There's a big turnover in personnel."

--OLB Joey Porter was credited with a fourth sack in the victory over the Patriots, 11 days after the game. On third-and-three, at the 14:20 mark of the fourth quarter, Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel originally was credited with a one-yard run before Porter stripped the ball. It was determined by Elias Sports Bureau that Porter forced the ball loose before Cassel reached the line of scrimmage, giving Porter a sack for no yards. The four sacks are tied for the fourth-highest single-game figure in Dolphins history and are the most since E.J. Junior also recorded four on Oct. 6, 1991 at New England. It also ties a career high that he first achieved on Oct. 21, 2001 at Tampa Bay.

--QB Chad Henne was given the bulk of the snaps during the bye week to help speed up his development. It has nothing to do with any quarterback controversy, which was quieted after Chad Pennington had a sharp outing against the Patriots, hitting 17 of 20 passes with no picks.

--FS Renaldo Hill played for Chargers coach Norv Turner when he was head coach of the Raiders in 2005, and he said that owner Al Davis was always on the practice field asking questions about how they could get better. Hill will probably need to help CBs Will Allen and Andre' Goodman on former Dolphins WR Chris Chambers, who will be playing his first game against Miami since they traded him last February.

--CB Will Allen and WR Derek Hagan got into a tussle during practice. After Hagan pushed off the trash-talking Allen, he then caught a touchdown in the end zone. He spiked the ball and then the two started jawing. Hagan pushed Allen and Allen's momentum knocked an official down. The two would later high-five and Tony Sparano said he welcomed the spirited competition.

INSIDE THE CAMPS

Chargers:

The Chargers could be starting a third-string outside linebacker on Sunday. And they're OK with that.

Thursday's practice, in preparation for this weekend's date with Miami, again didn't include outside linebacker Jyles Tucker.


LB Marques Harris
Doug Pensinger/Getty

Ready for Marques Harris?

Harris started training camp No. 3 on the depth chart at the outside spot. Pro Bowler Shawne Merriman was at the top, followed by Tucker.

But Merriman's season lasted one game before he left with a knee injury. The team was prepared with Tucker at the ready, but he tweaked a hamstring in Sunday's win over the Raiders.

Tucker hasn't tested the hamstring yet and it's looking more likely that he could skip the Dolphins game.

So this is Harris' chance, or yet another one in which he usually shines in these spots.

The former undrafted rookie from Southern Utah State already has eight tackles and a sack this year. The sack was a big one in Oakland, as it also forced a fumble from Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell -- Harris recovered it too.

Harris, in his fourth year, entered the season with 5.5 career sacks in spot play --- his first step can cause edge blockers problems.

In 2006, Harris had a career-high 33 tackles, with three sacks and two fumble recoveries.

Dolphins:

Dolphins coach Tony Sparano is hoping to begin building a home-field tradition -- starting on Sunday.

The Dolphins have lost 10 of their last 12 at Dolphin Stadium, and this week are having trouble selling out. The NFL granted the Dolphins a one-day extension to avoid their first regular-season blackout since the 1998 season in a game with the Rams.


HC Tony Sparano
Wilfredo Lee/AP

The Dolphins play six of their next eight games at home.

"When you're out on the road in this league, it's very hard to win," Sparano said. "When you're home, that should be an advantage for you. We're looking forward to playing at home this week, getting in front of our own people here, our own fans and being able to go out and so some of those things.

"There's an attitude that you establish playing in your own building, or that you need to establish playing in your own building. We haven't done that yet. We didn't win at home yet. We need to make sure that we take care of home base and I think there has to be a sense of pride and an attitude that when you look at your schedule and you get these eight home games that come out, you feel real good about winning a handful of these games because you're playing in your park and that's the advantage," Sparano said.

Sparano said he told his team Thursday morning that complacency is unacceptable.

"I see a team that has a little bit more of a swagger right now out there. I think that they practiced really hard. Their attention to detail has been outstanding but when we get to the game this week, we'll see. It was only one game. We won one game. As I said to the team today, if any of you guys tell me that we came here and the mission was to win one game at the start of the season then I'm going to throw you out. It's not what we came here to do," Sparano said.

Sparano was then jokingly asked if any player stood up and admitted that.

"If they did, you'd have seen a hole out there today," Sparano said.

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