CARSON, Calif. — Six or seven Miami Dolphins offensive linemen were at Yard House, a high-end sports bar in Oxnard, California, on Monday night.
Their season-opener against Tampa Bay had been postponed, but this was a glorious opportunity to do some Monday Night Football scouting of their next opponent, the Los Angeles Chargers.
They noticed what you noticed, which is what anyone watching noticed.
Joey Bosa, number 99, the second-year defensive end.
“Great athlete,” Dolphins right tackle Ja’Wuan James said. “His size? You can’t teach that. Also he’s a guy that seems to be relentless on film.”
Melvin Ingram, number 54, the sixth-year edge rusher.
“Great athlete,” James said. “He has a good motor, too. He’s going to go all the way throughout the game. They are different in size. Melvin is shorter but stouter. He can get under your pads. He has leverage. Bosa is a lankier guy. He uses his length.”
If the Dolphins are to upset the Chargers in their belated first game of the season (Sunday, 4:05 pm. on CBS), they’ll need to limit one of the best pass-rush tandems in the NFL.
Those Dolphins offensive lineman must give Jay Cutler, making his Miami debut, a fighting chance. As in, a chance to stay upright for most of the game.
“You always want to keep your quarterback clean,” James said. “But (Cutler’s) a guy that’s shown us — if you give him some time, give him an opportunity, he’s going to make a big play.”
When Cutler takes the field at StubHub Center, he will have been a Dolphin for six weeks. This may be longer than it seems, but it is long enough for Cutler to read and react to pressure the best way?
Coach Adam Gase, who cajoled (it wasn’t really that difficult) Cutler out of pseudo-retirement when Ryan Tannehill was lost for the season, conceded mauling linemen are really the only thing that may have given Cutler pause.
“It’s really the pass rush,” Gase said. “You’ve really got to get used to being in that pocket again (and get) the feel of where to slide, when to take off, when to stand in there; but it seems like what he has to go up against in our defense every day, he got caught up pretty quick.”
Cutler took too many sacks, threw too many interceptions and allowed too many sack-fumbles as a Bear.
In his last eight starts as a Bear, Cutler was sacked 27 times (3.4 per game), tossed 9 interceptions (1.1 per game) and fumbled 7 times (0.9 per game).
But Gase believes he helped Cutler in those areas in 2015.
“The year that I was with him, he had a pretty good feel for things when things started collapsing of either getting out, getting rid of the ball or taking a sack if it’s just one of those situations where you have nowhere to go,” Gase said.
Gase said joint practices in Philadelphia last month helped but he and Cutler at ease.
“We had a couple of situations,” Gase said. “One, I figured it would have been really hard for anybody to really feel the guy come around the edge as fast as he did, and it’s a little bit of a learning, kind of getting reacquainted with how we need to play, when you do want to take a sack, when you can throw it away, things like that. I do feel good where we’re at right now. A lot of practice time and then he played enough in preseason to know the right thing to do.”
Bosa and Ingram are in a new defensive scheme, where they will alternate tackles they line up over.
“It’ll be all hands on deck for those two outside guys,” Miami offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said. “We’ve got to know where they are, what they’re doing… Those two guys, they can wreck a game.”
One way Miami hopes to neutralize the Chargers defense is with no-huddle, up-tempo offense.
The Dolphins are coming off a bye (as crazy as that sounds) and the Chargers aren’t. Also, the Dolphins were last in the NFL with 57 offensive plays per game last year and Gase wants that to change.
One key for the Dolphins on Sunday will be limiting negative plays on first and second down.
Another key will be for sophomore left tackle Laremy Tunsil to get over any nerves he may have had in the preseason, when he didn’t seem as sharp at times as would be expected.
“I’m getting used to it,” Tunsil said. “I’m getting back used to being home. I was at left guard, so I had to get used to that for a year or two; but like I said, it feels good to be back out on an island. I’m happy.”
Last year, the Dolphins beat the Chargers and only Ingram posted a sack. Miami would sign up for that right now.
“Normally, you have to prepare for one elite linemen,” James said. “But the Chargers have two.”