Our series examining the Dolphins' 2022 regular season opponents continues with the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Dolphins will face the Chargers in a Week 14 (Dec. 11) matchup at SoFi Stadium.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
2021 Record: 9-8, third in AFC West (no playoffs)
Last Dolphins-Chargers Meeting: 2020 Week 10 at Miami - Dolphins 29, Chargers 21
The Dolphins took advantage of two key plays on special teams to take a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and led the whole way in the first NFL matchup between 2020 first-round pick Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert. Andrew Van Ginkel blocked a punt after the Chargers went three-and-out on their opening drive to give the ball at the Chargers 1-yard line, leading to Salvon Ahmed's 1-yard touchdown run. On Miami’s next drive, Los Angeles jumped offsides on a field-goal attempt, allowing the Dolphins a fresh series from the Chargers’ 5-yard line. Tagovailoa found Jakeem Grant on a 3-yard touchdown pass, extending their lead to 14. Dolphins head coach Brian Flores drew up an aggressive defensive game plan that kept Herbert and the Chargers offense confused and hurried all game. Herbert was only sacked twice, but threw an interception to Xavien Howard early in the fourth quarter. That led to Miami’s third touchdown of the game, a 2-yard pass to Durham Smythe.
CHARGERS 2021 SEASON IN REVIEW
Reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert lit it up in his second season. He threw for 5,014 yards, 35 touchdowns, and 15 interceptiond en route to his first career Pro Bowl. He also led the Chargers to a winning record and a two-win improvement over the previous season. Los Angeles had an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth with a win or a tie in the regular season finale, but lost against the Las Vegas Raiders on the last play of overtime.
KEY CHARGERS VETERAN ADDITIONS
CB J.C. Jackson, EDGE Khalil Mack, DT Sebastian Joseph-Day, TE Gerald Everett, LB Troy Reeder, LB Kyle Van Noy, DL Austin Johnson, CB Bryce Callahan
The Chargers added some serious star power to help fix one of the NFL’s worst defenses in 2021. J.C. Jackson is an All-Pro cornerback whose playmaking ability has led to 25 career interceptions over four seasons. Pairing Joey Bosa with Khalil Mack gives the Chargers one of the scariest pass rush duos in the entire league. Gerald Everett should become the long-term pass-catching tight end Justin Herbert has needed since losing Hunter Henry in the 2021 offseason.
KEY CHARGERS DEPARTURES
LB Kyzir White, T Bryan Bulaga, TE Jared Cook, CB Chris Harris, LB Uchenna Nwosu
Kyzir White could be the lone departure whose impact is missed. He led all Chargers linebackers in snaps (979), and had 144 tackles, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions in 2021. Bryan Bulaga, the longtime Packers starter, never lived up to his price tag because of injuries. Nwosu graded well as a pass rusher, but the addition of Khalil Mack should more than make up for his departure.
NOTABLE CHARGERS 2022 DRAFT PICKS
IOL Zion Johnson, S J.T. Woods, RB Isaiah Spiller
Zion Johnson is a versatile interior lineman who can play at either guard position, or at center. He, along with last season’s first-rounder Rashawn Slater, should give the Chargers some promising foundational pieces to protect Justin Herbert. J.T. Woods will develop behind All-Pro safety Derwin James and Nasir Adderly, who’s entering the final year of his contract. Isaiah Spiller could see game action, and may be groomed to eventually replace 27-year-old Austin Ekeler.
EARLY CHARGERS PROGNOSIS
The Chargers seemed to have everything short of a defense last year. Rebuilding that side of the ball should be the final step in getting their squad into the playoffs. The only pause for concern is the notable injury histories of Derwin James, Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack. Keeping their superstars healthy will be critical in making sure that unit takes the step they need. Re-signing Mike Williams, who had a breakout campaign last season opposite Keenan Allen, was important to give Justin Herbert the continuity he needs at receiver.