Game Preview: Miami at San Diego

The Dolphins traveled west on Friday with the idea of finally recording their first victory of the season when they take on the San Diego Chargers Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium. In the Chargers, the Dophins face a team with a 2-1 record, but one that hasn't played all that well and also is dealing with a lot of injuries. Here's a complete breakdown of the matchup.

WHO: Miami Dolphins (0-3) at San Diego Chargers (2-1)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. ET

WHERE: Qualcomm Stadium

SURFACE: Natural grass

TV: CBS, Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts


KEYS TO THE GAME: The Chargers would love to run the ball and protect QB Philip Rivers, who has taken a couple of big hits to his chest in the early going. But the Dolphins travel cross-country with a secondary that he been repeatedly burned as Miami allows 311 passing yards per game. The Dolphins have just four sacks and if they don't get to Rivers, he will have a field day. It's been a tumultuous week for Miami with Coach Tony Sparano facing criticism from all angles. Bottom line: the Dolphins must run the ball against the Chargers' injury-ravaged defensive line and keep this a low-scoring game they can drag late into the fourth quarter.

FAST FACTS: Dolphins WR Brandon Marshall has dropped a pass in the end zone in all three games this season. ... All 17 of Chargers WR Vincent Jackson's receptions this season have gone for first downs.



-- RB Reggie Bush returned his first punt of the season on Sunday against the Browns. It went for 12 yards. Coach Tony Sparano said Bush could become more involved in the punt return game.

-- CB Nolan Carroll continues to work with the first-team defense while Vontae Davis, a regular starter, works his way back from a hamstring injury.

-- LT Jake Long said he's getting closer to returning to his old form but that he's still "knocking the rust off" after missing most of the preseason while rehabbing a left knee injury. Long didn't play a game in the preseason but returned to practice midway through training camp.


-- CB Vontae Davis (hamstring) returned to practice Wednesday but was limited. He didn't practice at all last week and sat out the game against the Browns. It's unclear whether Davis will play on Sunday.

-- DE Tony McDaniel (hand) continued to sit out practice. He hasn't practiced since sustaining his injury in the season opener against the New England Patriots.

-- G Vernon Carey returned to practice after sustaining a shoulder injury against the Browns. Carey participated in full and is expected to play against the Chargers.


-- RB Mike Tolbert saw his touches decrease with the Chargers riding Ryan Mathews on Sunday. Tolbert was also slowed by a calf injury, but that is behind him. Look for his chances to increase on Sunday, although if Mathews starts hot, that will cut into them.

-- CB Marcus Gilchrist is drawing praise for his work when playing most of the second half last week after Quentin Jammer went down with a hamstring injury. Gilchrist, a second-round pick, is contributing faster than the Chargers had anticipated.

-- TE Randy McMichael could be headed for a big deal with Antonio Gates' availability in doubt. McMichael filled in well for Gates last year down the stretch and is picking up where he left off. Asked to be a receiver more with Gates absent, he had four catches for 51 yards on Sunday, including one for 26 yards.

-- ILB Donald Butler is coming off the best game of his three-game career. He was a force in keeping the Chiefs' running game in check and had the team's only sack. Butler was expected to do this last year, but he injured his Achilles tendon, which wiped out his rookie season.

-- WR Vincent Brown is starting to see the field more after a camp and preseason that was derailed by a leg injury. Brown, a third-round pick, has yet to catch his first NFL pass -- although he was targeted once Sunday, his first NFL game.

-- WR Bryan Walters looks like he will keep his job as the punt returner. Gilchrist is another option, but with him likely playing considerable snaps on Sunday, this role could be Walters. The undrafted first-year player has shown steady hands in fielding the punts, but not much on the return-end. He's averaging 5.6 yards per return, with a long of 13.

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