Pregame Observations: San Diego Edition

Only one team has ever made the playoffs after starting a season 0-4 and, ironically, it's the team the Dolphins will face this weekend to avoid that start. That team was the 1992 San Diego Chargers, whose playoff run ended — again ironically — with a 31-0 loss at Miami in the second round. What does that have to do with Sunday's game at Qualcomm Stadium?

Nothing really, we just thought it would make for some interesting trivia. Here are some things that WILL matter come Sunday afternoon.

• Linebacker Kevin Burnett returns to San Diego, where his career blossomed after four uneventful seasons in Dallas. This would be the perfect place for Burnett to get going this season because in the first three games he did nothing to justify the Dolphins signing him as a free agent.

• This defense needs for somebody, anybody, to stand up and start making some plays.

• Interesting to see defensive coordinator Mike Nolan admitting he made a mistake by not having Karlos Dansby on the field during Cleveland's game-winning drive last Sunday. The dude needs to be involved at all times. He's getting paid way too much to be on the sideline.

• It's particularly frustrating when you also read that one linebacker who did get some plays during that drive was Koa Misi, who hasn't shown much since joining the Dolphins as a second-round pick in 2010. We've said it before and we'll say it again, the 3-4 defense needs for the linebackers to be playmakers, and the Dolphins aren't getting that right now.

• Speaking of linebackers, Cameron Wake needs to rush the passer and pretty much do nothing else. That's what he does and it's not like there's anybody else on the team who's going to get to the quarterback on a regular basis.

Jason Taylor had a nice game against Houston, but he's not the player he once was and anything he provides should almost be viewed as a bonus.

• Nose tackle Paul Soliai hasn't been much of a factor so far, but in his defense he's not been on the field that much because of the formations employed by opposing offenses. Makes you wonder, though, how anxious the Dolphins are going to be to throw big money his way next offseason.

• The Dolphins probably couldn't have picked a better time to face the Chargers. San Diego is a very talented team, but they're also not playing great so far this season and they're also very banged up.

• At the top of the injury list is tight end Antonio Gates, who's not likely to play as he continues to deal with a foot injury that has sidetracked his career. The guy is perhaps the biggest difference-making tight end in the history of the game and his absence allows opponents to play soft coverage and focus on deep threats Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd.

• That said, it won't be enough to cover those two guys deep, the Dolphins defensive backs — starting with Sean Smith — will need to make plays on the ball because Philip Rivers won't hesitate to take a shot downfield even if those guys aren't wide open.

• The Dolphins also would help their cause by hitting Rivers, who's taken some shots this year. The right side of the Chargers offensive line is suspect at best.

• Then again, the same goes for the Dolphins offensive line and they need to provide help for Marc Colombo whenever he's matched up against linebacker Shaun Phillips, who is easily San Diego's best pass rusher.

• In Gates' absence, the starter at tight end is going to be former Dolphin Randy McMichael, who is a solid pass catcher even though he's not in Gates' league. The Dolphins have had problems with opposing tight ends this season and they need to pay attention to McMichael.

• We'll close by going back to Burnett, who was a member of the Chargers the last time the Dolphins visited San Diego in 2009. In fact, it was Burnett's hit that knocked Chad Pennington out for the season and changed the course of recent Dolphins history. Burnett was asked this week about the hit and expressed regret over the damage the hit caused. The Dolphins don't need for him to do the same thing to Rivers on Sunday, but they do need him to start making some plays.


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