SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CBSMiami.com) – The Miami Dolphins season has a big chance of getting away from them if they can't manage to pull out a victory on Sunday in San Diego against the Chargers.
The Dolphins are 0-3 on the young season and with each loss, head coach Tony Sparano's seat gets just a little bit warmer.
Sparano hasn't done much to quell the criticism by repeatedly saying he doesn't have any answers as to why the team just can't win.
Part of the problem has been the Dolphins' defensive collapse this season. The defense is currently ranked 26th in points allowed and 30th in yards allowed.
The numbers are a bit skewed due to Tom Brady shredding the defense for more than 500 yards to start the season, but reality is the Fins defense is bad.
The Fins are not getting any sort of pass rush from outside linebacker Cameron Wake, and without the pass rush, the Fins' young secondary is getting eaten alive.
Fins cornerback Vontae Davis has battled injury and his replacement, Nolan Carroll, has been abused by opposing quarterbacks. Pro Football Focus currently ranks Carroll 100th out of 101 cornerbacks in the NFL.
Then there's the problem with the Dolphins offense. The offense is averaging just less than 18 points per game in a league that's putting up record passing numbers.
The Fins offense is also near the bottom of the league in points scored, despite being in the top 12 of yards gained.
The Fins moved this way to aid the running game by adding former Houston Texans running back Steve Slaton. The Dolphins were the only team to make a claim on Slaton when he hit the waiver wires this past week.
Sparano has been high on Slaton's limited performance in camp this week.
"He was able to jump in there on day one and he took a few plays and was able to take a few plays here today so we'll see," Sparano said.
As for Wake, Sparano said that he has two sacks in three games and that he's pleased with Wake's performance.
"Last year, Cam started to see people chip him and turn the protection to him, put the tight end on him, all the exotic ways to do it," Sparano said, "things that we're doing in our protections, so I don't think it's anything different that he's seeing right now."
On the injury front, the Dolphins have defensive end Tony McDaniel not practicing; while cornerback Vontae Davis, linebacker Koa Misi, and running back Daniel Thomas were all limited in practice.
The Chargers are battling much more serious injury problems. Chargers defensive ends Luis Castillo and Jacques Cesaire, along with wide receivers Malcolm Floyd and Vincent Jackson all didn't practice on Thursday.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers will lead the offensive attack, but he's struggled so far this season. Rivers, traditionally a prolific passer, has thrown four touchdowns and six interceptions through three games this season.
If Jackson and Floyd are out against the Dolphins, it's only going to further limit Rivers' ability to get the ball downfield.
Running back Ryan Matthews has shown promise for the Bolts, but hasn't been able to gain more than 69 yards per game on the young season.
The offense for San Diego is ranked 15th in points and fourth in yards from scrimmage. The Bolts' defense is ranked 19th in points and eighth in yards allowed.
It looks like the game may come down to whether San Diego has enough weapons for Rivers to lead his offense; or will the Dolphins defense finally step up to help seal the Dolphins' first win this season.
The game kicks off at 4:15 p.m. this Sunday and can be seen exclusively on CBS4.
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