For the Dolphins, right tackle Jonathan Martin has obviously been ruled out given the NFL‘s investigation into claims that he was bullied by teammates. Tackle Will Yeatman has also been ruled out after tearing knee ligaments during Wednesday’s practice.
Without Martin for the third consecutive game, Tyson Clabo will man the right tackle position once again. Clabo was dreadful in pass protection during the first seven games of the season before being benched in Week 8. But after Martin left the team, Clabo was reinserted into the starting lineup. He hasn’t been nearly as inept during the past two games, possessing a positive grade in both contests according to Pro Football Focus.
As for Yeatman, his loss is a serious hit to Miami’s offensive tackle depth. If either Bryant McKinnie at left tackle or Clabo at right were to go down with an injury, the Dolphins would be in a difficult predicament. They could move current starting left guard Nate Garner to tackle or entrust rookie Dallas Thomas with the job. Yeatman also played 18 snaps over the past two weeks as the team’s sixth offensive lineman. The Dolphins won’t be able to employ him in their max-protection packages for the rest of the season.
There are no players listed as “doubtful” for the Dolphins, but cornerback Dimitri Patterson (groin), center Mike Pouncey (illness) and wide receiver Mike Wallace (hamstring) are each listed as “questionable.”
Patterson has only played in four games this season, but has had a huge impact in just about all of them. He’s picked off four passes and has only allowed 15 completions in coverage. If Patterson sits for the sixth time of the season, Nolan Carroll will cover the boundary opposite Brent Grimes, and Jimmy Wilson will get the nod at the nickel spot. Both Carroll and Wilson have been decent in coverage this season, but neither have been the ball hawk that a healthy Patterson would be.
The Dolphins’ depleted offensive line might not be able to survive without Pouncey at center. The line is already arguably the worst unit in the entire NFL and statistically the worst in franchise history. Pouncey has been the one bright spot, however, and currently ranks as the league’s sixth most effective center according to Pro Football Focus. If he’s a no-go, Nate Garner could move over to center, which would allow Danny Watkins, Thomas or David Arkin to start at left guard — a scary scenario for the Dolphins and quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
If Wallace is sidelined with a hamstring injury, Miami’s lack of receiver depth could be exposed. Wallace has struggled to live up to his billing this season, but does require safety attention, which opens up the field for Miami’s other pass catchers. Without him, the Chargers would be able to sneak an extra safety into the box, which would make running the football even more difficult for the Dolphins’ lackluster rushing attack.
For the Chargers, starting left tackle King Dunlap has been ruled out with a neck injury. Dunlap has been one of the league’s better blindside protectors this season, but has already missed two games due to injury. The last time he was held out, however, Michael Harris filled in at left tackle. Harris has since been sidelined for the season.
Rookie right tackle D.J. Fluker will transition to the left side of the line against the Dolphins to play a position many scouts said he couldn’t in advance of April’s draft. The Dolphins should look to get rookie Dion Jordan on the field as much as possible in order to test Fluker’s ability to pass protect on the blindside.
Also for the Chargers, safety Jahleel Addae (ankle), center Nick Hardwich (neck), linebacker Jarret Johnson (hamstring), fullback Le’Ron McClain and receiver Eddie Royal (toe) are listed as “questionable.”
The statuses of Hardwich and Royal have to be the most concerning for Charger fans. Hardwich ranks as the NFL’s third-most effective center according to Pro Football Focus, while Royal has produced 377 receiving yards so far this season and leads San Diego with seven touchdowns. Either player missing Sunday’s game would be a big break for the Dolphins.
Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor for Ran Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.