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Chargers have difficult Hill to climb against explosive Dolphins

Miami has Tua Tagovailoa, who Wednesday was announced as the leader in fan voting for the Pro Bowl.

The Dolphins have Jaylen Waddle, who Sunday likely will surpass 1,000 yards receiving for the season.

And they have Mike Gesicki, a player Chargers coach Brandon Staley called a “big-play tight end.”

Then, on top of all of that, Miami has Tyreek Hill, whom many of Staley’s players know as the red blur streaking away from them in his previous role as a Kansas City Chief.

Yes, despite being dealt half a country away in the offseason, Hill still is primed to haunt the Chargers.

“They’ve done a good job of tailoring the offense to his strengths,” Staley said of the Dolphins coaching staff, “incorporating some of the things that he’s trademarked in the NFL, that are kind of unique to him and what he can do.

“They’re utilizing him as you should. They’re really featuring him as a guy who can get the ball in a variety of ways and, obviously, clear out a lot of coverage for other people. He’s having an outstanding season.”

Miami traded five draft picks for Hill in March, bringing in one of the NFL’s shiftiest, speediest wideouts to ignite an offense that has flourished.

The Chargers will get their first look at Hill in Dolphins colors Sunday night at SoFi Stadium, another prime-time opportunity for the 6-6 home team to prove it deserves all the national attention.

There’s little question of Miami’s credentials. The 8-4 Dolphins have the NFL’s second-most productive passing attack and are fourth in the AFC in points per game, averaging 24.9.

As a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, Tyreek Hill got the best of the Chargers’ secondary a lot, including this touchdown catch.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Those facts would be daunting enough even if the Chargers’ defense hadn’t spent much of this season on its heels. Only Arizona and Detroit are surrendering more points on average than the Chargers, who are allowing 25.8.

“They have outstanding skill players,” Staley said of the Dolphins. “That’s why you’re seeing production from their offense.”

Already hurting, the Chargers could be in worse shape this weekend. Safety Derwin James Jr. still is dealing with an injury Staley said he suffered in Week 12 at Arizona. Listed with a hip problem, James missed one day of practice last week but was able to play all 61 defensive snaps Sunday at Las Vegas.

The Chargers, who had only a walk-through Wednesday, estimated that James wouldn’t have practiced again. He was on the latest injury report with a quadriceps injury.

Asked how concerned he was about James, Staley said, “We’ll see.” The Chargers are scheduled to hold a full practice Thursday.

Cornerback Bryce Callahan (core muscle) and linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. (hamstring) both were expected to be limited participants. Defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day (knee) didn’t participate Wednesday.

Those are four more key members of a defense down three starters — edge rusher Joey Bosa, cornerback J.C. Jackson and defensive tackle Austin Johnson — because of significant injuries.

And now the Chargers face one of their old nightmares in Hill, who caught 12 passes for 148 yards and one touchdown in his most recent SoFi Stadium appearance.

That too came in prime time, a Thursday night 34-28 Kansas City victory almost a year ago.

Staley said slowing Hill and the Dolphins will require limiting explosive plays, something the Chargers have struggled with at times. Miami wins with speed, and defending against that is hardly a strength of the Chargers.

“They have a lot of guys who can get deep within the coverage,” Staley said. “They also have guys who can catch it short and then turn short plays into big plays.”

Few in the NFL do that as well as Hill. In 11 games against the Chargers, he has 53 receptions for 799 yards and seven touchdowns.

Hill leads the NFL with 96 catches for 1,376 yards. Only one player has been targeted more often: Davante Adams.

That’s the same Davante Adams who just burned the Chargers on Sunday in Las Vegas with 177 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

Etc.

Center Corey Linsley remains in concussion protocol. The Chargers estimated that he would have been a limited participant Wednesday. … Wide receiver Mike Williams (ankle) and right guard Zion Johnson (shoulder) also were listed as limited. Right tackle Trey Pipkins III (knee) remains sidelined.

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