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Breaking Down the Jets vs the Dolphins

The Jets stopped the bleeding with a dominant effort out in Oakland, but have a tall task in front of them last week as they try to contain the suddenly high scoring Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins embarrassed the Jets defense 3 weeks ago and will look to keep their season alive with a win in front of the New York fans. This is a must win for both teams and it will likely have a major impact on the race in the AFC East.

Jets Offense vs. Dolphins Defense

For as well as the Miami defense played over the first 4 weeks of the season , they have been dreadful in their last two games allowing the Jets to score 27 points and the Saints to just carve the defense up as if it did not exist. The Jets had some success running the ball against the Dolphins and the Saints ran all over them last week in Miami, something that no teams were able to do over their first few games. DE Randy Starks has been the hot player on the line notching 2.5 sacks, a fumble recovery, and being involved with 13 tackles in the last 3 games. Miami is hoping to get a boost from the return of some key injured players in LB Joey Porter and DE Phillip Merling. Both returned against the Saints from long layoffs and should do better with a game under their belts. Jason Taylor is proving to be a very streaky player right now. He has had two 2+ sack games this year, but has been invisible the rest of the season including the first game against the Jets. Miami needs Taylor, Porter, and Merling to generate some type of consistent pressure behind the line if they want to eliminate teams from murdering them in the passing game. LB Channing Crowder, who is the most consistent linebacker the team has, could be limited due to a knee problem. The Dolphins simply can not stop the pass and have lost CB Will Allen for the season. Allen, who was abused by Braylon Edwards, was at least a veteran presence that allowed a rookie rotation at the other corner spot, but now the team will need their rookies Vontae Davis and Sean Smith to really step up. The Dolphin safeties are just horrible in coverage with Gibril Wilson still being unable to find any receiver he can tackle. Any team that has a player that can catch the ball in stride is gaining huge yards after the catch. In particular the oppositions tight ends are embarrassing the secondary. Jeremy Shockey went off for over 100 yards, including a 66 yard TD reception, his first 100 yard game since 2007. With their secondary problems no lead in safe for the Dolphins.

The Jets rushing attack has been dusted off and awakened these last two weeks with back to back 300 yard games. Thomas Jones has looked like the back that played in 2008, hitting the hole much better than he did early in the season and actually picking up yards after first being hit which was missing from his game over the first five weeks. Due to a serious injury to Leon Washington, rookie RB Shonn Greene made the most of his opportunity against the Raiders and rushed for over 100 yards. Greene was explosive finding his way into the second level and never looking back. Greene was tough to bring down and if he plays like this in the future the Jets may have found a very good complement for Jones. If these two can pound the ball on the ground it will give QB Mark Sanchez the ability to sit back and let the game come to him rather than trying to force the football in front of the home crowd. Sanchez looked like he was stripped of a good deal of his responsibilities and freedom following the Bills game and it allowed him to effectively manage the game and avoid the costly turnovers that have plagued him. The addition of Braylon Edwards has had a strong effect on the teams performance. While his stats the last two weeks have not been anything special he causes all kinds of mismatches on the field and its allowed WR David Clowney to find some room to run. Clowney is actually beginning to look like a real WR on the field and not a one trick pony that can just run deep. He has probably done enough to take Brad Smith’s spot over for good once he returns from injury. WR Jerricho Cotchery also appears ready to play this week and if he is 100% it should give a big boost to the pass game with he and Edwards both healthy and on the field at the same time. The Jets offensive line has been dominant on the right side the last three games in the run game, but the line needs to do a better job protecting their young QB. They are still allowing too much pressure to get to Sanchez and Sanchez has a tendency to put the ball on the ground when he gets hit.

For whatever reason very few people want to acknowledge how well the offense played in Miami a few weeks ago. The running game was efficient and Sanchez played very well in the fourth quarter. By the end of the game it was clear the Dolphins defense was not going to stop the Jets offense, the Jets simply never got the ball back to prove the point. The gameplan the Jets will likely want to see play out on Sunday is one where they give the Dolphins a dose of their own medicine and simply ram the ball down their throats to control the clock and win the battle of field position. The Jets would love to see their offensive line force the Dolphins to play overaggressive and dumb football, which is exactly what the Dolphins offense did to the Jets in the last meeting. The Dolphins defense melted down against the Saints not just physically but also mentally as they picked up costly penalties in the 2nd half. Even after the game they did not want to give the Saints much credit. It all is a similar reaction to what the Jets’ reaction to their loss to Miami. Miami’s defense is rarely tested for conditioning because the Dolphin offense usually wins the time of possession. The Jets run first attack could wear them out to where they just have nothing in the tank in the fourth quarter. The last thing the Jets can afford to do is let Sanchez think that this is a game he has to win in front of the home crowd. The last time they did that Sanchez got booed off the field and people were screaming “bust” as he came off the field. Allowing another game like that to happen in front of the home crowd will be mentally devastating for the young rookie. That is not to say the Jets will not let him take his chances. Unlike the Bills, the Dolphins do not have a scheme that prevents the long pass and they also do not have an elite cover guy like Oakland does. The safety support over the top is almost always going to be late and the Jets have the ability to run past the corners. Both Edwards and Clowney will get one chance each down the sidelines this week. The x-factor could be Dustin Keller underneath. Keller finally had a big catch last week and should be a matchup advantage this week. If the Jets can get Keller involved on some safe routes he might be able to break one for a big score which could make the difference. The one area where the Jets are going to miss Washington this week is on 3rd downs. Greene does not catch the ball like Washington and the knock on him has been his inability to block. While Washington was never a great blocker you could at least put him on the field on a 3rd down pass play. Now the Jets will likely have to turn to Jones and he is not the threat the other two could be.

Jets Defense vs. Dolphins Offense

Somehow the offense has been sparked by the insertion of Chad Henne into the role of QB, putting up over 30 points in three straight games, two of which were against arguably the two best defenses in the NFL. Henne has been efficient in his role and the Miami staff has done their best to protect him with the Wildcat running attack that often sees Henne on the sideline watching and getting a feel for the game. Henne has shown that he has a good arm and some poise in the pocket but he is still an unknown. He did show many of the same weaknesses you expect to see out of a young QB against the Saints last week. Miami’s offensive line still allows way too much pressure to hit the QB. Henne was under constant heat against the Saints and got murdered against the Bills. However, for as bad as they are at pass protection that are that good in the run blocking scheme that the team uses. When Miami loads up on blockers, their linemen do a great job of getting to the second level and mauling linebackers and safeties. He two attackers, without a doubt, are Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. Brown is the true focal point of the attack. He does the dirty work on the inside, handles most of the snaps, and passes the ball out of the Wildcat. Brown may be the best back in the NFL in seemingly going from 0-60 in a split second through the middle of the line. Teams fear Brown and his playmaking ability so much that it really opens the field for RB Ricky Williams. With Brown taking the snap, defenses are far too concerned with what Brown is doing in the middle and they seem to forget about Williams getting to the outside. Williams killed the Jets in Miami and did the same last week to New Orleans. He has much better than expected speed to the corner and can simply outrun players once he gets into his second gear. Week after week he finds himself open on pass plays with the defenders trying to bring Brown down, whether or not Brown even has the football. These two really are the offense. The Wrs are all below average and Ted Ginn’s drops have become a huge story in Miami. While he somehow hauled in a beauty against the Jets, Ginn’s lack of apparent concentration has cost the team at least one, if not two, wins. TE Anthony Fasano has pretty much hit rock bottom. He does a great job getting open, especially on Wildcat pass plays, but too often just lets the ball go right through his hands. Greg Camarillo is the teams only consistent WR.

After two subpar outings the Jets defense hopes to have things back on track after a beat down of the Oakland Raiders offense, which saw Calvin Pace have maybe his best game ever. Pace filled the role of game changer than the defense has been lacking almost all season. They will need him to play at a high level this week if they want to stop Miami. While the entire defense played badly in Miami, Pace looked awful in his return to the team off a suspension. The Jets will have to get better play from their defensive line this week. In the last meeting the Jets brought in all their key reserves- Howard Green, Sione Pouha, and Mike DeVito- and all played very poorly. They allowed the Dolphins offensive line to push right through them and spring their runners down the field for big gains. Bart Scott, who looks to be nursing a knee injury, has to play smart and not reckless football. The Dolphins really picked on him in week 5. The Jets secondary must avoid the communication errors and the safeties can not afford to miss any tackles on Williams the way they did the last time.

This is a real test for the Jets defense. The defense came into that game talking like the 85 Bears and ended up looking like the 08 Jets. It was one of the most undisciplined defensive efforts you will ever see. It was like watching a pick up basketball game where 5 guys who know how to play go up against 5 guys who think the sport is played 1 on 5. The Jets did not play as a team and did not feed off each other. It was 1 on 11. Anytime you see Ted Ginn having three guys running after him like he is Randy Moss you know you are playing awful. Of course that did not stop the Jets from still talking after the game and they are talking again before this game. They absolutely must put up this week or they are going to look very bad. The Jets first goal needs to be to stop the Wildcat on first downs. The Jets front line has to get penetration and stop the Wildcat in the backfield and not allow the runners to turn up field. I would not be surprised if the Jets use Vernon Gholston in the interior of the line for a few plays. Depending on the matchup he might be able to at least push a lineman into the backfield, which none of the other Jets showed the ability to do. The key to beating up on Miami is to force them into 2nd and 3rd and long. Once you do that you force them into bringing different personnel into the games with 3 wideouts and only 1 back and that puts Miami at a big disadvantage. When that happens the Jets have to find a way to get to Henne. Henne has been awful under pressure, but the Jets generated almost no pass rush in week 5. If Pace can step up his game like he did last week, Henne may make the same mistakes that JaMarcus Russell made for Oakland. The defense has to pay significantly more attention to where Ricky Williams is on the field to keep him from getting the big plays, especially in the passing game. Secondly they have to be aware of where Fasano lines up on the line. Though he has been bad this year he seemingly always plays well against the Jets. The way the Dolphins shift their players around the line it is easy to lose him as just another linemen which allows him to run across the field for a big gain. The Jets have to win the time possession battle by keeping Miami from converting if they want to stay fresh in the 4th quarter. Miami may have a few new wrinkles to throw at NY which the Jets are hopefully prepared for. If Miami gets a feel that the Jets are cheating with their safeties it would not be a surprise to see them dust off the counter Wildcat run where the ball gets flipped back to the QB for a big pass play.

Special Teams

Last time these two teams met the Jets special teams almost proved to be the difference as they executed two fake punts to perfection. There has been debate as to whether P Steve Weatherford is calling his own shots or not, but he has done very well running the fake. The Jets hope their return game gets a boost with the return of Justin Miller. Miller is a dangerous return man and went to the Pro Bowl for the Jets in that role just two years ago. He is often injured, but he is one of the biggest home run threats in the NFL when healthy. Jay Feely no longer looks to be automatic, but still looks to be more than good enough to do the job. With Kellen Clemens doing the holding it would not be a surprise if the Jets use him to pass the ball off a fake FG chance. There is really no part of the Dolphin special teams that is any good and there is no reason for the Jets to not have the big advantage here.

Coaching

Tony Sparano lost a real heartbreaker against the Saints last week. He took full blame for the wild loss saying he did not properly adjust as the game went on. He also made a crucial mistake at the end of the 2nd quarter calling a timeout with almost no time on the clock which allowed the Saints to collect themselves and punch the ball in for a touchdown rather than take a FG. Last time around he convinced his team that this was their Super Bowl. If he can do it again they have a good chance to win.

Rex Ryan has already said that he took the loss to Miami very personally and has basically dared them to run the Wildcat on his defense again. In the last game Ryan made a number of blunders that did not give his offense a chance to win the game and did not have his team ready to match the Dolphin intensity level. He got blindsided by arrogance and walked into the same kind of hornets nest that Ryan helped create when the New England Patriots visited the Jets. This is a huge game for Ryan if he wants to keep talking. Last week Ryan looked to take much more of a coaching role than he has all season and definitely seemed to put his mark on the offensive gameplan. We’ll have to wait to see if this is a one time thing or a new path for the entire season.

Overall

With all due respect to the New England Patriots, this is far and away the biggest game the Jets will play this season. Too many things hinge on this game. This is the first opponent that has openly talked smack about the Jets and the primary team that Rex Ryan has talked smack about. They were the first to really beat on the Jets defense and expose some glaring weaknesses. This is the team that has almost thrown the season into chaos. If the Jets players have any pride this is a game that they will not only win, but win big.

Everything broke right for Miami in the first meeting. They had a team that was fired up and played like they wanted it much more than the Jets. Everything they did on offense worked. It was the only game this year where the offensive line protected the QB. It was the only game this year where the receivers did not drop crucial passes. They happened to get a terrible coaching mistake out of Rex Ryan that allowed the Dolphin offense to basically run out the clock in a game where the team with the last offensive possession was likely going to win the game. They caught a Jets team that was looking ahead and did not take the Dolphins as a serious opponent. And they still only won by 4 points. It is going to be very hard for Miami to have everything break their way like it did in week 5 this time around.

People may think that the Dolphins after last weeks heartbreaker will be so down that they will be sluggish this week. It would be hard to see that happening. Last year they had a somewhat similar game against the Patriots that turned into a track meet where New England pulled away at the end. Everyone wrote Miami off after that game. They won out and won the division. This Miami team still thinks they are the best team in the AFC East and most definitely believe they are better than the Jets and why shouldn’t they? They smacked the Jets around in the Meadowlands last season and smacked around the Jets defense the last time around.

This is a very important game for the Jets. In order to remain strong in the divisional tiebreakers this is a game the Jets must win, especially after their no show against the Buffalo Bills. A win here puts away Miami and leaves Buffalo as the only potential divisional tiebreaker threat for a wildcard. A loss could conceivably put the Jets in last place in the East by the time they come out of their bye week. It is hard to imagine, but that is how big this loss would be for their divisional positioning. This is important for Mark Sanchez who last left the Meadowlands with the type of feeling you never want your rookie QB to have. He needs a win to make the fans forget. This is important for the defense. Its one thing to shutout the Raiders without Kris Jenkins, but it will be something much more to have that kind of dominating performance on Sunday.

The game will hinge on Ryan’s ability to motivate the team the way he did in week 2 and his ability to outthink Sparano. Solving the Wildcat is going to be about having the right personnel on the field and having a good idea of where the play will be run so the defense shows the gang mentality when it comes to tackling. If Ryan convinces his team that they want this game they will win and show they are the better team. If he gets out coached and out motivated it will be a bad day for the team.

Jets 27 Dolphins 16