This week we have a special Miami Dolphins preview courtesy of Dave Brown at The Winning Edge. Please visit his site www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org, his trust is helping the incredible cause of animal conservation.
The Miami Dolphins and New York Jets battle this Sunday in the 106th meeting of the two AFC East rivals. The Jets lead the series 54-50-1. Both teams won Week 1. The Dolphins played through lightning delays that extended their game into the evening. The 27-20 final score looked more entertaining than the action on the field. The first lightning delay took place just before halftime. At this point the Dolphins led 7-3 in a fast moving first half. A 2 hour lightning delay halted the game. Thankfully halftime was shortened to three and a half minutes of commercials. Both offenses were sloppy until the second lightning delay. Once they returned to action Sunday night the game changed! THIRTY FOUR 4th quarter points. The key play with 6 minutes left Dolphins up 24-17, Blaine Gabbert was intercepted by Reshad Jones and returned 54 yards to the Titans 12. This setup a chip shot field goal to give Miami a 10 point cushion.
The Jets shocked the NFL Nation Monday night. As 7 point underdogs, they were picked by most experts to lose. Sam Darnold, the Jets 1st round quarterback from Southern Cal threw a pick 6 on the first play from scrimmage. Not the start New Yorkers were hoping for from their rookie QB. To his credit, Darnold was clearly not rattled and could be heard telling his Offensive Coordinator to NOT tone down the aggressive play calling. The rookie then went on to complete his next 16 of 20 throws to seven different teammates for 198 yards and 2 touchdowns. He finished with a 116.8 rating with the interception. The Jets defense was just as dominant.
So what can we expect this Sunday? Last year these teams split winning at home. The Jets won in Week 3 behind Josh McCown 20-6. Miami rallied in Week 7 behind Matt Moore to win 31-28. Jay Cutler started both games for Miami last season. Both teams have different starting Quarterbacks and better defenses this season.
The Jets have a ton of momentum coming into this game but a shorter week of preparation. Playing on the road Monday night sets them back a day. Sam Darnold was clearly prepared for his debut with plenty of prep time. Will he be able to repeat his performance with the short week? Expect the Jets to focus more on the run this week to help ease the rookie’s role. Both Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell were efficient averaging 10 and 5 yards per carry versus the Lions. They will need to shoulder much of the workload. The Dolphins defense confused, frustrated and injured a good quarterback in Marcus Marriota. He was 9 for 16 and threw for only 103 yards. He had 2 picks and a measly QB rating of 36. Awful. His replacement Blaine Gabbert wasn’t much better. The Dolphins defense will look to pressure early and often this week.
It’s so difficult to judge the Dolphins performance Sunday. Was the defense that good or the offense so bad? The Titans have talented skill players at just about every position, so I’m going to say the defense played well. Let’s hold off on giving this unit an A. We know Week 1 rust and weather played some factor. Grade B. The Dolphins first drive stalled early after a Laremy Tunsil false start penalty. Tannehill methodically drove 98 yards for a second drive Touchdown. He was 7 for 7 on the drive. The 3rd and final drive of the 1st half, Miami turned the ball over on downs. The Fins used the run more during this series. Tannehill was still an efficient 4 for 4 with a 4th down and 1 from Titans 15. The play call was a rollout and pass to Drake by the sidelines. He caught the pass but stepped out of bounds. Not a fan of this call. A power run, play action pass into the endzone or a field goal would have been my choice. These were the only Dolphins drives of the first half. The second half offense started with a pair of 3 and outs and an interception. Miami kicked a field goal just before the second lightning delay to go up 10-3. Once the game resumed, everything went crazy especially on special teams. Fatigue was obviously a factor. The Dolphins probably benefitted from being the home team.
Last year in Week 7, the Dolphins trailed the Jets 28-17 going into the 4th quarter. Matt Moore replaced Jay Cutler at QB and directed three late scoring drives through the air for 17 points and an impressive Miami comeback victory. Problem with that plan is the improved secondary unit of the Jets aka New Jack City. Cornerbacks Morris Claiborne, Trumaine Johnson and Buster Skrine and safeties Marcus Maye and Jamal Adams make up the talented secondary. Ryan Tannehill has been efficient but he will be tested by this bunch. The key to victory for the Dolphins is the run. They must establish the run early so they can move Maye and Adams closer to the line of scrimmage. Claiborne and Johnson are talented but they can be challenged without deep safety help. The Lions were on their way to having a good rushing night Monday. Their turnovers in the passing game killed them. Miami’s offensive line took a hit as they lost left guard Josh Sitton for the season with a torn rotator cuff. This could potentially be a big problem for Miami offense.
Pressure and more pressure is what Sam Darnold should expect from the Miami front seven. The short week could play a factor. As a rookie, Darnold needs every day of game prep. Cameron Wake, Ndamukong Suh and Robert Quinn will be looking to disrupt Darnold’s rhythm. Playing at home should help his confidence some and if he can get going early with his throws, the Dolphins could get in trouble fast. Both coaches will probably start out a bit conservative. The Jets because of their rookie QB and the Dolphins playing on the road.
The team that establishes the run early will have the advantage. Expect the Miami running game to make a few more bigger plays than the Jets. Darnold will not be nearly as sharp with shorter prep. Tannehill will efficiently manage the passing attack. He will take a few shots deep off play action. The Dolphins who are a small road underdog will sneak out of New York with a victory. 23-20 Miami.
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