So this is it? Tonight, the NFL kicks off the 2008 season with the Giants and Redskins…I only bring that up for the New England Patriot fans who stumble across our site,( I like them to read that often). The last time we saw the Giants they were hoisting a Lombardi Trophy over their heads while the Patriots sulked and worked out the spin campaign in their locker room. Perfect Regular season rings? Are they serious? As we found out yesterday in the Jim Kiick interview, the Dolphins wouldn’t wear them. Oh, but I digress. This is not about the Giants and the Patriots, or the NFL kick-off, it’s about the Miami Dolphins and their game this weekend against their inter-division rivalry the NY Jets. This is your .
The Jets will stroll into Miami a team much like the Dolphins. A lot of questions and a lot of new faces. While the Dolphins went with youth in their rebuild, the Jets took a familiar path with their organization by playing the “win now” card in free agency.
The team has 65 million dollars of guaranteed money spent on 5 guys over the next 2-3 years. In addition they have over 100 million invested in two guys alone over the next 5. This is truly a “win now” season for the Jets and it doesn’t include the figures of their new QB.
Miami Dolphins fans have seen money spent on players that don’t pan out, one wrong move can cripple your franchise for years…we are going through what hopefully is the end of that tunnel now. The Jets on the other hand are making a push thinking the moves they made will be enough to challenge the Patriots for the division. While I am not so sure, anything less than a playoff spot will be a monumental disaster for the Jets and their franchise and could very well hinder them for years to come. I am not complaining. On the other side of that coin, should the Jets actually succeed this year, their contract structures are such that the team will only be able to compete with those players for maybe 3 years. This is not a dynasty in the making and it all starts this Sunday.
When Ike has the ball:
Ike is currently wearing number 4, as in Category 4, the National Weather Service has been following the track of the hurricane that threatens to put a wet damper on the opening game. Latest information puts the storm well off the coast of Florida on Sunday. The storm center will be arriving in the southeastern part of Cuba Monday morning. The Phins game, while it could still see sporadic rain showers, Ike will not, as of now, be a problem for the game.
When the Jets have the ball:
The only name that will be watched and talked about in the CBS Nationally Televised 1 O’clock match-up is of course Brett Favre. Favre has been in NY two days longer than Chad Pennington has been in Miami. While his gunslinger mentality bodes well for the receiving corp of Lavernuous Coles and Jericho Cotchery, the running game should also get a boost as well. Favre brings a leadership quality to the team under the commitment to him. Something the Jets could not do with Pennington. This game however will not be won on the arm of Brett Favre or the legs of Thomas Jones. This game is going to be a trench battle.
The Miami Defense must win the battle at the line of scrimmage. Favre is a scrambler, even well into his 30’s and although he is not fast, he is elusive. Putting pressure on him quick and often will make his day miserable and force him to make throws that he shouldn’t. Favre does have a tendency to force balls and that could give the Miami secondary plenty of opportunity for turnovers.
Jason Ferguson, Vonnie Holiday, and of course Joey Porter who will play, will factor heavily in the pass rushing game. Ferguson will need to keep the Jets ground game under wraps as well to force the Jets to throw more often than they would like. Kendall Langford and Phillip Merling will see plenty of time in their first real NFL game and their pass rushing ability will be on center stage.
While the front 3 or 4 and Joey Porter focus on getting Favre out of rhythm the rest of the LB’s will have to stop Thomas Jones and Dolphin killer Leon Washington who will likely disappear after week 1 until the Jets face Miami again. Channing Crowder has emerged as the vocal and example leader of the defense but he can’t let his emotion over play him. He needs to play smart football against a very good offensive line that while mostly new faces, were the top free agents at their positions. With the Fins running a 34 now, Crowder has to get pass the lineman who will be keying on him.
When the Dolphins have the ball:
Much like the NY Jets, the Miami Dolphins will be focusing on their new QB as well. Chad Penning10. Chad has been in camp only a few weeks and already has the respect of his teammates and a command presence in the huddle. He will need every bit of it against his former team who know how he plays, the decisions he makes, and his nuances than can lead to a tip of what he is about to do.
While Chad also shares quite a bit of defensive knowledge of the Jets as well, the focus for Miami will be to use their revamped young offensive lineman to batter and wear down the defensive front of the Jets who are relatively new as well. The Dolphins will stream a steady dose of the R and R express. Ricky Williams will likely start and then take a seat as Ronnie Brown wears them down further. Then, in comes Ricky again to beat them down further. This will likely continue all game long and when the time is right, in will come speedy Jalen Parmale or Patrick Cobb to bust open a seam.
On the outside however is where the Phins will have some problems. Greg Camarillo looks to be the opening day 1 starter at the number 2 spot that up until yesterday was held by Derek Hagan who prior to that was held by Ernest Wilford. Ted Ginn still stands at the 1 spot and undrafted rookie Davone Bess will make his NFL regular season debut in the slot. Ginn must strecth the field to keep the safeties and the CB’s playing off the line. The Jets will try and stack the box and force Miami to beat them on the arm of Chad Pennington.
The Dolphins will do themselves a great service by taking all the dump passes early. A RB out of the back-field, TE Anthony Fasano in the cushion behind the LB’s. Davone Bess over the middle, the quick outs, and the occasional fade down the sideline. This will force the Jets to play their defense off the line to shore up the 10 to 15 yard gap. That opens up the front line running lanes, that forces the Jets to move their safeties up which will allow the Dolphins to go deep to Ginn. Make no mistake, Chad Pennington can toss the ball long, but don’t expect him to do it often.
Pennington has had his issues with shoulder and arm injuries and forcing him to throw deep often will not help insure his health this season. Along the line of scrimmage, the new faces must step up. Jake Long will be faced with his old nemesis Vernon Gholston who has not looked good in training camp and will not start, but he will see him. Justin Smiley will have to help Long anchor the left side and keep the pass rush off Pennington’s blind side.
Vernon Carey will anchor the right side at tackle and he should be able to do that without problems. His only real problem will come to the man on his left. Rookie 6th round draft pick Donald Thomas who is this years “Cinderella boy”. Thomas comes to Miami after walking on to Uconn and not playing HS football. A late flier, Thomas quickly climbed the depth chart in training camp taking over the number 1 spot 3 days into the two-a-day sessions.
The Jets are playing for their lives. A loss this week to Miami could potentially put them 3 games back by game 3. They face the Chargers and the Patriots in the two weeks following this game. This is almost a must win if they want to have a chance at the division. How that translates into how they play this week is unknown. It is often enough for the Jets to know that they are playing the Dolphins.
For Miami it’s all about attitude. A major shift from the past 10 years. This team is excited. They respect their coach and they like their coach. If that wasn’t enough, there is an eagle-eye in the box above with the name Parcells. These players know that if they want to play in Miami they will have to prove their worth and value to that man.
Tony Sparano makes his NFL regular season debut and a lot of focus will be on his game management style that was so evidently lacking last season that in game 1 the Dolphins fans were left unimpressed even after losing in over time.
The Dolphins players seem rejuvenated after the 1-15 season that starting on Sunday becomes officially last year and in the books as just another bad season in the NFL.
This game is too close to call for all the obvious reasons. Jets vs. Miami, Pennington vs. the Jets, Favre vs. age, Favre vs. Miami, Miami vs. themselves.
What is the score? 24 – 21. Who will win? Homer it! Ask me professionally and I’m not so sure.