It’s almost ironic after sitting through about three straight seasons of 1 o’clock Sunday games that the Dolphins would so rarely find themselves in that time slot this season. Aside from the opener in Atlanta, Miami has found itself playing twice on Monday night and twice at four. Throw in next week’s bye and the 4:15 start against New Orleans in two weeks and Sunday just feels a little alien all of the sudden.
Regardless though, Miami gets the Jets tonight and I can pretty much promise the pre-game coverage will go something like this: Jets, Jets, Sanchez, Jets, Rex Ryan, Pats-Broncos, Jets, Jets and then maybe if we’re lucky they’ll mention something dumb like Gloria Estefan will be dancing poorly next to Hank Williams Jr. as they sing the Monday Night football ditty and mourn their careers. My point is, don’t expect ESPN to spend much time talking about the Dolphins.
But I have you covered. Here are the keys to the game for the Dolphins on offense and defense…
Stick to the Game plan: Miami has done a superb job with their offensive game plans so far this year. The team leads the NFL in rushing yards and they control the ball for the majority of the game. When you couple this with Miami’s top-ranked rush defense it’s fairly remarkable Miami would be 1-3. But everyone in Miami has been over that a thousand times and if Miami can pull of a win tonight they can almost pull themselves out of the hole of an 0-3 start. New England is 3-2, New York will be 3-2 pending a loss, Buffalo basically eliminated itself yesterday with a 6-3 loss to the Indians… err, Browns.
For Miami to be successful though they need to stick with what has worked for them. Run first, run second and maybe even run third if you think you can get it on the ground. For as good as New York’s rush defense is, their pass defense is better and I don’t think anyone wants to see Chad Henne have to try to win this one for us. Miami has to establish the run, grind the clock and control the ball. Considering the offense is geared towards just that end, if Miami executes they should be in a pretty solid position.
Wildcat! This is a huge game for Jake Grove. Why do you ask? The Ravens shut down the Wildcat last year twice before Rex Ryan and Bart Scott hopped over to the Jets. A lot of pundits think that the Dolphins will fail with the formation because Ryan stopped it in Baltimore last year. There’s a couple of big difference between this year and last year. First of all, with all the respect in the world for Kris Jenkins, he’s not Haloti Ngata. Ngata pretty much wore Samson Satele around like a little hat last year. Satele was being driven back into the backfield before the ball could make it all the way to Ronnie Brown. With the middle of the line collapsing it’s pretty difficult for anyone to run.
Well this off season, the Dolphins sent Satele to football purgatory in exchange for Jake Grove. The thought process being that Cam Cameron drafted a center that was too small to play against the mammoth man-eaters lined up across from him at tackle. Grove is supposedly bigger, stronger and a lot nastier. This is a game we’re going to need to see it out of him. If Grove can consistently get off the ball and force Kris Jenkins back, Rex Ryan isn’t going to look like the antithesis of the Wildcat anymore.
Take a few Chances: While I don’t want to see this in the first quarter, Miami has yet to do much in the way of vertical passing. With a Jets defense that will continue to key on the run throughout the game, the passing game will be an integral part of keeping the defense honest, but more so than that, it could yield a big play or two for us tonight. Miami’s receivers have been the subject of more than their share of scrutiny, but they will need to make a play or two tonight for Chad Henne. On play action and on passing downs they need to find space and hold on to the ball.
As the game continues and the defense begins to look into the backfield more and more, Miami might find a deep shot or two coming open as (hopefully) a certain nameless speed receiver will be able to recapture the excellence he showed in last year’s regular season finale. Regardless of who it is, Miami may have a couple chances tonight to catch the Jets flat-footed, and even if they can’t it’s important to occasionally try just to keep the defense from living in the box. Even if it’s just a decoy, Miami has to prove it’s willing to take the shot, because otherwise the Jets will figure out how to key on the run and shut it down.
Calling all Tight Ends: Has anyone seen Anthony Fasano? He either really fooled Miami last year or something is off with him, because Fasano seems to have disappeared from the Dolphins offense after a poor week one performance. In fact, embarrassingly, Fasano actually accounts for negative five points on the season in my fantasy football league. And while everyone knows Fantasy stats have no real bearing on football, I just wanted to demonstrate how truly poorly the Miami tight ends have played this year.
For as much as Bill Parcells loves his tight ends, this year’s team has seen just a combined 5 catches for 39 yards through four games. I realize the tight ends have been called on to block a lot this year as well, but that production is remarkably low. Meanwhile Miami has been repeatedly harassed by tight ends on defense. The whole thing is extremely irritating, and all kidding aside, someone needs to show up today. Chad Henne could certainly use a solid safety valve at the tight end spot, especially considering his options at receiver can hardly be praised as all-world.
Rally around J-Peezy: This isn’t my style at all, but I love when Joey Porter runs his mouth. He tried to joke earlier this year that he had become corporate Peezy and would no longer be a boisterous asshole. Well clearly that wasn’t working and this week Porter decided to start talking again. He said Miami would have its chances at Mark Sanchez, that the division still runs through Miami and…
“We split with them last year and won the one that counts. We plan on doing that again when they come here on Monday.”
Last year at 0-2, Joey Porter said something I deemed to be truly stupid about Matt Cassel and the Patriots. Then he showed up to the tune of 4 sacks while the Dolphins routed the Patriots. Not a whole lots has changed as Porter is still calling out green quarterbacks on divisional rivals and predicting Dolphin victory.
Healthy or not, Porter will be the guy for the Dolphins to look towards for fire and motivation. I never dreamt I’d love antics like these, but Miami’s defense really seemed to rally around Porter last year in week three and I have no reason the believe they won’t again. Porter is a firebrand and if the whole defense took on his mentality Miami would probably be better off for it. While I’m always nervous about predictions, when Porter talks I tend to listen. And I think the rest of the Dolphins do too. After years of silent leadership from Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas it appears the Dolphins have their vocal leader now too.
In Case ESPN Doesn’t Realize: Miami’s rush defense is better than the Jets. Miami’s rush offense is better than the Jets. If you need the stats the Jets are ranked 11th against the run allowing a smidgeon over 100 yards a game. The Dolphins have surrendered on average just 61 yards, which is the best in the league. On the ground offensively, the Jets are 7th while the Dolphins are first. Just remember that, because that’s not how it’s going to be portrayed tonight. Somehow, they’ll look at this as a running battle and the Jets will have an edge despite being on the road against a team that both stops the run and runs the ball a lot better than they have so far this year.
Also consider the fact the Jets record is 3-1 against teams who have combined to go just 9-10. They’ve faced some pretty abysmal rushing attacks and still rank only 11th. More importantly, last week on the road in New Orleans the Jets ran into the 2nd ranked rushing team and got beat pretty solidly. But I doubt ESPN will mention any of that, they’ll just make it sound like the Jets are going to play the run better than the Fins.
Make Mark Sanchez Beat You: This one is obvious, and I think it happens naturally. Let’s test the Sanshise. If he’s worth the top 5 pick, he’ll be able to hold his own, but I like the Dolphins odds if they can force Sanchez into obvious passing downs and pin their ears back.
As I just mentioned, Miami can stop the run as well as anyone in football. They can run the ball as well as anyone in football. Last week the Jets faced the Saints, gave up 150 yards and let them average 4.8 a carry. That put them in a hole and Sanchez couldn’t dig them out. Who reasonably thinks the Saints have a better rushing attack than Miami? They have more to keep a defense honest through the air, but Pierre Thomas? Really? Miami should be able to run the ball and control the clock. I also expect them to be able to stop the run. That should keep the ball out of the Jets hands and put the impetus on Sanchez to keep the Jets in the game. I don’t think he can do it yet. He certainly didn’t look the part last weekend, if Miami can shell shock him for a second week in a row we can only hope it will get in his head and stunt his development as a quarterback. That’s not a nice thing to say, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to see the Jets miss with a top five pick on a quarterback.
Play Mean: This ties somewhat in with the Porter comments and goes back to Channing Crowder’s tiff with Rex Ryan earlier this year, but Miami needs to come out with a mean streak. Playing at home against a team that openly disrespected them earlier this year, the Dolphins need to be prideful. Miami needs to come out angry, hit the Jets hard and make sure that at the end of the day the Jets don’t come away without feeling this for a long time. Miami goes on a bye next week. So leave it all out there. Miami can get back in the division with a win. So leave it all out there. These are the fucking Jets. So leave it all out there. And if you’re reading this and you work at the gates of Landshark stadium and are presented a ticket by a Jackass in a Jets fire helmet. Leave him out there. I’m serious, whoever keeps letting that asshole into our stadium needs to be shot.
Conclusion: I think this game stacks up well for Miami. I’d be shocked if the pundits agreed but I for one think the Dolphins have a very good chance to “steal” one here. I use the word steal loosely because I don’t see Miami as an underdog in any way shape or form. The Jets have the 27th ranked passing attack in the league and I doubt one week in the offense will prepare Braylon Edwards to be truly impactful. Miami is going to key on the run and make a rookie prove he can beat them with some role receivers and a new number one with whom he has little to no chemistry and that doesn’t know the whole playbook. Again, I doubt that’s how we’ll see it framed but this is a Dolphin’s blog…
Prediction: Dolphins 27 Jets 20