The New York Jets’ defensive coordinator, Mike Pettine, has probably spent countless hours studying tape between the Dolphins and Raiders this past weekend. Although it was a complete “team win” for the Dolphins, it’s clear both Reggie Bush and Brian Hartline had the most impact on offense. And you can certainly bet Pettine and the rest of the Jets’ coaching staff will work all week in practice, to scheme a game plan to shut down or at least contain our week two stars. But when one door closes, another opens. If Bush and Hartline do struggle against the Jets’ defense, who will be the X factor for the Dolphins in week three?
I’m not trying to make the argument that Bush and Hartline are destined to have a poor performance this weekend. But as fans, we must be realistic. It is unlikely Reggie will repeat his 176 rushing yards or score two touchdowns again. Likewise, it is doubtful Hartline will haul in another nine catches for 111 yards (both career highs), since he will most likely be going up against Antonio Cromartie. Besides, in five career games against the Jets, Hartline only has a total of 11 catches for 137 yards and zero touchdowns. Based on those averages, don’t bank on him having another huge game like he did this past weekend. But believe me, I definitely hope Bush and Hartline prove me wrong.
As for Bush, he will clearly be “enemy number one” for that Jet’s defense. Their sole focus this week will be to shut him down. Not to sound like captain obvious here, but expect to see their safeties playing closer up to the line and stacking nine guys in the box. Their game plan will be to force our rookie QB Ryan Tannehill to beat them by passing the ball. In return, who will be that guy who steps up and helps this offense pick up first downs and possibly find the endzone?
With just eight catches for 88 yards after the first two games of the year, maybe WR Davone Bess is primed to finally have his breakout game? In the last seven games against the Jets, he has demonstrated his ability to get open by catching 28 balls for 233 yards. After all, Bess was Tannehill’s go-to receiver in training camp and during preseason. Maybe they will reconnect for a solid performance this Sunday. Heck, maybe WR Legedu Naanee can awaken from his two week coma and actually catch a deep pass down the sidelines like he has done so well in “practice.”
Prior to the start of the season, I wrote a few articles claiming that our tight ends will be the bread and butter for our passing game this year. We got a little taste of that last week when Anthony Fasano did a summersault into the endzone after a 14 yard touchdown reception. Unfortunately for Fasano, he only had one other catch in the game and it was for just five yards. On the year, he has just five catches for 38 yards.
In addition, hybrid TE Charles Clay has yet to record a single catch through the first two games. Even though I have high expectations for Clay, he has been very non-existent in this offense thus far. With so much attention focused on containing Bush and Hartline, maybe Fasano and Clay will have a huge impact, becoming seam threats this week and take the Jets’ secondary by surprise.
It would be unfair for me to not mention at least one special teams player in this article. In fact, Ted Ginn Jr. single handedly beat the Jets back on November 1, 2009 when he amassed 299 kickoff return yards and two touchdowns. The Dolphins went on to win 30 to 25. Our current kickoff return specialist, Marcus Thigpen, has proven he can also take a kickoff to the house, as he did in week one against the Houston Texans. Who knows, maybe our special teams play will be the difference maker in the game this week. The Jets better not sleep on Thigpen, or it will be déjà vu all over again.
So who else can step up and make plays for this Dolphins’ offense? Who can we count on during third downs to move the chains and extend plays? Is there a disguised hero perhaps on the brink of having his breakout game? So you tell me, who will be the X Factor this weekend against the Jets?