Dolphins at Jets, 1 p.m., Sunday, CBS

Breaking down the game: Dolphins at Jets

 
 
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace (11) completes a pass as Carolina Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn (41) prepares to tackle in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace (11) completes a pass as Carolina Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn (41) prepares to tackle in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Alan Diaz / AP

ssalguero@MiamiHerald.com

Breaking down the game | By Armando Salguero

When the Dolphins pass the ball

Well, it seems Ryan Tannehill discovered Mike Wallace last week. He threw the ball deep and threw it often to the dynamic deep-threat receiver. And although that resulted in only a couple of big plays and a touchdown, it didn’t mean all is well. Tannehill and Wallace are still a work in progress. Tannehill still underthrows his speedy receiver way too often. That needs work. The Dolphins also have to find a way to get more consistency out of Charles Clay. His performances have been uneven as defenses change coverages and have been successful containing him in all but a handful of games. The New York pass defense is susceptible to the big play, as Baltimore showed last week. The addition of Ed Reed at safety hasn’t helped that yet. Antonio Cromartie, the team’s best defensive back, might play against the Dolphins but is not 100 percent healthy. ADVANTAGE: Even.

When the Dolphins run the ball

This might get ugly. The team that managed 2 yards rushing against Tampa Bay and has failed to post the league average 4.0 yards per rush in five games this season, including last week against the Panthers, is facing the NFL’s top rush defense. That suggests something of a mismatch. And although the Dolphins hope the return of center Mike Pouncey can reinvigorate the run game, it should be pointed out that Pouncey played in that fateful game against Tampa Bay three weeks ago. The Jets are getting great play from Muhammad Wilkerson, who leads a front seven that is among the best in the NFL. With running back Daniel Thomas out with an ankle injury, rookie Mike Gillislee could get a few carries. ADVANTAGE: New York.

When the Jets run the ball

The only way the Jets will move the ball consistently against the Dolphins is by running. The Jets have a solid offensive line that is relatively healthy and they have two solid, albeit not great, runners in Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell. Quarterback Geno Smith also is a run threat when he needs to get out of the pocket, but he’s definitely not a Cam Newton. The Dolphins have been surprisingly poor against the run this year. They are 26th in the NFL against the run. And it’s getting worse as the season progresses. The Dolphins have given up 136 rushing yards or more in each of the past five games. What was a stout run defense in during the 2011 season (No. 3 in the NFL) has found a way to let a big leak out the middle of the line in several games this season. ADVANTAGE: New York.

When the Jets pass the ball

They’re a mess passing the football. The recent conversation about Geno Smith has been whether he would be benched rather than whether he is improving. Smith is a turnover machine with 18 interceptions and five lost fumbles. He doesn’t read defenses well before the snap and doesn’t read the field well during the play. His receiver corps is led by, of course, Jeremy Kerley. Moe and Larry were left unsigned in the offseason. Stephen Hill hasn’t caught a touchdown pass in four games and Santonio Holmes hasn’t been fully healthy for more than a year. Miami is coming off an uneven game in the secondary because Nolan Carroll was surprisingly great against Carolina and Brent Grimes had perhaps his worst game of the season. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

Special teams

MetLife Stadium, like the Meadowlands before it, is a difficult place to kick in the winter because strong winds not only blow through the stadium but do so in different directions. Dolphins rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis will soon find this out. Josh Cribbs has taken over for Clyde Gates as the Jets’ kickoff-return man and, although he is not the dynamic player he was four years ago, he is an upgrade. ADVANTAGE: Even.

Coaching

New York’s Rex Ryan started the season on the hot seat. But he took ownership of the New York defense and has made the decision to stay with a rookie quarterback. His job is not completely safe but he has kept a team with a flawed roster in the postseason conversation. Dolphins coach Joe Philbin has a more talented roster than the Jets and is getting uneven results from that roster, but he has kept the team together in the face of an uncomfortable NFL investigation. ADVANTAGE: New York.

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