When the Dolphins pass the football
First, the Dolphins must be ready for the cornerback blitz from Buster Skrine. If they aren’t, they aren’t trying. Two touchdown passes is good, and that’s what quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw in his last outing against Dallas. But combined with an interception that is returned for a touchdown, that simply isn’t up to franchise-quarterback standards. Tannehill has been inconsistent this season. He had a game in which he completed 94 percent of his passes (Houston) and had two others in which he was over 70 percent (at Buffalo and at Tennessee). But the past two weeks, he has been under a 60 percent completion rate, including only 54 percent last week. Unless Tannehill finds a stretch of consistency, fans will begin to question whether he’s the right quarterback for the Dolphins. One way the club is trying to improve the passing game is by getting tight end Jordan Cameron involved. Cameron was targeted five times last week but the fruit of that work didn’t show as he caught only two passes for 21 yards. He did get a red-zone touchdown, something the Dolphins need more of. Cameron has not dropped a catchable pass this season, so throw to him. The Jets’ secondary is suspect. Antonio Cromartie has one of the highest burn rates among defensive backs this season. Adding to that problem, Darrelle Revis, among the best corners in the league for many years, is not playing. And although Revis has shown signs of decline, no Revis is worse than declining Revis.
When the Dolphins run the football
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This is a weekly thing, it seems, but the problem with Miami’s run game is quantity rather than quality. The Dolphins run the ball quite well when they do it. They average 4.8 yards per carry, which is tied with Seattle for third in the NFL. But with only 207 rushing attempts this season, the Dolphins are 31st in the NFL in actually trying to run. And here’s the thing: In a passing league, good teams run and bad teams do not. The three teams — Miami, Cleveland and Detroit — that have run the least this season have nine wins between them. The NFL leader in running the ball this season is Carolina, and the Panthers are 11-0. The Dolphins will have to have patience — if not outright stubbornness — about running on the Jets. New York boasts the No. 3 run defense in the league. That’s because the front is active. In the past nine games, for example, defensive end Sheldon Richardson has seven sacks and a forced fumble. Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson has six sacks and a forced fumble. They get after it.
ADVANTAGE: New York
When the Jets pass the football
A word of caution: Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey likes to set the tone early and likes the idea of catching the defense flat-footed to start the game. It is the reason he often calls for a deep pass right at the start. He used to do it as the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator years ago. He still does it. The first play he called against Miami in the teams’ first meeting was a bomb to Brandon Marshall that was completed for a 58-yard gain. Marshall and Eric Decker have had great days against the Dolphins in the past, but it is Decker who is truly the problem. Whereas the Dolphins can and have matched Brent Grimes on Marshall, the team has no one who has been able to cover Decker. If you are suggesting Jamar Taylor should be the man on Decker, you are suggesting the Dolphins employ a defender who has struggled at times this season — including last week against Dallas. Taylor is on that dreaded list of NFL DBs with the highest burn rate in the league. The wild card here is New York quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is often wild with his throws. Some days he’s on. Some days he’s awful.
ADVANTAGE: New York
When the Jets run the football
The Jets want to be a great running team to cover the warts of their inconsistent quarterback play but injuries have hampered those plans. Chris Ivory, who had a career 166-yard day against Miami in the first game, was great for two games and not quite as good the other eight games the Jets have played. The return of Bilal Powell to health helps, but the status of center Nick Mangold is an issue for the Jets. Not that any of that matters against the Dolphins. Their run defense, expected to be outstanding after the signing of Ndamukong Suh, is 31st in the NFL. And although rankings sometimes do not reflect how a team is playing because they are affected by performances 10 weeks ago, this ranking is accurate. Last week, the Cowboys rushed for 166 yards. Facing a third-and-14 late in the game, Dallas picked up 15 yards on a draw play that put a dagger in the Miami comeback hopes.
ADVANTAGE: New York
So Dolphins punter Matt Darr is a tough guy, as evidenced by his strong tackle of a Dallas player last week. It would be better if Darr, a rookie, would play smarter. He made that tackle 3 yards out of bounds and was called for unnecessary roughness. Not smart. Indeed, special-teams decisions have hurt the Dolphins several weeks running. Jarvis Landry had an issue on one kickoff last week and basically stepped out of bounds at the 4-yard line. The idea here for the Dolphins should at least be “Do No Harm!” That would be an upgrade at this point. Kicker Randy Bullock replaced an injured Nick Folk on the New York roster the first week of November, and the move has not cost the Jets as of yet. Bullock is 2 for 2 so far.
This is the interim coach bowl! Todd Bowles was Miami’s interim coach in 2011. He didn’t get the full-time gig. Dan Campbell is now Miami’s interim coach, and unless he improves on his 3-3 record, he’s not getting the full-time job, either. Campbell has to impose his will on an offense that doesn’t run as much as he would like. He has to find a way to get his defense to do the most fundamental thing an NFL defense must do to win: stop the run. So far, not too good. Bowles, by the way, out-coached former Miami coach Joe Philbin in the first meeting between the teams this season.
ADVANTAGE: New York