Armando Salguero

Keys to the Game: Dolphins vs. Jets

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) looks to pass in the fourth quarter. The Miami Dolphins host the Buffalo Bills in the home opener at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens on Sunday, September 27, 2015.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) looks to pass in the fourth quarter. The Miami Dolphins host the Buffalo Bills in the home opener at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens on Sunday, September 27, 2015. adiaz@miamiherald.com

When the Dolphins pass the football

Last week was a nightmare for the Dolphins, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill shared in the epic struggle, throwing three interceptions and fumbling once. And although he was under heavy pressure that perhaps forced the interceptions, greater awareness of throwing at an area from which a blitz comes rather than to the other side of the field might have helped. Surprisingly, Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said that although Tannehill was throwing to the wrong team, his receivers were winning on the outside at a greater rate than previous games. It didn’t translate to completions or first downs. Interestingly, rookie DeVante Parker continues to develop, and the likelihood he gets more playing time Sunday is almost certain. The Jets are battling apparently minor strains to both starting cornerbacks, with Darrelle Revis nursing a groin and hamstring pull in the same leg and Antonio Cromartie still battling a knee sprain that hasn’t kept him from playing but has been bothersome. The Dolphins struggled to keep the Buffalo rush off Tannehill last week, and Jets coach Todd Bowles similarly attacks with exotic blitzes to pressure the quarterback.

ADVANTAGE: New York

When the Dolphins run the football

Jonas Gray got more carries than Lamar Miller and both players averaged 5.4 yards per carry. The problem? Neither got enough chances, which has been the problem for the Miami running game this season — fair quality but not enough quantity. Miller will be back to getting the most carries this week but Gray seemed to show he deserves chances. The problem for Gray is a calf strain that limited him in practice. If Gray is fine, the odd man out is Damien Williams, whose carries would fade, if not disappear altogether. The Jets have perhaps the best defensive front in football. Come to think of it, their entire defense has been pretty good so far, which is the reason it is No. 1 in the NFL in points allowed.

ADVANTAGE: New York

When the Jets pass the football

Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall is 6-4. Eric Decker, who lit up the Dolphins (10 catches for 210 yards) in the season finale last season, is 6-3. He is day-to-day with a knee injury, but if he plays, the Dolphins simply do not have a way to match up with 5-10 Brent Grimes and 5-9 Brice McCain. The bright side to this is quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is as erratic as a starting NFL quarterback could be. He’s as likely to throw a touchdown (he has six) as an interception (five), and that’s happening even as he’s been making liberal use of the checkdown this season — one reason he has a 6.09 yards-per-attempt average, nearly a yard less per attempt than Miami. By the way, the Jets are 30th in the NFL in interception percentage. The Dolphins got two picks in the opener and haven’t followed that with any such turnovers since. Maybe if they wouldn’t give 10-yard cushions on so many plays, they would get closer to the takeaways.

ADVANTAGE: Even

When the Jets run the football

Starting running back Chris Ivory was active for last week’s game but did not play because of a quadriceps injury. He will play this week. Bilal Powell carried the load for New York in his typical hard-running but unspectacular fashion. If Powell is not right, the Dolphins are at an advantage. We also know right guard Willie Colon won’t play against Miami, and that hurts the Jets because he’s a physical force in run blocking. He will be replaced by Brian Winters. The Dolphins’ run defense is plagued by players taking poor angles, missed tackles and sometimes shoddy effort. So there is no surprise that Miami is 30th in the NFL against the run.

ADVANTAGE: New York

Special teams

The Jets have allowed an 89-yard punt return this season. The Dolphins got their lone victory at Washington because of a 69-yard punt-return touchdown. The Jets are 29th in the NFL with a net punting average of 34.6 yards. Miami’s Matt Darr, meanwhile, is averaging 42.9 net yards per punt. The Jets have an experience advantage at kicker with Nick Folk, and he’s perfect on eight PATs and 4 of 5 on field goals. Andrew Franks last week missed an extra point, which was an issue for him in college. He has connected on 3 of 4 field goals this season. The Dolphins used Jarvis Landry as a kick and punt returner last week. If that continues, what’s the point of having Raheem Mostert on the roster?

ADVANTAGE: Miami

Coaching

If this was a popularity contest, Joe Philbin would lose. Dolphins fans are unhappy with how the Miami staff has been unable to resolve the problem of starting slow. There also has been an inability to run the football, stop the run, pressure the passer and keep Miami’s passer clean. The Dolphins staff has tried to address each issue during practice, so far with no good results. Meanwhile, rookie coach Bowles is winning over Jets fans despite a calm and understated demeanor. His team attacks on defense and wants to run the football on offense. Like the Dolphins, the Jets trailed last week and seemed out of the game. Unlike the Dolphins, they fought back and made the game close even in defeat.

ADVANTAGE: New York

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