Barry Jackson

Dolphins will try to expose Jets’ new vulnerability

Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore hands off the football to running back Jay Ajayi in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against Arizona Cardinals at Hard Rock Stadium on Sun., Dec. 11, 2016, in Miami Gardens.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore hands off the football to running back Jay Ajayi in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against Arizona Cardinals at Hard Rock Stadium on Sun., Dec. 11, 2016, in Miami Gardens.

A six-pack of Dolphins notes on the eve of Dolphins-Jets:

• The best way for Miami to approach a game with a quarterback who hasn’t started a game in five years?

Run the ball. And run it a lot.

Consider: The Jets, one of the league leaders in run defense early in the season, have plunged to 17th in that category and are now allowing 4.0 yards per carry.

The 49ers blitzed the Jets for 248 yards on 27 carries last week, with Carlos Hyde rumbling to 193 on 17 attempts.

Jay Ajayi had 24 carries for 111 yards in the earlier Dolphins-Jets meeting.

So why has the Jets’ run defense fallen off dramatically?

“They've had some injuries; they've played some teams that rush the ball well,” Dolphins offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said. “The funny thing, they were 16th in the league on third down and now they're eighth. They've improved third down. Sometimes it's what people are trying to do to you. Nothing jumps off the tape that, 'Boy, they've changed this. Now they're giving up runs.' It's kind of funny how that thing goes. We couldn't run it at all and all of a sudden we're rushing for 200.”

• On the flip side, the Jets presumably will try to run on a Miami run defense that ranks 30th in the league and has allowed an unacceptable 4.8 yards per carry.

With Matt Forte slowed by a torn meniscus (he said he hopes to play), we could see plenty of Bilal Powell, who has only 78 carries for the season but a 5.8 average.

“I'm not overly concerned about the run defense because it's been pretty good the last month and a half,” Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said. “Honestly, it has been. The numbers may not speak to that, but it has been good enough to win games. Obviously, run defense, if you're really good, you like it. If you're not, if you're not good at it, you don't worry yourself about it. You kind of contain it the best you can. In this league, you score points by throwing the football. So if we can maintain our pass defense, our third downs and our pass rush, we can win games."

Joseph said new Jets QB Bryce Petty (two TDs, four picks, 65.6 rating) has "a strong arm. He's athletic. He's no stiff back there, so that's a concern; but he's got a strong arm and he's aggressive. Most young guys playing, you know playing right now - he's got four games to play or whatever he has to play - he should be aggressive. Show them want you can do and he's trying to do that.”

• The biggest concern with Moore? The 14 fumbles in 13 games as a Dolphins starter in 2013, including six lost.

Overall, he has 23 fumbles in 42 games (including eight lost).

Has Adam Gase spoken to him about that?

“That’s a long time you’re talking about,” Gase said. “There is a lot of time and experience that have gone from the last time, 2011 until now. I feel like the way that he operates is different than what he did in the past. I feel like he does have a good clock. He does have the ability to feel the pressure, as far as things aren’t right getting the ball underneath.

“So it’s a different guy now after five years. When you’re young, you’re aggressive. You want to make the big play. You want to make the impact play. Sometimes the older you get, the more you realize sometimes checking it downs isn’t the worst thing in the world. All of a sudden, you get it ‘23’ (Jay Ajayi) and he gets you 12 yards on a check down. We got 15 the other day on a quick-game play that was a 3-yard throw. Matt – that’s experience. You get used to doing that, and he’s done it in practice, and I just feel like I’m not going to see anything different than what I’ve seen since training camp or really the offseason.”

• Why did Gase use Damien Williams and not Ajayi on that game-winning drive against San Francisco?

“That was my fault.” Gase said. “I did a bad job as far as, when we got that penalty, Jay (Ajayi) should’ve went back in. I should’ve got him back in there for that last, those last two plays. He should’ve been in there.”

• Jason Jones has had a pedestrian year – Pro Football Focus rate shim 98th of 110 defensive ends – but he was very good against Arizona, and a strong close to the season would help.

Jones looked refreshed after a two-game NFL suspension for operating a vehicle while intoxicated during the offseason.

Joseph said having Jones back was “huge. Huge. Energy, being an inside rusher, that helps. It helps to free up 'Cam' (Cameron Wake) and free up (Andre) Branch. When you've got those four vets out there rushing with (Ndamukong) Suh and Jason inside, it forces one-on-ones on the edge because Jason's a really, really quick inside rusher. So it helps the edge rushers. He has been solid for us all year, when healthy, especially as an inside rusher. But first, second down, he's an edge and that can play the run game also for us. He did a fine job."

• NBC is producing Saturday’s game for NFL Network, but the game will air only on NFL Network nationally and on NFL Net and NBC-6 in Miami.

With Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth calling games on Thursday and Sunday this week, NBC will use Mike Tirico, Notre Dame analyst Doug Flutie and studio analyst Tony Dungy. But Dungy won’t join the broadcast until the second quarter.

Related stories from Miami Herald