The term "moral victory" has been tossed around very liberally the past few days, which astounds me to no end. These are the New York Jets that we are talking about, the same Jets that were on the brink of participating in the last two Super Bowls. This team was built to contend, and three straight losses is inexcusable, no matter how close we got against the Patriots. Even the most optimistic of fans will admit that the Jets next game will be a pivitol one, and lucky, we are playing the hapless (and winless) Miami Dolphins. Jump with me for the keys to the game...
Would any Gang Green Nation readers be surprised that the Dolphins have a much better offense than the Jets (at least statistically)? Despite being quarterbacked by Chad Henne and Matt Moore, Miami has racked up 352.8 overall yards per game (compared to 297.4 for the Jets). They have some weapons on both sides of the ball, and have the potential to pull off a stunner in East Rutherford. In terms of yardage, the Miami Dolphins are completely average in both running and passing (15th in the NFL in both areas). However, the Dolphins have not faced a defense anywhere near the level of the Jets, and are now starting 2nd-stringer Matt Moore at quarterback. This is why I believe the most dangerous Dolphin to be #2 running back Daniel Thomas.
Daniel Thomas: Thomas has been limited in practice this week with an injured hamstring, but when he gets healthy, he has the potential to be a star in this league. In two games, he has rushed for 202 yards and a 4.9 AVG. He has been much more explosive than his backfield partner Reggie Bush, who has averaged only 3.0 yards per carry. Although Bush is listed as the #1 RB on the Miami depth chart, it is Daniel Thomas that worries me most. Brandon Marshall will be a guest on Revis Island, so Thomas is the greatest threat to the Jets' shot at victory.
Sione Pouha: As I mentioned previously, Darrel Revis will line up opposite of Brandon Marshall this week, which will silence the Dolphins' big play threat and will likely neutralize their passing game. If Miami chooses to focus on the run, it will be Sione Pouha that will bear the brunt of the responsibilities. The Patriots ran for 162 yards last week, and that is just unacceptable. One play in particular stood out, and that was when BenJarvus Green-Ellis plowed Pouha into the endzone. Clearly, Sione Pouha is not the only culprit in the Jets' recent struggles to stop the run, but he is now the leader of the line and needs to play to that level. Mo Wilkerson and Mike DeVito also need to step up in order to stop the Miami running game.
Mark Sanchez: I disagreed with Rex's decision to ground and pound last week against the Pats, given that they were playing a team that was ranked worst against the pass. With Nick Mangold back, Mark Sanchez had plenty of time to sit in the pocket and wait for the routes to develop, and was only hindered by Brian Schottenheimer's baffling play-calling. Both Sanchez and Schotty have chances to redeem themselves this week, as the Dolphins are the 2nd worst pass-defense in the NFL. They give up an average of 307 passing yards per game, to the tune of a 105.4 opposing QB Rating. The Miami cornerback duo of Vontae Davis and Sean Smith is certainly very talented (and know how to talk a big game), but have been struggling badly this year. Some statistics, such as the ones provided by ProFootballFocus.com, placed Smith next to Revis and Aso as the best cornerbacks in 2010. However, Smith has been getting picked on regularly this season, giving up touchdowns to Josh Cribbs and Vincent Jackson. The Jets WR's are certainly talented enough to take advantage, so it is up to Schotty to call a good game this Monday. These are the kind of games that can get an offense rolling, and hopefully give it momentum for the rest of the year.
Nick Mangold: The Miami Dolphins have struggled to generate any kind of pass rush this year, and are 30th in the league with only 6 sacks. Wayne Hunter has looked better each week, and Mangold's presence solidified the line against the Patriots. They need to continue to build up their chemistry, and dominating the Miami Dolphins at the point of attack will give them confidence for the following weeks.
Jamaal Westerman: Despite the lack of statistics, Jamaal Westerman was quietly generating good pressure all season long. Last week, he had a HUGE game against the Patriots, with 2 sacks, a hit, and 2 pressures. He also contributed against the run, which was the knock against him coming into the year. This week, he will look to get after Matt Moore, against a Dolphins O-line that has given up 14 sacks (6th worst in the league). If he can generate pressure, it will increase the chances of a turnover, which leads into the next key..
The Miami Dolphins are 29th in the NFL with a turnover ration of -5. They are starting Matt Moore at QB, and he has 18 career INT, compared to only 16 TD's. Reggie Bush already has 2 fumbles this year. The Jets defense is in the Top 10 in both Interceptions and fumbles recovered. This seems like the perfect storm, and the Jets could end up dominating this game. Ideally, the Jets route the Dolphins, and use the game as a building block for the rest of the year.
Player to Watch: Joe McKnight. During the Jets recent slide, McKnight has been one of the few bright spots. He has averaged 45.5 yards per kick return, and is a threat to break one when ever he touches the ball. He has also been contributing on the defensive side of the ball, and is part of the contain team on opposing returns (he forced a fumble against the Ravens). Simply put, he is always making a play, and it is impossible to not watch him.
Prediction: After two very difficult games, Jets fans might think that this team is worse than it actually is. That's to be expected, given how New York fans relish in every victory and abhor every defeat. I would expect dozens of laudatory articles this week, as the Jets will get back on track for the playoffs and regain their swagger in the meantime.
New York Jets: 31
Miami Dolphns: 13