1. What is the overall vibe coming out of the Tennessee win? Was it the type of inspiring opening day win that has the fanbase feeling the exceeding levels of optimism, or has the reception been more even-keeled?
Even-keeled is probably a good description. It was seen as a good win, but it was not a dominating win that spins up the fan base either. I think it was more of a sense of satisfaction in getting the first win, seeing Ryan Tannehill back on the field, and showing to all of the preseason pundits that Miami is not as bad as they wanted to make them seem. I think there is excitement with the team, but it is not over-the-top confidence yet.
2. Ryan Tannehill started out his career a bit rocky as most young quarterbacks do, as he was turnover prone and below average overall, but over the three years prior to his missed season last year he was trending upwards and settling into a spot around the top half of the league’s quarterbacks. How did he look against Tennessee, and how much further up the ladder can he climb?
For the most part this preseason and into last Sunday’s game, Tannehill has looked strong, confident, and in control of the offense. He has mostly been sharp with his throws and correct with his decision making. That said, he had two bad plays against the Titans, and both times he was picked off. The first was a play in which head coach Adam Gase said the wet ball slipped out of Tannehill’s hand, and it may have, but it was a bad under throw to rookie tight end Mike Gesicki in the end zone. The second was an overthrow of Jakeem Grant, where either Tannehill threw the ball deeper than the route or Grant under cut the route. Either way, both passes were ugly and Tannehill and the Dolphins paid with interceptions.
I think Tannehill will continue to improve and I think 2016 - the first year of the Gase regime - will be a stepping to this season. Losing Tannehill for 2017 pretty much doomed the Dolphins last year, but I think Tannehill is better than a lot of people seem to think.
3. Defensively, the Dolphins particularly struggled against the pass last season, as they allowed the 5th highest opponent passer rating in the league, had the 5th lowest interception total, and the 7th fewest sacks. They had no problem turning that around this past Sunday. How did the Dolphins build their secondary this offseason and how did they start to turn things around against Tennessee? In particular, how did Minkah Fitzpatrick perform in his debut?
The secondary is definitely still a question mark, but it did look better last week than expected. Xavien Howard is turning into a shutdown cornerback, which will take away one side of the field. The Dolphins were hoping Cordrea Tankersley, Torry McTyer, or Tony Lippett would claim the second cornerback position this offseason, but when that did not happen, the team slid nickel cornerback Bobby McCain outside, where he is playing solid football. That left the slot open, which the team filled with Fitzpatrick. He looked really good in his first game, playing fast and making correct reads and sure tackles. The Dolphins look like they have a stud who can play cornerback, safety, and even some linebacker.
At safety, Reshad Jones looks like the Pro Bowl Reshad Jones, while T.J. McDonald is playing fairly well. He has been out of position a few times, and he is not the best coverage safety (especially when you consider Fitzpatrick could be filling that role), but he and Jones mesh well, and it seems to work. There are holes that the Jets can exploit, especially if they are able to target McCain and he cannot respond, or if the Dolphins cannot get someone to actually cover a tight end, but for at least one game, Miami’s secondary looked good.
4. Which areas of the Jets offense in particular could pose a matchup issue for the Dolphins defense? Conversely, which areas of the Jets defense could cause problems for the Dolphins offense?
The linebackers are the weakness of the defense right now. Kiko Alonso is still a solid linebacker, but he is being asked to play his position while making sure the two young linebackers, Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker, both of whom made their NFL debut against the Titans, are in position and know their assignments. They have to figure out how to cover tight ends and running backs, as well as not get fooled by play action, keeping gap integrity throughout the game.
On offense, the Dolphins line appears to finally be able to block, but this week will be a test to validate that observation. They were able to gauge the Titans on the ground, especially in the first half, as well as create some picture-perfect pockets for Tannehill, but Dolphins fans need to see that success more than once. Miami has the skill position players to have success against an opponent who cannot generate pressure or gets blown off the ball, but the Jets could get after the offensive line and Miami will struggle immediately.
5. How should the Jets defense approach attacking Ryan Tannehill and the offense, and how should the offense look to exploit the Miami defense?
Attack the offensive line early. Mix up where the pressure is coming from and disguise the stunts and switches. The Dolphins offensive line may be ready for it, but they may not. Tannehill is getting the ball out fairly quickly right now, but if the Jets can create pressure early and quickly, they could have success against the Dolphins offense.
On defense, create those mismatches against the linebackers. The Dolphins’ linebackers have to prove they can respond, and until then, the Jets should focus their attack, especially in the air, right at McMillan and Baker.