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Jets-Dolphins Preview: Key Matchups to Watch

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NFL: New York Jets at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Dolphins tackles J’Marcus Webb and Jesse Davis vs. Jets edge defenders

Left tackle J’Marcus Webb and right tackle Jesse Davis are two of the most frequently beaten pass blockers in the league.

Out of 144 qualified offensive linemen, Webb and Davis rank 141st and 135th, respectively, in pass blocking efficiency (per-snap pressures allowed with greater weight to sacks).

As a team, the Dolphins have yielded by far the most quarterback hits per game (9.1).

The Miami offensive line is really abysmal from left to right. This is a perfect opportunity for a Jets defense ranked 31st in sack rate (3.3 percent) to start making some splashy plays.

Dolphins defensive front vs. Jets offensive line

Miami is weak in every area. That gives their opponents’ struggling units the chance to build up some (probably false) confidence and momentum by beating up on bad competition.

For the Jets, the offensive line has of course been the greatest area of weakness all season.

The Dolphins are terrible up front. Ranked 31st in run defense DVOA and 29th in pressure rate, Miami is the only team ranked in the bottom five of both categories.

If the Jets offensive front cannot be competent against a group of that quality, it would just be another great addition to their rapidly improving claim for the title of “worst offensive line ever.”

Dolphins secondary vs. Robby Anderson

Miami is highly susceptible to allowing big plays through the air. They have allowed 4.4 passing plays of 20-plus yards per game, fifth-most in the league. Their average of 13.4 yards per completion allowed is second-worst.

Robby Anderson has a history of performing well against defenses that struggle to stop the big play. In 2018, both of his 100-yard performances came against teams ranked in the bottom five of yards per completion allowed (Denver, Green Bay). In 2017, two of his three 100-yard performances came against teams of that ilk (Carolina, Kansas City).

Anderson could use a breakout game on the road. Over his last four away games, he has averaged 2.8 catches for 23.5 yards with zero touchdowns.

Just like most Jets in recent seasons, Anderson’s home/road splits are stark. In 27 home games, he has averaged 65.0 yards per game with 12 touchdowns, pace for 1,040 yards and seven touchdowns over 16 games. In 26 road games, Anderson has averaged 32.0 yards per game with 4 touchdowns, pace for 512 yards and two touchdowns over 16 games.

Despite those drastic splits, Anderson might not be entirely to blame for his drop-off in road performance. The two position groups that are probably most affected by playing on the road are quarterback and offensive line. Those are two positions where the Jets have gotten substantially below-average production over the course of Anderson’s career. Quite obviously, it’s hard for a deep receiver to get going if his quarterback is flustered and his offensive line can’t hold up long enough for him to get open.

If Sam Darnold and the offensive line can do what they should be able to do against a terrible defense, Anderson should finally put up some big numbers on the road. Anderson has shown in the past that he is plenty capable of huge road performances when the quarterback and offensive front are playing well. In Week 14 of 2018, he made four huge catches against the Bills’ No. 2 DVOA defense in Buffalo, typically one of the tougher road environments in the league. In the December cold, no less.

Anderson is a really solid receiver who is undersold by inconsistent production that is not entirely his fault. When his supporting cast is actually competent, he shows how good he is with big-time playmaking. I feel like if Anderson did get traded to a quality passing team like Philadelphia or Green Bay, he would put up Brandin Cooks numbers.

I’m glad Anderson is still a Jet. Once (if) the Jets get things figured out on the offensive front and Sam Darnold hits his stride, I believe his talent is going to flash much more consistently. He gets open as well as anyone. The ball just hasn’t found him.


How did last week’s key matchups turn out?

D.J. Chark vs. Jets secondary - Chark caught six passes for 79 yards and a touchdown, which effectively sealed the win for Jacksonville. Four of his other five catches went for first down conversions. Darryl Roberts and Nate Hairston made some good pass deflections against Chark, who had a slightly below-average mark of 6.6 yards per target across 12 targets. Still, five first downs makes for a highly productive day. If you averaged five receiving first downs per game, you would be tied with DeAndre Hopkins for third in the league. Winner: Jaguars

Jaguars pass rush trio vs. Jets offensive line - It’s hard for a position-vs.-position battle to be more lopsided than this one was. I singled out Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue, and Josh Allen as the trio to stop. They wound up combining for 5.5 sacks and 14 total pressures. Winner: Jaguars

Jaguars run defense vs. Le’Veon Bell - The Jaguars entered the Jets game missing the third-most tackles per game (8.6), giving Bell an enticing matchup. However, they were not quite as bad against the Jets, missing just six. Bell did get credit for a strong total of four avoided tackles on just nine carries, but the Jets did nothing on the ground against a run defense previously ranked 27th in DVOA. They ran for 46 yards and two first downs on 14 attempts. Winner: Jaguars

The Jaguars swept the board, and thus took the football game by multiple scores. For the seventh consecutive game, the team that won the majority of the key matchups also won the game.