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Previewing the Jets’ opposition: Miami Dolphins

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NFL: Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a rebuilding year for the Dolphins and, unlike the Jets, that was basically the plan all along. They’ve lost all seven games by a combined 161 points. However, they been much more competitive since the bye. Against Washington, they lost 17-16 on a failed two-point conversion and in the last two games they’ve led at the half.

Quarterbacks

The Dolphins traded a pick for Josh Rosen during the offseason, but he’s struggled badly, completing just 53 percent of his passes and throwing only one touchdown to five interceptions.

Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn’t been much better, but he’s been good enough to be handed the starting role. In his best game so far, he passed for 282 yards and a touchdown against the Bills two weeks ago.

Fitzpatrick exacted revenge on his former team in 2017 when he led the Bucs to a 15-10 win over the Jets, who were trying to improve to 5-5 heading into the bye week.

Offensive Line

The Dolphins have one of the worst offensive lines in the league, with all five starters grading out near the bottom at their position according to Pro Football Focus. This is obviously the main reason Rosen and Fitzpatrick have struggled. Things could worsen this week as starting center Daniel Kilgore is listed as doubtful with left tackle J’Marcus Webb also questionable.

With Laremy Tunsil having been traded and Ju’Wuan James departing on a big money deal in free agency, there are also a couple of youngsters on injured reserve so there is hardly any continuity. The only active lineman on Sunday who played for them last year will be starting right tackle Jesse Davis, a former Jets cast-off who has started at every position apart from center in the past two seasons.

The left guard is Evan Boehm, a 26-year old journeyman with 17 career starts. He’s been filling in at center with Kilgore missing the last few games.

Rookie Michael Deiter is the starter at right guard and the Dolphins have three other rookies - Isaiah Prince, Shaq Calhoun and Keaton Sutherland - on their bench. Of the three, Prince was the only one drafted, in the sixth round. Deiter has really struggled, especially in pass protection.

The two other reserves, tackle Andrew Donnal and guard Chris Reed, have 14 career starts between them but it’s unclear who will start on Sunday, especially if Webb cannot go. Calhoun had been starting at guard with Kilgore out, but apparently told the media he won’t start this week.

Running Backs

At running back, the Dolphins traded away their leading rusher, Kenyan Drake, who had a big game on Thursday night for his new team, Arizona.

With Drake gone, Mark Walton is now the lead back and is averaging over four yards per carry. However, his backup Kalen Ballage has racked up just 51 yards on 28 carries.

Undrafted rookie Patrick Baird and seventh-rounder Myles Gaskin have yet to contribute with just one offensive snap between them. However, another seventh-round rookie, Chandler Cox, has seen some action at fullback.

Receivers

The Dolphins have a nice stable of receivers, who haven’t really had much chance to show their potential with the offensive line struggling to protect the quarterbacks.

The Dolphins are extremely high on undrafted rookie Preston Williams, who is leading the team with 27 catches and 356 receiving yards. The quick slant has been a good weapon for the 6’5” Williams and the 6’3” DeVante Parker, who leads the team with three receiving touchdowns and a 14.3 yards per catch average.

Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant are dynamic weapons who can produce out of the slot but each has underperformed compared to last year. Wilson has missed some time with injuries.

Allen Hurns also offers size and a downfield threat. He and Wilson each had their first touchdown catch of the season in the loss to the Steelers on Monday night.

At tight end, Miami has two players they drafted on Adam Gase’s recommendation; Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe. Gesicki has shown progress but was drafted to be a red zone threat and has no touchdowns on 15 catches. Smythe is a blocking specialist.

Former Jet Clive Walford just re-joined the team to round out the rotation.

Defensive Line

The Dolphins official depth chart lists their defense in a 3-4 configuration with John Jenkins, Davon Godchaux and Christian Wilkins listed as the starters and playing the majority of the reps.

Wilkins was the 13th overall pick in this year’s draft and he pairs with Godchaux at nose tackle and the 30-year old journeyman Jenkins. Of the three Jenkins is the more disruptive pass rusher but Wilkins has shown potential against the run.

Defensive ends Taco Charlton and Avery Moss also play some reps inside from time to time, although Moss is questionable with an injury.

The Dolphins also have former first round bust Robert Nkemdiche on their bench but he’s been out of shape and was only recently activated from the PUP list.

Linebackers

The Jets will be glad to see the back of Cameron Wake, who departed in free agency. Wake had 12.5 sacks against the Jets in 19 games as a Dolphin.

Former first round pick Charles Harris is listed as a starter at outside linebacker along with Sam Eguavoen, who they will be hoping will follow the Wake career arc after spending his first three pro seasons in the CFL. He has also been playing plenty of reps as an off-ball linebacker though.

Charlton leads the team with four sacks, while fellow reserve Vince Biegel leads them with seven quarterback hits. Trent Harris is another option off the bench.

On the inside, Jerome Baker and Raekwon McMillan have been playing in full-time roles. McMillan has played well against the run but struggled in coverage, while the athletic Baker is struggling in a run defense that has allowed a league-high 4.8 yards per carry, although he does lead the team in tackles.

Deon Lacey is available as cover but the versatile Biegel gets most of the reserve reps off the ball.

Defensive Backs

The Dolphins have a banged0up secondary with their best player, Xavien Howard, having been placed on injured reserve this week. Safety Reshad Jones is also listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game. Opening day starter Minkah Fitzpatrick was traded earlier in the season, too.

With rookie cornerback Ken Webster out of Sunday’s game and Ryan Lewis listed as questionable, Miami claimed veteran Ken Crawley to bolster the ranks this week.

Their most experienced cornerback is Eric Rowe, although he’s having a mediocre season. Undrafted youngsters from each of the past three seasons - Jomal Wiltz, Chris Lammons and Nik Needham - have also been getting reps recently and one will have to start on Sunday unless they’re planning to rush Crawley into action.

At safety, Walt Aikens is listed as questionable with a hip injury, so Bobby McCain and Steven Parker will likely remain as the starters. McCain is the only Dolphins player other than Howard to intercept a pass this year.

Special Teams

The Dolphins have had an unremarkable season so far on special teams. Kicker Jason Sanders has missed three of his four field goals from beyond 40 yards while punter Matt Haack is sixth in the league for net average.

In the return game, Grant is a constant threat but hasn’t done much this year. Williams has also been getting some work as a punt returner.

In coverage, Lacey leads the team in tackles. Aikens has also been productive and Lewis has performed well.