The New York Jets got blown out by the Buffalo Bills last Sunday to bring their losing streak to three games and drop their record on the season to 4-6. The Jets defense, dominant for much of the season, had no answers against Josh Allen and the Bills. The Jets offense was so ineffective the Jets benched Zach Wilson in the third quarter in favor of Tim Boyle, who was not an improvement. After the game the Jets announced Boyle would be taking over at starting quarterback and Wilson would be demoted to third string, behind Trevor Siemian. Now the Jets take on the first place Miami Dolphins at home in the first Black Friday game in NFL history.
The Dolphins started the season with the easiest schedule in the NFL, and they took full advantage. The Dolphins cruised to a 5-1 record early on, their only loss coming against the Buffalo Bills. Since then the schedule has gotten tougher. The Dolphins have dropped games to the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs, taking their record to 7-3 and making them 0-3 against winning teams this season. Now the Dolphins take on a Jets team that has forgotten how to score touchdowns. The anemic Jets offense could be a big problem against an offense as explosive as the Dolphins offense.
Previewing this matchup, Kevin Nogle of The Phinsider was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding the 2023 Miami Dolphins.
Check out the Q&A below, and be sure to check out DraftKings Sportsbook for all your betting needs this season.
1. The Dolphins are currently in first place in the AFC East, but their prolific offense has been slowing down in recent weeks. The Dolphins have scored 20 points or less in three of their last four games. Why is the Dolphins offense suddenly struggling a bit, and how do you think they’ll fare against the Jets defense?
It has been a combination of several things, including injuries, questionable decisions, self-imposed mistakes, and some stronger defenses making plays. Miami has already used six of their eight allocations for returns from injured reserve and it has taken time to get some of their players back up to full speed. Getting tackle Terron Armstead, guards Robert Hunt and Robert Jones, wide receiver River Cracraft, and running back De’Von Achane back are huge reinforcements for the offense, but they have to get back up to full shape and stay healthy.
Tua Tagovailoa has not played at his sharpest the last couple of weeks. They have also had drops, fumbles, and penalties pop up over the past few weeks.
Facing teams like the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs have also slowed the Dolphins.
The trick to slowing the Dolphins offense is being able to get pressure with four players. If a defense can create pressure with four, it allows seven players to stay in coverage - which puts linebackers in Miami’s preferred passing lanes. The Dolphins make their money through slants and crossing routes. If there are linebackers taking away those lanes, the Dolphins offense falls out of rhythm and they have to try to adapt. It has caused an issue.
2. Each team’s fanbase knows their team much better than other fans. Usually there are a few guys who your team’s fans know about and love, but other fans might not be too familiar with. Could you let Jets fans know a few unsung heroes on the Dolphins, if possible at least one on both offense and defense?
On offense, there are a couple of possible answers. Cracraft at wide receiver is a big part of the offense - but not necessarily as a pass catcher. He has that ability, but he works so well as a blocking receiver to open up space on the edge for the running backs. He may not show up big in the box score, but he probably will have an impact on the game. Tight end Durham Smythe, if he is healthy, has the ability to be a good possession type of receiver, serving as a safety valve for Tagovailoa.
For the defense, Zach Sieler and Andrew Van Ginkel are players who make plays, but are not the top names on the unit. Sieler, playing defensive tackle opposite Christian Wilkins, has four sacks and seems to make a big play when it is needed the most. Linebacker Van Ginkel has been playing in multiple roles this year, working both on the outside and as an inside linebacker. He is another player who just seems to make a big play when the Dolphins need it.
3. How is the 2023 Dolphins draft class working out? Who are the biggest contributors?
Achane is the only draft pick who is seeing any playing time. He has a ridiculous 11.8 yards per carry average and has rushed for 203 yards, 101 yards, and 151 yards in the three games in which he has had more than one carry. A stint on IR and an injury near the start of last week’s game has limited his playing time, but he does seem to have the potential to be Miami’s feature running back of the future.
Cam Smith, selected in the second round, has played four defensive snaps this year. Miami has had injuries in the secondary and yet Smith cannot crack the defensive lineup. It really just feels like the Dolphins will not put him out there until they can trust he will be a consistent option in coverage. He has the potential to be really good, but they are not willing to deal with the rookie mistakes right now.
Sixth round pick tight end Elijah Higgins is with the Arizona Cardinals now and seventh-round pick tackle Ryan Hayes is on the Dolphins’ practice squad.
4. If you were the head coach of a rival team, how would you go about attacking this Miami Dolphins team on offense and on defense?
Clog those passing lanes. Stuff the run early and there is a good chance Miami will get away from trying to run. Then just attack the line and try to force Tagovailoa out of rhythm. If the linemen are not getting all the way to Tagovailoa, have them put their hands up - again, clogging the passing lanes.
And the fans can be a part of this. Miami’s offense uses pre-snap motions and timing to maximize their speed. If the crowd can keep the volume up, it can force Miami to limit the motion.
On defense, force Miami to stop the run. Run it straight at them and make them prove they can stop it. They have been getting better at it lately, but it is still an area that could be exploited. Tyler Conklin could also have a productive day as the Dolphins have had issues with tight end coverage at times this year.
5. If you were a betting man which team would you bet on DraftKings Sportsbook winning this game, and why?
I am taking the Dolphins here, and likely predicting that they cover the spread. The Dolphins offense will eventually find its rhythm - so I will predict they do it this week. I know the Jets defense will prove to be a tough matchup, but Miami’s offense, when operating at full speed, can challenge any defense, including the Jets’. Miami’s defense has been stepping up the past several weeks. Add in the quarterback change in New York this week, and I will take the Dolphins to cover as the defense attacks the Jets’ offense and Miami’s offense is able to find at least a few opportunities to score.