Sunday, October 11, 2009

Jets vs Dolphins Preview

New York Jets at Miami Dolphins
Monday, October 12 - 8:30 PM, ESPN

The New York Jets will travel to Miami and Landshark Stadium to face Chad Henne and the Dolphins. Both teams are trying to get wins to try to verify who they are. After a 3-0 start, Mark Sanchez struggled and the Jets dropped a game at New Orleans. A loss here and the Jets would give first place back to the Patriots. Meanwhile, Miami is 1-0 in the Chad Henne era after smothering Buffalo 38-10. If Miami can win here, they’d be 2-3, and they can legitimately start thinking playoffs again. Both teams have done a
lot of talking, and the game will be on the biggest stage: Monday Night Football.

When the Jets have the ball…

This section of the article would have been written differently on Monday, on Wednesday, and now. That’s because Mark Sanchez’s targets seem to change every day. One thing is clear: former Cleveland Brown Braylon Edwards is here, and the 6-3 athletic specimen will provide an option the Jets haven’t had in years. While you can’t expect from him with less than a week of learning the playbook, the terminology and plays in Cleveland and New York are similar, so the learning curve shouldn’t be too long.

The player opposite Edwards remains a mystery. Jerricho Cotchery was supposed to be the guy. He has been a very effective and consistent receiver so far, but a Thursday hamstring injury puts his playing status in jeopardy. When healthy, he is a perfect complement to Edwards. Brad Smith and David Clowney could be thrust into the spotlight. Smith has been the #3 receiver all year. He’s shifty with the ball in his hands, but he has questionable hands and receiver instincts. Clowney’s been a preseason star two years running, but his speed has yet to translate in a real game. Monday could finally be his chance, but don’t get your hopes up.

With the receiver situation a question mark, look for Dustin Keller to make a bigger impact. Keller is faster than the Dolphin safeties, and the deep threat of Edwards should open up the field a little bit more. Miami was burned by Dallas Clark in primetime just a few weeks ago, Keller could be next.

Still, the first Jets’ option will be running the football. They’ve tried to be a run-first team all year to ease the pressure off Sanchez, and with Cotchery potentially on the sidelines, there is even more incentive to establish the run. Thomas Jones and Leon Washington have been a middle of the pack rushing duo this season, which needs to improve. Miami will be a tough task, as their 3-4 alignment has been very effective at stopping the run all year. Shonn Greene will probably receive some touches, especially if Jones can’t get it going early.

The Dolphins’ defense is not to blame for the team’s 1-3 record. The run defense has been solid all year. Part of this is due to the abilities of safeties Yeremiah Bell and Gibril Wilson. But both players are also prone to biting on play action, and if they aren’t careful, Edwards might be able to make a big play or two deep. His addition should eventually work wonders for the Jets, but the potential loss of Cotchery negates that. Neither side has a clear edge here.

Advantage: Push

When the Dolphins have the ball…

Losing Chad Pennington was a blow to the offense, but by now, we all know his limitations. Chad Henne gives them a bit more of a deep threat even though he won’t be as accurate on short passes or make the right decisions all the time in just his second career start.

As a result, there is no secret that the Dolphins will do whatever they can to run the football. Both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams will get chances to run the football, and both average at least 5 yards per carry. They will throw a ton of different looks out there in order to try to run it, whether it’s a standard formation or Wildcat. Multiple players will take snaps, and there’s always the possibility that Tyler Thigpen or Pat White take snaps at quarterback in the Wildcat. Against Rex Ryan’s defense, running the ball has usually been more effective, and the Dolphins will probably try to take advantage of the Jets’ aggression in run blitzing.

The Jets’ defense has been one of the best in the NFL this season, and they’ve done that against some of the top offenses in the NFL, something Miami can’t boast. Linebacker Calvin Pace also returns this week, giving Ryan even more options defensively. As a result, the Dolphins could be more inclined to throw everything they have at the Jets, especially given the magnitude of the game.

While Pace returns from a four-game suspension, cornerbacks Lito Sheppard (doubtful) and Donald Strickland (out) likely won’t play. However, the Dolphins’ receiving corps is a weak spot, and Ted Ginn Jr., Davone Bess, and Brian Hartline probably won’t be able to take advantage of Dwight Lowery and Drew Coleman too much.

The Jets know this, so they will put all their focus on the run, and put as many guys in Chad Henne’s face as possible. They will try to overwhelm the young quarterback and induce him into making mistakes. So far, Matt Schaub, Tom Brady, Kerry Collins, and Drew Brees have by and large done a very good job of avoiding sacks and not turning the ball over. Chad Henne has a lot to prove until he has the experience and/or skill of those four quarterbacks. If he can make throws to the guys he has to throw to under the pressure the Jets are bound to bring, then the Dolphins will deserve to win.

In the meantime, this might be too tall and order for the Dolphins’ offense. Miami will be able to get some yards between the twenties running the football, but scoring touchdowns should be a whole different story. Until the Dolphins prove they can throw the ball, whether out of the Wildcat or out of a normal formation, they’re too one-dimensional an offense to beat Rex Ryan’s fierce Jets’ defense.

Advantage: Jets


For reasons discussed in the introduction, both teams really want to win this game. A loss here reverses much of the good done in the first three weeks for the Jets, especially if Sanchez struggles again. A win re-asserts them as an AFC force, making last week’s loss look reasonable and not a trend. Both teams have been talking trash, as Miami linebackers Akin Ayodele and Channing Crowder have said some things. Miami will be at home on Monday night football, but the Jets are a defensive-first team, which makes them more likely to silence the crowd than anything else.

Advantage: Push


The big question will be how much either team can score for different reasons. Whichever young quarterback can protect the ball better and keep the opposing offense from having short field will probably be on the winning side. My money would be on Sanchez. While the Dolphins might be able to kick some field goals, eventually the Jets will move the ball with Keller and Edwards and force Miami to throw. At that point, the defense will feast on Henne, and the Jets will take this one on the road and move to 4-1.

Jets 20, Dolphins 13

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