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The Miami Dolphins are alone in first place!!!  And guess what, a win over the J-E-T-S keeps them there for another week!!!  1 PM game in New Jersey this weekend where the Dolphins are favored by 6 with an over/under of 41.5.

 

Last week I expected Adam Gase to unleash the rocket arm that is Jay Cutler.  I foresaw an aggressive passing attack to set the tone.  Instead Gase used a combo of Jay Ajayi runs and Jarvis Landry screens to set up the rushing attack.  It left a lot of us scratching our heads but perhaps it was the smart move so that the offense can continue to gel.  The playbook opened up in the second half and Miami came away with a nice road victory to start the season.  The offensive line was decent, and that is good considering LA boasted a very good run defense and vicious pass rush.  Miami's defense contained Melvin Gordon but was carved up by Philip Rivers.  Luckily all of those yards did not translate to many points.

 

Lets take a quick look at the Jets.  Sitting at 0-2 they have surrendered the most points and the most rushing yards in the NFL.  That bodes very well for Adam Gase's run heavy approach.  I hope he doesn't have Ajayi carry the ball another 28 times as its a long season with no bye week.  They have solid backups.  The Jets' passing defense is also currently ranked 28th in yards allowed.  Their defensive line includes a formidable duo in Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonards Williams.  Both could give the Dolphins' interior offensive linemen fits.  The weak link in Game 1 was Laremy Tunsil so he'll have to tighten up his play to stop the Jets' defense from clobbering Cutler.  This defense could be very good in a few years as they have a lot of big name, young talent - the previously mentioned Wilkerson and Williams, Darron Lee, Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye and Jordan Jenkins.  Jets fans better hope Todd Bowles can get these guys to play up to their draft hype.

 

On offense the Jets are, um, well...yeesh.  It seems like the worst kept secret that they are tanking for the first overall pick.  Josh McCown seems to be the new Ryan Fitzpatrick where he'll bounce from team to team with expectations of a decent year.  He won't hurt a team too badly but he also isn't taking over a game.  The rushing combo of Matt Forte and Bilal Powell looks decent on paper but neither has shown much yet.  While the Jets had over 100 yards rushing last week you have to consider that McCown and 3rd string back Elijah McGuire accounted for 50 of those yards.  I'd list the Jets' receivers but I doubt you would even recognize any of the names outside of Jermaine Kearse.  The offense couldn't even muster 300 yards total in either game this year.

 

It really stinks for the Jets defense that they have all of that young talent but no leader.  LB David Harris could have filled that void but is now with the Patriots.  They also will get gassed frequently because the offense won't be able to stay on the field.  Perfect opportunity for Miami to ground, pound and wear out New York's front 7.

 

This game should be a layup for Miami, but we all know that weird things happen on Sunday.  This will be the home opener for the Jets and they are playing against a hated rival.  They could have enough emotion and andrenaline to make this a competitive game.  I'm thinking Adam Gase comes in with a similar blue print as the San Diego game.  With the defense relatively healthy I don't think we'll see any major changes in snap counts.  They should be able to contain Forte and Powell on the ground but need to be cautious of McCown using check downs to challenge the LBs.  Last week Mike Hull really struggled in coverage, and while the Dolphins just traded for Stephone Anthony I'm not certain he's going to play much.  We already know Lawrence Timmons isn't playing (and may never for that matter).  The good news is that the Jets offensive line has struggled to protect McCown.  He has been sacked 5 times already with a lost fumble.  He also has thrown 2 interceptions.  The secondary will not be facing the receiving threats they saw in Los Angeles last week.  Contain the run, force long third downs and pressure McCown into mistakes.

 

As I mentioned earlier, this would be a nice game to go run heavy.  The Jets' defense has given up 190 and 180 yards rushing in their first two games.  Don't be afraid to get Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake into the mix.  Last week Miami ran the ball 32 times.  I understand Ajayi got most of the load because they needed his tackle breaking ability to get into field goal range late in the game.  This week maybe give 8 of those carries to the backups and add a few other runs for them.  The Jets are going to try to get Cutler to force errant throws because that is their only chance to steal one here.  Why even give them the opportunity?  Cutler did a very nice job of managing the game in Los Angeles and took some chances when they were available.  Wash, rinse and repeat.  This doesn't need to be a statement game.

 

As a Dolphins fan I'm always going to have that nagging thought in the back of my head that something will go wrong.  Adam Gase has proven time and time again that his team finds ways to win rather than botch it.  I expect this to be a ho hum, comfortable victory for Miami.  They will show up ready to play and will not revert to the level of their opponent. 

 

Miami  27

 

New York 17

Rich Rodriguez, PhinfeverThe Good

Jay Ajayi found holes and broke tackles on his way to 122 yards on the ground against a defense that had not allowed a 100 yard rusher in 17 straight games.

Jay Cutler made it work, playing a fairly clean game in his Dolphins debut. He had 230 yards and 1 TD pass with a QB rating of 101.8.

Devante Parker and Jarvis Landry made the Dolphins passing game go. Parker had a couple of big grabs, showing his catch radius. One of these should have been an interception by Casey Harward, but Parker simply snatched it out of his hands for a 31 yard catch. Landry continued his volume catching play, with 13 catches for 78 yards.

The Dolphins main weakness last season, stopping the run, seems to have been addressed. The Chargers only gained 44 yards on the ground, with Melvin Gordon only getting 13 yards on 9 carries. The main contributors to this stout run defense were Ndamukong Suh, with two tackles for loss, William Hayes with 1.5 tackles for loss, and Mike Hull and Kiko Alonso with 1 tackle for a loss each. Hull in particular had 10 total tackles, 7 solo. With Lawrence Timmons going AWOL, it was good to see Hull step up. William Hayes, brought in for his run stopping prowess, also contributed the only Dolphins sack of the day.

Cody Parkey was 4 of 4 on field goals, including the 54 yard game winner.

The Bad

Where was the pass coverage and pass rush? When you stop the run so effectively, you're putting the other team in unfavorable pass situations and yet we could not capitlize. Philip Rivers complated 31 of 39 passes for 331 yards. The Dolphins pass coverage seemed helpless in stopping Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry, Melvin Gordon and Tyrell Williams. I know it's hard to find fault with a defense that goes on the road and gives up 17 points, but the pass defense seemed inept.

The Ugly

The playcalling in the 1st half and towards the end of the game was puzzling. It seemed as if Adam Gase was trying to protect Cutler in the 1st half by having him throw a bunch of passes that only traveled 5 yards or less in the air. Perhaps there was fear of rust or lack of chemistry with all his new teammates. Thankfully, it appears the Dolphins did give us a glimpse of what this offense can look like when they opened it up a bit in the second half. Cutler started hitting more passes downfield. But there were still some head scratching playcalls. Cutler running a read option on one play. The last three offensive plays of the game looked like "give up" football. And calling a timeout with 10 seconds left when the Chargers were out of timeouts and appeared confused about how to manage the clock to kick a field goal was the ultimate head scratcher. Maybe Gase felt the tone of the game dictated a conservative approach and we did win in the end, but I hope we clean up these gaffes.

Overall

Look, the Dolphins won. They won after not playing competitive football for three weeks. They won despite being displaced by Hurricane Irma. They won despite their starting QB being out for the year and having to replace him with a guy that was retired. They won despite Lawrence Timmons going AWOL. The bottom line is that they won and continued to display the toughness that led them to so many close wins last year. It is something to build upon and hopefully we see the offense and defense continue to improve as the season goes on. The schedule will start to get pretty tough later in the season, so hopefully the trajectory on the quality of play and coaching is up.

Next up, a team that is shamelessly playing for the 1st pick in the draft. Let's help them get there!

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