Who: Dolphins (0-2) at Jaguars (1-1)
When: Thursday, September 24, 8:20 EDT
Where: TIAA Bank Field
Weather: 76 degrees, partly cloudy, 84% humidity
The NFL's two youngest teams will square off in primetime as the Dolphins make the short flight north over I-95 in search of win No. 1 on the 2020 season.
Like the Dolphins a year ago, the Jaguars acquired an impressive haul of draft capital and are playing hard for their head coach. Both teams rallied late Sunday but came up short in divisional contests as both teams look for a win Thursday to carry momentum into a mini bye weekend.
This game will serve as the first in prime time for a lot of young players, but not for Jacksonville's Gardner Minshew. Minshew Mania was born on a Thursday Night Football game last year – also in Week 3 – when he threw for a pair of touchdowns in his first career win.
The Dolphins defense looks to bounce back on a short week under the prime time lights. This matchup pits two young teams that are still developing their chemistry, camaraderie and identity in a unique season and provides plenty of intrigue to cover in the battle for Florida.
Wednesday Injury Report
The Dolphins will be without cornerback Byron Jones (groin), he's been ruled out. Safety Clayton Fejedelem is doubtful with a pectoral injury.
The Jaguars will be without center Brandon Linder (knee) and kicker Josh Lambo (left hip). Wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. (chest), is questionable for the game.
The season started with a bang for Jacksonville and quarterback Gardner Minshew. The former Washington State Cougar threw just one incompletion and three touchdown passes in the season-opening win over Indianapolis. He followed the hat trick opener with another one in the Week 2 loss at Tennessee. Coming from the air raid in college, Minshew processes defenses quickly and has a flare for the dramatic. He has 12 runs of 10-or-more yards in his young career and a passer rating of 94.2.
Running back James Robinson has nearly double the snaps of Jacksonville's No. 2 back (Chris Thompson). Robinson is the first undrafted rookie running back to start opening day in the NFL since 1990. He's rushed for 164 yards and a touchdown early in his rookie season.
Robinson runs behind a line with plenty of continuity. The Jaguars returned all five starters on the offensive line and, through two games, they've allowed only 13 pressures on the quarterback, per PFF. Minshew is credited for responsibility with five of those pressures and three sacks. Four of the Jacksonville linemen grade above positional average on Pro Football Focus.
D.J. Chark produced his first 1,000-yard season in 2019 and has only 109 yards in the first two games. He's a sudden, shifty receiver with plenty of speed to burn. Rookie Laviska Shenault Jr. will test the Dolphins' ability to tackle in space with a thick lower half and the ability to bounce off defenders.
Defensively, the show is run by Myles Jack and Joe Schobert. We'll have more on them and defensive end Josh Allen in a moment.
In the secondary, Jacksonville is young. Rookie C.J. Henderson starts alongside Tre Herndon, who's in his second year as a starter. A first-round pick, Henderson is limiting quarterbacks to a 53.8 percent completion rate in the early going, while Herndon is at an even 50 percent completion percentage. Josh Jones looks to have found a home in his third NFL city. Seven of his 19 tackles this season qualify as run stops (tackles within two yards of the line of scrimmage, per PFF).
Dolphins Pass Rush vs. Jaguars Offensive Line
Minshew plays high-efficiency football with a dash of magic. His off-script playmaking can't be planned for, but making the pocket an uncomfortable area can be a winning recipe against the youngster, or any quarterback for that matter.
When under duress in 2019, Minshew averaged just 5.3 yards per pass attempt with a 41.9 percent completion rate. He also finished his rookie year tied for the fourth-most fumbles. When kept clean, Minshew completed 68.3 percent of his passes averaging 7.6 yards per attempt, per PFF.
Of Miami's 19 quarterback pressures, seven have come from the interior rush (Christian Wilkins 3, Raekwon Davis 2, Davon Godchaux 2). Additionally, linebackers Jerome Baker and Kyle Van Noy have registered a pressure each rushing from the B-gaps (space between the offensive guard and tackle).
All but four of Jacksonville's pressures allowed have come from the interior offensive line, quarterback, or running back in pass protection. Forcing Minshew off the spot and covering on the backend will be critical. Look for Wilkins' quickness and crafty rush arsenal to make an impact.
Josh Allen vs Jesse Davis and Austin Jackson
No returning Jacksonville defender had more quarterback pressures in 2019 than Josh Allen. After one pressure in the opener, Allen started to heat up with three pressures in the Week 2 loss at Tennessee. The No. 7 overall pick 2019 vaulted his draft stock with a 17-sack senior season at Kentucky. He combines a rare blend of length and athletic ability, something the Dolphins discovered for themselves last preseason when Allen picked up a pair of sacks in the exhibition game.
After 10.5 sacks as a rookie, Allen is looking for his first of the 2020 season. The 262-pound edge player with 33.5-inch arms and 4.63 40-yard dash speed splits his pass-rush operation evenly between right and left – a 54 to 46 percent disparity, per PFF.
When Allen lines up off the offense's left, he'll get athletic rookie Austin Jackson, who hasn't allowed a quarterback hit in two games. Off the right, Allen will draw battle-tested veteran Jesse Davis, who's allowed only five pressures this season.
Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Myles Jack and Joe Schobert
All but three of Jacksonville's 16 quarterback pressures have come from down linemen. Myles Jackson and Joe Schobert are primarily coverage linebackers as the Todd Wash defense – with his Seattle Seahawks roots under the famous Cover 3 of Pete Carroll – emphasizes rushing with four. The two linebackers have played a total of 272 reps and rushed the passer a combined 13 times, per PFF.
That means Ryan Fitzpatrick will have to work to influence these instinctive, rangy linebackers to pick apart the middle of the field, an area he has utilized a lot in the first two games. Fitzpatrick is 34-of-42 in passes over the middle this season with 363 yards and two touchdowns, per PFF.
Jack lead Jacksonville's defense in a plethora of categories. He's made the most tackles (16), run stops (13) and sacks (1, tied with K'Lavon Chaisson) on the team and has just one missed tackle on the season.
Schobert led all NFL linebackers in 2019 (as a member of the Browns) with four interceptions. He also broke up nine passes and forced two fumbles.
Fitzpatrick repeatedly went to work on in-breaking routes to a variety of targets Sunday vs. Buffalo. A lot of that was set up through play action – Fitzpatrick had the highest completion percentage differential (28.2) between play-pass and traditional set ups, per PFF. His ability to influence the two players Jacksonville never takes off the field could have a big impact on the result.
The Jacksonville offense ran 122 plays in their first two games, the sixth-fewest in the NFL. The primary grouping Jacksonville calls on is 11-personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR). New Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden dials up his bread and butter 62 percent of the time (75 snaps). The Jaguars don't have a secondary package that stands out significantly from the rest. The offense used 21-peronnel (2 RB, 1 TE, 2 WR) 11.6 percent of the time with 12-personnel (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR) on seven percent of the snaps.
Jacksonville will utilize the versatility on offense to get into different personnel groupings – most notably through Shenault. The diverse rookie has been out wide 45 times, in the slot 15 times, in the backfield on 10 occasions, inline three times and even played quarterback for one direct snap.
This approach allows Jacksonville to get into empty looks and let Minshew use his quick trigger and decisive approach to get the football out before the rush can arrive. The ball comes out in less than 2.5 seconds on 54 percent of Minshew's drop backs and he's completing 81 percent of those passes.
Jacksonville has a pair of linebackers that haven't left the field this season in Jack and Schobert. They are joined by Herndon (99.3 percent), Henderson (90.4 percent) and Jones (98.5 percent) as the five defenders with more than 90 percent workloads through two weeks.
Jack and Schobert rarely come after the quarterback. Jacksonville dials up the blitz just 9.6 percent of the time, seventh-fewest in the NFL.
Final Thoughts and Game Notes
Jacksonville leads the all-time series 5-4 courtesy of the 1999 AFC Divisional round win over Miami, the only playoff meeting between the two teams. The Dolphins haven't beaten the Jaguars since 2014 with Jacksonville boasting a two-game winning streak over their in-state rival.
Both defenses will have their conditioning put to the test. In their 3-point defeats Sunday, both the Dolphins and Jaguars defense saw nine players exceed 40 snaps.
Fitzpatrick has enjoyed success in his career against Jacksonville. He's unbeaten in his last three starts vs. the Jaguars and is looking for his fourth game with a passer rating of 105 or higher in his last five Thursday Night Football starts.
Running back Myles Gaskin had a career-high 82 scrimmage yards last week and aims for his fifth outing in a row with at least 50 scrimmage yards.
Mike Gesicki's career-day (eight receptions for 130 receiving yards) give him 160 receiving yards on the season – the most among NFL tight ends.
We will recap the game late Thursday night (early Friday morning) both on MiamiDolphins.com and on the Drive Time Podcast with Travis Wingfield.