Who: Dolphins (2-3) vs. Jets (0-5)
When: Sunday, October 18, 4:05 EDT
Where: Hard Rock Stadium – Miami, Fla.
Weather: 85 degrees, 74% humidity, 50% chance of precipitation, 15 MPH winds
In victories over Jacksonville and San Francisco this season, Miami raced out to 14-0 leads in a flash. Both games saw the offense drive down the field with a balance of the run and pass game, producing some separation on the scoreboard. The defense held up its end with a three-and-out, a fourth down stop and a four-down series to get the ball right back to the offense for the early leads in those two contests.
"We always talk about playing fast, starting fast. It's something that we harp on, on a weekly basis," Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores said.
From there, the defense teed off. In the two games combined, Miami racked up eight sacks, four takeaways and allowed 30 total points. Pro Football Focus credited the Dolphins with 45 quarterback pressures in the two games, from 13 different players.
The win generated some good vibes and validation of a good week of work on the practice field and in the classroom. The result also creates confidence, something quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick believes is invaluable to this young Dolphins team.
"We've got a lot of young guys on both sides of the ball, so having that feeling of confidence early and knowing that we're going to play well, I think that really helps out, especially with some of the youth and inexperience that we have on the team," Fitzpatrick said.
The Dolphins were originally scheduled to travel to Denver this week, but 2020 is a year of change. Flores addressed the schedule change Sunday just a few hours after the league announced sweeping changes Miami's schedule.
"It's a different year and everyone's got to adjust and be flexible," Flores said. "We've been talking about that all year and we're going to have to do that. We've got coaches breaking down film of the Jets (Sunday) morning and I'm sure they're doing the same thing, but we've just got to adapt and that's what we'll do."
Thursday Injury Report
For the latest Dolphins-Jets injury report, click here.
Head Coach Adam Gase announced that quarterback Sam Darnold would not play in the game Sunday. It'll be the second consecutive missed start for Darnold on an offense battling a lot of injuries. Rookie wide receiver Denzel Mims returned to practice Wednesday, so New York could see the second-round pick make his NFL debut.
Alex Lewis returned to practiced in a limited capacity Thursday after missing Wednesday's practice. He's one of two Jets offensive lineman with 100 percent of the snaps played (Greg Van Roten). Promising rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton has not practiced this week after missing last week's game against the Cardinals.
Former Dolphins linebacker Neville Hewitt is second on the Jets defense with 99.1 percent of the snaps played. Safety Marcus Maye leads them in that department (99.7 percent). Fellow safety Bradley McDougald is the only other defender with more than 80 percent of the defensive snaps played.
Run it Back
This is a two-pronged matchup highlight. First, the Dolphins pass catchers got vertical repeatedly against the 49ers and could have a similar opportunity this week. Last year in the home game vs. the Jets, Ryan Fitzpatrick completed three passes on throws over 20 yards for 72 yards and a touchdown, according to Pro Football Focus. Last week, he completed 5-of-6 of such throws for 199 yards and two touchdowns. This season, Fitzpatrick has an average intended air yards of 8.0 compared to 6.7 average completed air yards – in layman's terms, Miami's passing game likes to be vertical.
The Dolphins' isolation and 50-50-ball game is solid with DeVante Parker, Preston Williams and Mike Gesicki jumping over defenders to make big plays. In the game at Hard Rock Stadium last year, those three combined for 15 receptions, 224 yards and three touchdowns.
Defensively, Miami put constant pressure on the 49ers quarterbacks (both Jimmy Garoppolo and C.J. Beathard), particularly coming from the interior. Of Miami's 19 pressures last week, only five came from players rushing off either edge, per PFF. Interior pressure tends to be more volatile against elusive quarterback like Russell Wilson and Josh Allen. Flacco piled up over 40,000 career passing yards as a more traditional, pocket passer. The Dolphins must make him uncomfortable.
What can you say about Ryan Fitzpatrick? The fifth-highest Total QBR in the NFL this season, the highest Total QBR for a single game at 99.1 last week and fourth-highest mark with his 97.2 QBR in Week 3. He also has the highest single-game passer rating of 2020 with his nearly perfect 154.5 mark last week (158.3 maximum). The 16-year veteran is dealing.
Carefully choosing spots to throw against Pierre Desir might be a wise decision. He's tied for the league lead with three interceptions.
When Fitzpatrick is feeling it, as he was last week, the Dolphins offense is really in sync. Fitzpatrick discussed the trust he has in his own encyclopedia of football knowledge, which he's developed through 16 years of NFL experience.
"A lot of it is experience and film study and just kind of years of accumulating this catalog in the back of mind of things that I really like," Fitzpatrick said.
Desir is second among all Jets cornerbacks playing in 77.8 percent of the defense's snaps. Brian Poole (203 of his 285 snaps coming from the slot, per PFF) leads the way with 80.1 percent and Bless Austin is next at 61.4 percent. Austin has been limited this week with a calf injury.
Keep Quinnen Quiet
In the run-up to the 2019 NFL Draft Quinnen Williams' name was often associated with Kyler Murray and Nick Bosa as potential No. 1 overall picks. He went third, much to the delight of the Jets. Williams ranks in the top 10 in both of ESPN's newly developed analytics for measuring pass rush and run stop win rates. Among defensive tackles, Williams ranks ninth in pass-rush win rate (15 percent) and fifth in run-stop win rate (44 percent). Christian Wilkins ranks third among defensive tackles in run-stop win rate at 47 percent, for comparison's sake.
The Dolphins remade interior offensive line has been up to the task so far this season. Between Ereck Flowers, Ted Karras and Solomon Kindley, opposing interior pass rushes have just 16 pressures and one sack against Miami's middle three, per PFF.
Offensively, the Jets have run 313 plays this season with 225 of those snaps coming out of 11-personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WRs) – the 71.9 percent clip is the fifth-highest rate in the league. The only other offensive packages with more than 15 snaps are 12- and 13-personnel – two and three tight end sets.
Gregg Williams is one of the game's most aggressive defensive coordinators and play callers. His defense often puts 10 bodies up on the line of scrimmage and is the 12th-most frequent blitzing team this year at 30.7 percent, per Pro Football Reference. The Jets are primarily a nickel team – 256 of the 327 defensive snaps have come in five defensive back packages (78.3 percent).
When the Dolphins dial up 11-personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WRs), Mike Gesicki could see a matchup with a linebacker. In the two games last year, Gesicki was targeted three times catching all three for 67 yards against Jets linebackers.
Final Thoughts and Game Notes
Darnold has been declared out for the game, which means it's Flacco making his second start as a member of the Jets. Last week, Flacco completed 18-of-33 passes for 195 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. It was the first start for the former Super Bowl MVP since last October when he was a member of the Denver Broncos.
The Dolphins defense is coming off its biggest sack production output since a 2018 Week 16 game vs. Jacksonville. Linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel and defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah both had strip-sacks and the team totaled eight quarterback hits. The win in San Francisco was also Miami's lowest passing yards allowed (128) since that 2018 Jacksonville game.
The Dolphins can cut the Jets' all-time regular season series lead to a two-game advantage – New York leads 55-52-1 heading into Sunday.
Last week was a good practice run with the late start. Kickoff is at 4:05 EDT again, so we'll have the recap story, Sunday spotlight and Drive Time Podcast with Travis Wingfield available Sunday evening.