1) Keep Jets Grounded
Good, disciplined football teams usually find ways to execute more efficiently over the course of a 60-minute game. They use those qualities to win games they're supposed to win. That's exactly what needs to happen this week against the winless New York Jets. The Dolphins have been a team that's taken advantage of turnovers, field position and explosive plays led by their defense and special teams. The offense has been a complementary partner, moving the chains with efficiency, and scoring touchdowns when expected inside the red zone. I don't expect this model to always sustain itself when facing playoff-caliber football teams, but the Jets do not fall into that category! Keeping the defensive pressure up on either quarterback Sam Darnold will be paramount this Sunday, especially with the Jets three starting wide receivers all healthy and ready to roll. Miami would like to follow the trend they started a few weeks ago when their five-game win streak started. That road map begins by starting fast and taking an early lead. Winning field position and taking advantage of the tilted field, forcing the opposing team to chase the lead. This resulted in turnovers, and mental and physical mistakes for Miami's opponents during that stretch. Miami has been very good this season in not beating themselves with turnovers and penalties, and that trend needs to continue this week. If so, the Dolphins should get their seventh win of the year.
2) Own the Line of Scrimmage
Last week against the Denver Broncos wasn't the week Miami wanted to have on either side of the line of scrimmage. Missing one-on-one blocks at the point of attack and not picking up simple twists in pass protection led to multiple three-and-outs by the offense. It also prevented a young quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa to get any sense of rhythm going in the pass offense. Simply put, Denver was the better team and the Dolphins didn't have answers on the ground or through the air. Defensively, it started perfectly by pressuring the pocket, and forcing a turnover. However, once the Broncos started to pull guards and tackles on the edge of the Miami defense, they started to control the game. They were able to create balance in their offense, getting explosive plays both in the their run game and passing attack. This kept the Dolphins defense on their heels for most of the game. Don't believe for one moment that you won't see Jets running backs Frank Gore or Ty Johnson following a big offensive lineman trying to duplicate what Denver had so much success in executing last week. It's a copycat league and until you prove you can stop certain blocking schemes, you can bet you'll continue to see some kind of version week after week. It will help the Dolphins defense up front that Christian Wilkins will return against the Jets. He's been a consistent force up front, that likes to reset the line of scrimmage. Also, offensive tackle Jesse Davis should be available as well, giving the offensive line six healthy bodies to rotate in and hopefully play with more consistency, eliminating the physical and mental errors from last week.
3) Play Your Game
The numbers certainly favor the Dolphins getting their seventh win of the season on Sunday. New York ranks either last or close to last in every meaningful offensive or defensive statistic that I can find. Anything is possible when these two teams meet. That's why the Dolphins need to put it all together using all three phases of their game well against the Jets. Tagovailoa and the pass offense must take advantage of a young Jets secondary, just like the Chargers did last week. That can only happen if the offensive line does their part, providing protection and getting some sense of a running game going to complement the pass. As I mentioned earlier, the Jets numbers, especially on offense, aren't something to brag about. Yet, injecting quarterback Sam Darnold into an offense with a healthy group that includes Breshad Perriman, Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder can possibly turn things around for one week. Miami's defense is best when it attacks, turning up the pressure and not allowing opposing quarterbacks the time for things to develop. Creating havoc up front means less time in pass coverage for the secondary. It forces inaccurate throws that lead to incompletions and punts! The Dolphins kicking game and coverage teams are arguably the best in the NFL. Both Jason Sanders and Matt Haack have consistently done their part in leading the special teams units, putting the Dolphins in position to win games. Miami needs to jump right back this week to playing winning football. Who their opponent is lining up across them or what they record may be should not matter for this group, as they have created a "next team up mentality" all season.