1) Building Early Momentum
Getting off to a fast start is where this young Dolphins team has thrived through five games. In the two wins this season, the Dolphins have held a 14-point lead in the first quarter. The offense was able to stack together positive plays that led to points while the defense set the tone. Getting off the field going three and out defensively last week on the road against San Francisco created the early energy that was needed. Head Coach Brian Flores puts a lot of energy and emphasis in getting off to a fast start, and it's not always a byproduct of explosive plays on offense or a turnover by the defense. Discipline can sometimes play a role in getting off to a clean start. The Dolphins have been very good in this area and need to continue this trend. They're one of the least penalized teams in the league, committing just 23 penalties through five games for a total of 195 yards. New York is on the other side of the spectrum with 38 penalties for 365 yards. There's 170 hidden yards between these two teams and that might be just one small trend to pay attention to this Sunday afternoon.
2) Stay Aggressive
Keeping the pressure on the Jets Sunday is where this team wants to live. A pass-first mentality on offense that opens up the run and screen game seems to create more room for the Dolphins offense to operate. Now I realize that you can't start every game with a Ryan Fitzpatrick to Preston Williams connection for 47 yards, but you get where I'm going. The running game is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry, but their most successful runs have come once the passing game has put the defense on their heels. It also can lead to play-action and some strategic use of the wildcat formation. But the key for me is getting the big three involved early. Stretching the field with Williams, DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki is playing to the Dolphins' strengths. It can be a quick slant from a run formation that isolates one of these big bodied receivers in man to man coverage, or taking a shot downfield and allowing them to win in the air. On defense, using multiple fronts that makes identifying difficult for the Jets offensive line and running backs is what Miami must create. Man coverage with cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Byron Jones could lead to sending an extra linebacker or safety to harass the Jets passing attack. I believe this coaching staff is getting a better read five games in on what exactly this team does well, and I believe one of those traits is playing aggressively.
3) Make Them One Dimensional
Stoping the run, or at least slowing it down, should be a priority every week for a defense. This week is no different facing the Jets offense that's arguably playing without two of their best players on the roster. Quarterback Sam Darnold is still out with a shoulder issue and the Jets released running back Le'Veon Bell earlier this week. Those two vacancies will be hard to overcome on an offense that's only scored 20 points once this season, and is 0-7 when Darnold is out of the starting lineup! The Miami defense must be stout when it comes to first and second down rushing attempts, forcing veteran quarterback Joe Flacco to beat you with inferior talent. Flacco, making his second start of the season, does have some mobility, but would rather stand tall and deliver from the pocket. I would expect to see multiple defensive front looks against an offense that's given up 15 sacks in five games and averaging just above 30 percent on third down. I believe it's a mismatch favoring the Dolphins secondary against the skill unit the Jets will play with on Sunday. This should allow more man coverage on the outside receivers, crowding the line of scrimmage to stop the run. If the Miami defense can slow down veteran running back Frank Gore and rookie La'Mical Perine, who should get more touches with Bell gone, that should be an advantage in Miami's favor.