Sunday, 23 September 2012

Preview: New York Jets @ Miami Dolphins

The Jets travel to Miami today, desperate to take a winning record and some momentum into a ferocious section of schedule; they take on the Texans, 49ers and Patriots over the next four weeks. It's also an interesting homecoming for Tony Sparano, sacked by the 'phins last year but now back as a coordinator. The Dolphins are also 1-1, and keen to show the league that their victory over Oakland was a demonstration of their own ability, not simply a reflection of the Raiders' ineptitude.

3 Key Matchups to Watch

Randy Starks vs Jets' Interior Front

Randy Starks has been one of the Dolphins' best performers this year, and Jets fans remember with great pain his two interceptions of Mark Sanchez last year. Paul Soliai will have his hands full trying to hold his ground against all-pro center Nick Mangold, so the Dolphins will be looking for Starks to disrupt the Jets offense by overcoming the Matt Slauson/Vlad Ducasse rotation at left guard.

LaRon Landry vs Reggie Bush

Speed kills. Rex Ryan said as much when addressing CJ Spiller's success against the Jets week one, and it's speed more than anything else that has put Reggie Bush in the enviable position of being the NFL's second leading rusher. The Jets have upgraded their speed in a few positions precisely in order to give themselves a chance against backs like Bush, and nowhere is this more evident than at safety. Landry has 4.3 speed, can hit, and can tackle. If he has a big game, it will majorly undermine the Dolphins' efforts to get Bush going to the outside.

Ryan Tannehill vs Yeremiah Bell

The Dolphins' rookie quarterback had a solid game against Oakland, showcasing the willingness and arm talent to consistently drive the ball outside the numbers. Unfortunately for him, the Jets do a great job of locking down the outside, and are much more vulnerable in the middle of the field, covered by slower players like Bell, Scott and Harris. Tannehill has a good chance to consistently move the chains by making touch throws down the seam off play action, and has personnel in Davone Bess and Anthony Fasano who can do this with him.  If the wily veteran Bell, who has 13 years on the rookie, can get on top of these he has a good chance to crown his homecoming with big plays on the ball.

Quick Hits

Flatline- If Darelle Revis is fully fit, I'd be very surprised to see Brian Hartline achieve anything against his coverage. It's time for Joe Philbin's wide receiving by committee to come into it's own, which means players like Legedu Naanee stepping up to another level.

Holmes, sweet Holmes- After melting down spectacularly in Miami last year, Santonio Holmes returns to Miami as arguably the most important factor in the matchup. The Dolphins simply don't have anyone who can cover him at his best, so if he can stay focused he should have his first 100 yard game of the year.

High School Connection- With Dustin Keller and John Conner both out for this game, Konrad Reuland will be seeing increased action as both a TE and an h-back, after catching two passes against Pittsburgh. Though the recent waiver claim has had little time to pick up the Jets playbook, he does have a leg up on chemistry with the Quarterback, since he used to catch passes from him at Mission Viejo HS in California.

Miller Time - Though Daniel Thomas is also probable for this afternoon's game, the Jets do a pretty good job of shutting down power backs of his ilk. When Bush needs to be spelled, Miami would do well to turn to the quick rookie Miller, who recorded his first career TD against Oakland.

Air Sanchez- The Dolphins do an exceptional job defending the run, and the Jets really struggled to move the chains with Ground and Pound against the Steelers. The Jets should strive for balance, but they need to see Mark Sanchez have success in traditional passing situations and plays if they want to win this game.

Waiting for Wake- Cameron Wake will be eyeing this matchup with great relish. Though he inexplicably struggled against Wayne Hunter last year, the Dolphins' elite pass rusher will be lined up opposite the inexperienced Austin Howard all day, and has every reason to fancy his chances of getting his hands on Mark Sanchez.

Changing it up- If the Jets are serious about establishing the run in Miami then they need to employ all the variety at their disposal. In addition to looking to wear down the Miami linebackers with the bruising Shonn Greene, the Jets should be looking to incorporate Tim Tebow and Joe McKnight into the gameplan to try and generate some big plays.

Dazed and Confused- Ryan Tannehill has an enormous mental challenge ahead in the Jets defense. He'll be seeing all sorts of disguised blitzes and coverages from the Ryan/Pettine scheme, and needs to have the discipline to make his reads, not panic, and not throw hot reads to Revis island.

Hello, Goodbye- Having cut Jets' great Bryan Thomas on Saturday night, albeit a temporary move to allow room for Donnie Fletcher, Gang Green are hoping they can welcome Garret McIntyre to their playmakers list. He has a stern challenge ahead in the form of All-Pro Left tackle Jake Long. McIntyre has had struggles to tackle in the open field, so Reggie Bush will also be a fierce test of his ability to be the new starter full time.

Fields of Gold- The Dolphins could be punting a lot today, but they have the man to do it in Brandon Fields. If Fields shows up to play, it could be tough for the Jets to consistently drive 90 yards down the turf. Look for the Dolphins to prioritise ball security, keep the Jets pinned back, and let their defense keep them in the game until the bitter end.

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