It is game day. Well, it's game night day, if you can keep your time elements in line. The Jets and Dolphins go at it at Sun Life Stadium tonight and I wish to share a couple of items with you.
First, I offer to you my Sunday column that shares with you a story Tony Sparano told his team a while back and doesn't really want out in public. I share it with you in the column because it fits perfectly for tonight's meeting between the Jets and Dolphins.
Even when I asked Patrick Cobbs about it, he said, "I see where you're going with this." So please check out the column.
As for the actual game itself. Let us break it down, shall we?
When the Dolphins run the ball: It’s hard to believe that the Jets wouldn’t have missed Kris Jenkins, because the few times he’s been healthy the past four seasons he’s been among the better interior lineman in the NFL. But Sione Pouha has taken over at nose tackle and, along with his mates, is part of the No. 3 overall run defense. Think that will dissuade the Dolphins from running the ball? Absolutely not. The Dolphins will contend with eight men in the box if they must, but they will not give up on running the ball. The Miami plan is to rush it 30 times tonight. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, usually reliable, are coming off a game in which each had a fumble. That is not acceptable to the Miami coaching staff and it cannot become a habit against a quality opponent. ADVANTAGE: Miami.
When the Dolphins pass the ball: The idea is to always get the ball to Brandon Marshall first and foremost and the Jets know this so they will likely double Miami’s best wide receiver. Marshall has been an interesting study this week. He's geared up for this game. He's been demanding excellence in practice. He's been spending some extra time in the film room. He refused to speak with the media, apparently because he didn't want any attention on himself or say the wrong thing. Guess he thinks he can sneak up on the Jets. The likely matchup will match Marshall versus Antonio Cromartie, who is familiar with Marshall from their days in the AFC West. Marshall had one game against Cromartie in 2008 in which he caught 18 passes for 166 yards. The Dolphins pass when necessary rather than as a first-option, but last season, Chad Henne surprised the New York defense by completing 20 of 26 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns in the first meeting between the two. The Jets shut down Henne in the second game, limiting him to 12 completion and 112 yards, but Henne did not throw a pick in either contest. The most important aspect of this game is Darrelle Revis will not play against the Dolphins, meaning New York will be without their best defensive back and likely their best defensive player overall. ADVANTAGE: Miami.
When the Jets run the ball: The Dolphins will be without rookie defensive Jared Odrick for the second consecutive week but seem to have a solid solution to the issue as last week they moved Randy Starks from nose tackle back to the end spot where he played well last year. Paul Soliai, starting at nose tackle, played well according to coaches. He would face perhaps the most talented center in the AFC East in Nick Mangold, but Mangold has missed practice time this week with a shoulder injury. Last week the Dolphins allowed 145 yards by Adrian Peterson. “It’s on film,” defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said, meaning the Dolphins must now prove they can stop the run because the Jets saw what the Vikings did and will try to exploit the problems the Dolphins had stopping the run a week ago. ADVANTAGE: New York.
When the Jets pass the ball: Braylon Edward, he of the Taliban beard and DWI arrest, will not start because of last week’s troubles. But those close to the Jets don’t believe that will cause Edwards to miss a significant portion of this game after he sits out the first play. Edwards typically misses no more than a handful of offensive plays per game and this one might not be any different. One thing the Dolphins must be ready for is the unleashing of former Miami WR Patrick Turner. He was promoted from the Jets practice squad to their 53-man roster and is likely to be active for this game, nearly equaling the number of games he was active for as a rookie with the Dolphins. Regardless of which Jets receiver is in the game (their best one, Santonio Holmes is suspended), the Dolphins will be looking to confound New York quarterback Mark Sanchez with multiple fronts, multiple looks in the secondary and multiple pressures. Sanchez, athletic and mobile, is very good with the naked boot in one direction and throwing back to tight end Dustin Keller coming across the field. The Jets have not had a 300-yard passer in a game since 2006. ADVANTAGE: Even.
Special teams: The Dolphins are outstanding in kickoff and punt coverage but are downright inept in their return game. That’s one reason Cliff Smith was waived this week and will no longer be the kick and punt returner. Smith seemed hesitant during the two weeks he held the job. The work now likely goes to Davone Bess on punt returns and Nolan Carroll and Patrick Cobbs on kick returns. Former Dolphins special teams coach Mike Westhoff is running the special teams for the Jets now. Jim Leonhard’s 16.3 punt return average is fourth best in the NFL. ADVANTAGE: New York.
Coaching: These two teams mirror the personality of their coaches. The Jets are a loose, brash, physical, aggressive, perhaps undisciplined bunch. The Dolphins are a tight-lipped, low-key, aggressive, physical, disciplined bunch. Rex Ryan took the Jets to the AFC title game in his first season. Tony Sparano led the Dolphins to a series sweep over the Jets last season and has beaten New York three consecutive times. ADVANTAGE: Miami.
[BLOG NOTE: There will be a live blog of the game this evening so come back in the hour or so leading up to kickoff.]