Jets vs. Dolphins: Sketching out a Game Plan for New York
No one will be handing either team an easy win here. It's going to come down to which team draws up the best game plan, and carries it out most effectively.
Here's what the Jets must do to ensure victory and avoid losing a second straight game.
Mix of Short and Deep Throws
Their secondary, on the other hand, has a few more question marks. Sean Smith and Richard Marshall are solid cornerbacks, but the Dolphins lack talented depth at the position and don't have any standout talent at safety.
They gave up big yards through the air against both the Texans and the Raiders. Although they held their opponents to just two total passing touchdowns, they've given up an average of 7.7 yards per pass attempt (27th in NFL).
The Jets should take to the skies early and often in an attempt to build a lead and eliminate the running game (more on that later), but when they do pass, they need to mix up the deep throws and the short ones.
Last week, the Jets got a little too aggressive, going deeper than 15 yards past the line of scrimmage on 29.6 percent of Sanchez's throws, according to Advanced NFL Stats. When they had the offense firing on all cylinders against the Bills, it was a mix of short and deep throws that got the job done, with Sanchez going deeper than 15 yards on just 18.5 percent of his throws.
The Dolphins, however, have allowed completions on 60 percent of throws 10 yards or more downfield, according to Pro Football Focus; that number is actually higher than their season completion rate allowed of 55.7 percent.
The Jets would be wise to expose the Dolphins' weaknesses on the back end of the defense with deep throws, but short throws will also help slow down the Dolphins' best weapon on defense: pass-rushing monster Cameron Wake.
The real test for the Jets' offense will be their ability to get open on those short routes. The Steelers got physical with the Jets' wide receivers last week, so the Dolphins have something of a blueprint to work with. The Jets simply can't afford to lose the battles at the line of scrimmage on the outsides like they did last week.
Stop Reggie Bush at All Costs
The Jets have been an up-and-down team against the run this season. They were "down" for much of the second half against the Bills and have been "up" for the most part besides that.
But in order to ensure victory over the Dolphins, the Jets can't afford to let the Dolphins make any explosive plays in the running game.
Up front, the Jets are solid with a rotation that includes defensive tackles Muhammad Wilkerson, Kenrick Ellis, Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito. Defensive end Calvin Pace has also been a stalwart setting the edge in run defense.
Wilkerson has been caught out of position a few times, which led to a big run against the Bills and a 13-yard gain against the Steelers. If that continues, the Jets have the depth to sub someone in and may try out Quinton Coples on the edge, whose athleticism should be a good defense for Bush.
The question for me is at linebacker, where they have Bart Scott and David Harris. The Jets are a little slower at the second level, and that just won't do against an ankle-breaking running back like Bush.
I don't care what kind of a lead you have, there's no excuse for being made to look that foolish when you have an easy shot at making the tackle.
The Jets might try giving rookie linebacker Demario Davis a bit more playing time this week. He didn't play a single snap against the Bills and took just four snaps against the Steelers, but his skill set could be a perfect fit for a defensive game plan against a back with quickness like Bush. Scott played better against the run last week, but if the Dolphins are able to expose his lack of speed, subbing in Davis could be worth a try.
The defense has the job of physically shutting down Bush, but the Jets should also try to build an early lead to take away the running game and force the Dolphins to throw. That being said, even if the Jets are able to do so, the Dolphins may still be looking to Bush to make big plays for their offense.
If the Jets are even able to mitigate the damage done by Bush, while making life tough on Tannehill by mixing up the coverage and disguising well on the back end, this should be another banner performance for Rex Ryan's defense.
If they're unable to shut down Bush, though, that opens everything else up, and they could be in for a long day.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand.
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