Miami Dolphins: Defensive Keys to Success Against the Jets in Week 3

Alessandro MiglioFeatured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2012

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 04:  Linebacker Cameron Wake #91 of the Miami Dolphins hits Quarterback Carson Plamer #3 of the Oakland Raiders at Sun Life Stadium on December 4, 2011 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  Miami defeated the Raiders 34-14. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images

Last week we took a look at Ryan Tannehill’s batted balls against a tough Houston front on the road. As it turns out, the Texans are pretty good at doing that—J.J. Watt had two more against Jacksonville in Week 2.

This week, let’s take a look at the Dolphins defense and how they can help beat the Jets on Sunday. 

It is no secret that Mark Sanchez has not been good when pressured in the pocket.  He has ranked in the bottom five in accuracy percentage when pressured in each of his three years in the league. The past two seasons, he has ranked dead last among quarterbacks who took at least 50 percent of their team’s snaps.

The Dolphins played a relatively vanilla defense against the Jets, blitzing Carson Palmer on just 19 of 49 pass plays. Some of that probably had to do with the fact that Palmer threw the ball to Darren McFadden 837 times in Week 1, and some of it likely has to do with Palmer’s relative effectiveness when under pressure. 

This is what we saw for much of the day:

They are in a base 4-3 defense here. Standard vanilla stuff.

Miami was just burned by a 65-yard touchdown pass to Mike Goodson, and they seem to want to prevent that. The wideouts are given a cushion as the linebackers drop back into coverage.

The Jets receivers were pressed quite a bit against the Steelers and were unable to get separation for much of the day as a result. Can the Dolphins limit Sanchez with this sort of defense?

In a shocking turn of events, Carson Palmer throws the ball to Run DMC here, who drops it. Miami will not have to deal with a running back of his caliber on Sunday, though. Perhaps a bit more aggressiveness on defense is in order.

Sanchez lit up the Bills in the Jets' Week 1 rout. Part of it was a Bills secondary that seemed overwhelmed at times—how else do you explain Jets receivers being so open all game long—but Buffalo’s supposedly improved pass rush was also nonexistent.

Mario Williams and that defensive front got pressure on Sanchez on just six of 27 pass plays, blitzing him a total of six times all game long. The Jets quarterback did a good job of beating the blitz, completing four passes for 70 yards against it in Week 1, but he was clean for most of the game.

He started where he left off against the Steelers, completing four of five passes for 80 yards and a touchdown on New York’s opening drive against a good defense on the road.

Pittsburgh would not take that lying down. Things went downhill for Sanchez after Lawrence Timmons popped him on his first pass attempt of New York's second drive. Timmons would receive a personal foul, but Sanchez would go 6-of-21 for the rest of the game.

The Steelers wisely blitzed Sanchez more than the Bills did. He saw blitzes on 16 of 29 pass plays, more than double the percentage of blitzes he saw against the Bills. Sanchez completed just 43.8 percent of his passes when blitzed in Week 2 for a quarterback rating of 58.3. 

It seems like getting the GQ cover boy dirty could be beneficial to a defense.

Granted, Pittsburgh’s success against Sanchez was not all about pass pressure—New York’s receivers had a much tougher time getting separation than they did against the Bills.

So what does this mean for Miami’s strategy going into a big Week 3 matchup against their hated rival? It is pretty clear what they must do: blitz Mark Sanchez. They must not only blitz him, but get pressure on those blitzes.

Thus far, Miami has blitzed on just 32.5 percent of opponent pass plays through two games. My guess is that number will go up against the Jets.

Taking advantage of some matchups will be important as well. Austin Howard had a strong game at right tackle against Williams in Week 1 but regressed against the Steelers—he gave up a sack, another quarterback hit and four hurries. This seems like a good spot park Cameron Wake. 

Of course, Miami must also continue to perform well against the run. They lead the league with 2.2 yards per carry against after facing the likes of Arian Foster and Darren McFadden. Shonn Greene and his 3.1 YPC should be relatively easy to contain, but Miami's defense cannot relax.

Miami’s defense against Sanchez is the key matchup against the Jets if they are going to win this Sunday. If they can apply pressure often and give Sanchez something to worry about in the pocket, they will make life miserable for him in the Miami heat.


Statistics courtesy of Pro Football Focus.

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