The Jets need better pass protection in Week 8 to beat the Dolphins.
Gang Green had been reeling after losing 34-0 on their home turf against the San Francisco 49ers (5-2). That embarrassing defeat coupled with the critical personnel losses of cornerback Darrelle Revis and wide receiver Santonio Holmes, and it seemed as though the Jets were headed full flight into a tailspin.
However, they proved that they're not ready to quit yet in their Week 7 defeat.
For the Jets to turn their tumultuous season upside down and seize control as the season's second half looms ahead, more needs to be improved upon aside from flashing grit and determination. A lot has seemingly changed for the Jets after 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers accused New York of "quitting."
"It kinda seemed like, after a while they just, I know, looking at their defense, they didn't want to be out there," exclaimed Rogers emphatically on Sirius XM Radio, following the Jets humiliating defeat in Week 4.
The Jets have regrouped since then and have also adapted to the bounty of injuries they've suffered. They have an opportunity in Week 8 to improve their divisional record to 3-1 and sweep the season series against the rival Dolphins, while also ending the season's first half on a high note, headed into their bye week.
Mark Sanchez will largely determine whether the Jets can mount some serious momentum in beating the Miami Dolphins. His success is also hugely relevant to the Jets offensive game plan. Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano entered Foxborough with confidence in Sanchez, that the highly scrutinized quarterback would perform well enough to expose a below average Patriots secondary and give his team a legitimate opportunity to win.
Who will win this Week 8 matchup?
Sanchez achieved that even though the Jets dropped their fourth game of the season.
Sanchez also successfully executed a run-heavy offensive attack in Week 6 against the Colts (3-3), who surrender 141.7 rushing yards per game. Sanchez threw for just 82 yards on 11 completions in the win, but threw two touchdown passes and did not commit a turnover.
He'll need to efficiently expose a Dolphins secondary that yields 284.8 yards per game through the air, the same task Sanchez had to achieve to give the Jets a chance in New England.
The Dolphins rush defense is among the best in football, ranking fourth overall while surrendering just 78.2 yards on the ground per contest. That stat doesn't bode well for struggling running back Shonn Greene, who has failed to rush for more than 100 yards in six of his seven starts this season.
It's not likely that the Jets are going to successfully "ground and pound" their way to victory in Week 8, meaning that the offensive line needs to improve on a mediocre performance against the Patriots, where they gave up four sacks, including a fumble-forcing hit by linebacker Rob Ninkovich in overtime to seal the Jets loss.
Aside from quarterback efficiency and pass protection, the Jets also need to shore up a Dolphins rush attack that racked up 185 rushing yards on the stat sheet against them in Week 3. New York won that game by a narrow three-point margin (23-20), but was ultimately the benefactor of a first half injury to speedy tailback Reggie Bush, and two missed field goals by Dan Carpenter, including a potential game-winner in overtime.
The Dolphins are going to try to win the game on the ground if they can. They average 119 rushing yards per game as rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill has committed eight turnovers through the first six starts of his career. The Jets should be able to pressure Tannehill in passing downs if the defensive line can clog the middle of the field and force the Dolphins to rely more heavily on the pass.
The absence of run-stopping nose tackle Sione Pouha has made stuffing the run between the tackles difficult for the Jets. So, expect the Dolphins to attempt to establish the run up the middle. The Jets have been effective in stopping the run in the nickel package, meaning that they're able to rush defensive backs in passing downs. Look for the Jets to use disguise blitz coverage in play action situations, and force Tannehill into throwing the ball into traffic.
It'll be crucial for the Jets to limit the Dolphins ground attack considering their lackluster pass rush. They need to confuse Tannehill into forcing passes down-field to create takeaway opportunities, allowing for Sanchez to gain some momentum on offense while also controlling the time of possession.
Give the Jets a slight edge at home against the Dolphins, but don't expect New York to win with ease. Even though the Jets performed well in defeat against the Patriots, they still turned the ball over twice, conceited a safety on a botched snap, surrendered a 104-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and relinquished a three point lead with less than 90 seconds remaining in regulation.
The Jets are still a flawed football team, but given the recent poise and leadership demonstrated by Sanchez in properly executing the offensive game plan in his team's past two games, and the ability of a Revis-deprived defense to readjust to remain relatively forceful against top-tier offenses, the Jets have a tremendous opportunity to break mid-season just one game behind their ultimate rival for the lead in the AFC East.