Dolphins vs. Jets: 9 Ways Miami Can Save Face on National TV
Sure, teams like the Colts, Jaguars and Broncos are all enduring similar struggles, but we expected it from them. Nobody expected the Dolphins, a team with playoff aspirations, to be winless entering Week 6.
But, it's still only Week 6.
However unlikely, the Dolphins can still salvage the wreckage from the first five weeks of this young NFL season.
The playoffs may be an impossibility, but the 'Fins have a chance to win back some pride during their Monday night match up versus the Jets.
Give Matt Moore Freedom to Play with His Own Style
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Matt Moore is a vastly different quarterback than Chad Henne.
He's something of a gunslinger who can move around the pocket and extend plays with his feet.
But will the Dolphins' coaching staff constrict him with overly conservative play-calling like they did with Henne?
Hopefully not, but old habits die hard. Tony Sparano and Brian Daboll need to structure this week's game plan around Moore's strengths—don't make him alter his style for the game plan.
Moore can lead this Dolphins team to victory, but the coaching staff must give him some freedom.
Properly Utilize Reggie Bush
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Although he went largely neglected in the passing game (only two targets), the 'Fins rushed him outside of the tackles to promising success. However, as the game progressed, Brian Daboll and Tony Sparano resorted to running Bush up the middle—a completely futile strategy.
Bush is one of the deadliest players in the league when utilized properly (Watch highlights of him in New Orleans. Often lined up in the slot and catching passes out of the backfield. Used sparingly but wisely in the running game). Now that Daniel Thomas is back from injury, there's no excuse for the 'Fins not to get Bush heavily involved in the passing game and as a change of pace back.
Generate a Heavy Pass Rush on Mark Sanchez
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But we all know that Sanchez can, on occasion, be a pretty good quarterback.
However, if the Dolphins can generate a consistent pass rush against New York's spotty offensive line, Sanchez should struggle. Even though Vontae Davis is returning from injury, Miami's secondary is still a huge liability, and they can't afford to let Sanchez sit comfortably in the pocket.
Start Chris Clemons at Free Safety
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It's difficult to figure out what's going on with Chris Clemons.
He has been struggling with a hamstring injury all season, but he has been active for a few games. Yet, the 'Fins continue to start Reshad Jones at free safety despite his struggles.
According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Clemons was limited at practice this week. Regardless, if he is healthy enough to dress on Monday night, Tony Sparano should give him a chance to start and reclaim his job. Jones has made strides, but he is still a liability who needs to be replaced.
Let Daniel Thomas Run the Ball Down the Jets' Throat
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In Daniel Thomas' first two NFL games, he rushed the ball 41 times for 202 yards and caught one touchdown. If his early play is any indication, Thomas could be en route to stardom.
On Monday night, Thomas will get a chance to run against the Jets' 25th ranked rushing defense.
This is a huge opportunity for Thomas to gain some national recognition. More importantly, the Dolphins need to feed Thomas the rock early and often if they want to control the ball and get ahead on New York.
Expose the Brandon Marshall-Antonio Cromartie Match Up
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Brandon Marshall drew some criticism after Miami's Week 4 loss to the Chargers. He dropped multiple passes, one of which could have been a touchdown.
But Marshall couldn't ask for a better opportunity to save face. He gets to square off against Miami's biggest rival on Monday night, and more notably, he gets to square off against Antonio Cromartie.
Marshall has torched Cromartie many times before, including an 18 reception game back in 2008. Last season, Marshall caught a combined 12 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns against Cromartie and the Jets.
Needless to say, Miami should center their gameplan on getting Marshall the ball, especially when he is matched up one on one with Cromartie.
Improve Play on Third Downs and Inside of the Red Zone
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The Dolphins currently rank dead last in third down conversion percentage and 26th in red zone efficiency.
We can only hope and assume that Tony Sparano stressed these two issues throughout the bye week.
If Miami's offense cannot improve in these two vital facets of the game, their chances of winning will be considerably hampered. It's up to Sparano and Brian Daboll to get creative and find ways for the 'Fins to move the ball when it counts.
Don't Leave Dustin Keller Alone
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The Dolphins have struggled enormously with opposing tight ends over the last few years. They have struggled to obtain good coverage linebackers, and players like Dustin Keller have exposed this shortcoming.
In Keller's last three games against the Dolphins, he has caught 17 passes for 208 yards and three touchdowns.
While New York's wide receiver corps might not instill fear in Miami's secondary, the 6'2", 248 pound Keller should. If Keller isn't tightly covered throughout the night, Mark Sanchez will target him often, and that could cause some serious problems for the Dolphins' defense.
Make Mark Sanchez Beat You
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Everybody outside of New York knows Mark Sanchez is just an average quarterback.
He deserves credit for helping the Jets to two AFC Championship appearances, but those teams were anchored by dominant defenses and great rushing attacks.
Sanchez does flash brilliance every once in a while, and that's when the Jets are at their best. However, Sanchez has been anything but brilliant this season, so the Dolphins should focus their efforts on shutting down the run game.
Now that the Jets are without Derrick Mason, the Dolphins should feel even more comfortable making Sanchez beat them.