It's time to finally get into some of the key story lines for Sunday's big game between the Dolphins and Jets. We know what's at stake. We know it should be a rocking atmosphere at Sun Life Stadium. Now let's focus in on some of the key matchups for this game.
To do so, let's welcome in John B from Gang Green Nation - SBN's Jets blog. John and I each selected two key matchups for Sunday's game and discussed them. If you head over to GGN today, you can check out my thoughts on the two key matchups that John asked me to discuss.
Below are John's thoughts on the two matchups that I asked him about.
What kind of a corner plays poorly for a game and a half then totally shuts down Randy Moss? Welcome to the Antonio Cromartie experience. Cromartie might be the most physically gifted corner in the game. I would argue he has more God given ability than Darrelle Revis. The issue is consistently getting the most of that ability. That was the story of his career in San Diego. A terrific 2007 was followed by so so seasons in 2008 and 2009. When Cromartie uses his size and athleticism properly in press coverage, there might not be a receiver in the league capable of getting open.
That's what makes this matchup so interesting. Nobody knows what Cromartie will bring to the table. If he raises his game like he did covering Moss, Marshall will have a tough time doing anything. If not, Marshall will go nuts.
The two matched up five times after Cromartie took a starting job with the Chargers during the 2007 campaign. These matchups don't give a much clearer picture. Marshall went nuts with an 18 catch game against San Diego in 2008. He averaged 5 catches for 51 yards in the other four. The schemes and supporting casts were different, which makes a comparison difficult. They also didn't match up for the entire game.
I doubt the Jets will leave Cromartie alone like they would with Darrelle Revis. Marshall should have safety help almost full time. That is an advantage for Miami because that guy would be free to blitz, stack the box, or clog passing lanes on the other side if Revis was in the lineup.
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This is a battle between two guys with great track records off to slow starts against less proven guys off to terrific starts. Pass protection has been an issue for the Jets early in the year. The two tackles have not played particularly well. It might be tempting to say Ferguson's issues have been related to not having Alan Faneca next to him, but the primary reason the Jets dropped Faneca was the guard's noticeable decline in pass blocking. Ferguson should be fine. His athleticism leaves him well equipped to handle Wake or Misi. He has stonewalled an impressive array of pass rushers in his young career.
The other side of this matchup should have Jets fans concerned and Dolphins fans excited. Damien Woody is a road grater. When he locks on to a defender, he has his way. He can have trouble, though, with athletic linebackers with a quick first step so the Jets might be wise to give him a bit of help against either of Miami's impressive looking outside linebackers.
My Quick Thoughts
I think that Marshall should win the battle with Cromartie more often than not only because Cromartie has been known to shy away from contact. Brandon, meanwhile, is as physical a receiver as they come. Like John says, though, the biggest impact from this matchup will be how the Jets have to adjust their defense to account for Marshall. That could mean fewer blitzes and favorable matchups for Miami's other receivers.
As for the pass rush, I think that this is where the Dolphins have a big advantage. In pass-rushing situations, the Dolphins always put Wake on the left side of the defense - meaning he's matched up with the opposing offense's right tackle. There's a huge advantage for the Dolphins. Like John pointed out, speed rushers give Woody trouble. Wake is the prototypical speed rusher and should give Woody fits all game long.