New York Jets (2-9) at Miami Dolphins (0-11)
Well this is it. This game represents the best chance the Dolphins have at pulling out a win in 2007. And even Las Vegas sees that, as the Dolphins are 1 point favorites at home on Sunday. This game is intriguing, though, for more reasons than just the Dolphins first possible win. One of the storylines is that you got 2 quarterbacks who are almost in the same positions. John Beck, Miami's 2nd round pick in 2007, will make his third start. And many Dolphin fans are watching hoping to see continued progress so that we can try and figure out if John is this team's quarterback of the future. Meanwhile, the Jets are starting their 2nd round pick in 2006, Kellen Clemens. Sure he's had more time on an NFL roster and has more game experience. But Jet fans are continuing to keep a close eye on his development to see if he's their QB of the future. Both Miami and New York will have very high picks on draft day in 2008 and some fans of both teams think that the possibility of taking a QB in the 1st round needs to be considered. We'll talk about Clemens tomorrow. As for Beck, the idea that he can be evaluated in just 7 starts (all he will get in '07) is crazy. Still, some fans claim that 7 games is enough time. I disagree. But for now, I'll digress.
Many people feel that this should be the game where John Beck really shines. And that's probably because the Jets have the 19th ranked pass defense and the 30th ranked overall defense. But that's only telling part of New York's troubles on defense. The Jets are ranked 24th in the NFL in sacks, with just 19, and are 31st in the league in QB rating against. Quarterbacks against the Jets defense complete nearly 66% of their passes and average 8.06 yards per attempt (which is dead last in the league). Kyle Boller was able to complete 65% of his passes and toss two touchdowns against the Jets. Trent Edwards, in his first career start, completed 78% of his passes and tossed one touchdown while averaging 8.35 yards per attempt. And if you remember back in week 3, Trent Green had perhaps his best game as a Dolphin when he threw for 318 yards and a touchdown against New York in the Meadowlands.
The other bit of optimism people feel when thinking about John's potential breakout game this week is the fact that in his first two starts, in bad weather and against very good defenses, John showed steady improvement in basically every passing statistic, most notably his completion percentage, which increased 20%. If you combine all this together, and factor in the hope that Cam Cameron allows John to go down the field a bit more to make plays, this game has the makings as a potentially special game for our young quarterback.
When you look at the matchups in the passing game, you'll find that it's rather unclear who they favor. Ted Ginn was a nonfactor in their first meeting, making one catch (his first career catch) on a WR screen that he took for 15 yards. In that game, it was Chris Chambers and Ronnie Brown doing most of the damage in the passing game. But now neither of them will be on that field on Sunday. So I really don't know what they'll do in terms of matchups. Cornerback David Barrett has been limited in practice this week with a hip injury. But he's had issues all year long in terms of his play and was actually benched in favor of Hank Poteat a few weeks ago. I'd suspect they'll likely put the rookie Darrelle Revis on Teddy Ginn, which is a pretty even matchup. But I'm not sure how they'll handle Marty Booker, who was Beck's favorite target last week. Regardless, though, there is absolutely no reason to think these receivers will not be able to get open. Hopefully this is the week Cam opens it up a bit and let's John really throw it around. But you never know with him, do you?
We spent all this time talking about the passing attack, you'd think that was they key to success on Sunday for Miami. But it's not. The running game is where the Dolphins must excel if they want to get their first win. The Jets are 31st in the NFL in rush defense, allowing 150 yards per game and 4.4 yards per carry, which is 4th worst. Last time these teams met, it was Ronnie Brown's first big game of the season, running for 112 yards on just 23 carries and scoring 2 touchdowns on the ground. This time, who knows who will be running the ball for Miami? It could be Jesse Chatman if he's healthy enough to go. Cam thinks he very well might be, but anything can happen. Samkon Gado could see some touches even if Jesse does start. Patrick Cobbs is likely to be active for the game because of his special teams ability, but I don't know if he'll see the ball. And let's not forget our 3rd round pick, Lorenzo Booker, who could see the field as a 3rd down back on Sunday. While everyone will be watching Beck to see how he does in his first good matchup, the more interesting (and important) storyline of the game will be Miami's RB carousel. And to win, the Dolphins must run the ball effectively.
Other half of the preview to come tomorrow...