Sure it's still hard to swallow what we all witnessed on Sunday. But like Jason Taylor said, "It's Jets week!" Nothing would cure all of us Dolphin fans more than a win over the Jets on Sunday in the Meadowlands. It's likely, barring some kind of playoff rematch, that this will be the final time the Dolphins play at the current Giants Stadium - with the new Meadowlands Stadium expected to open in 2010. We all have some good memories and some bad memories from games played in that building. Let's just hope we close it up with a positive one.
To do that, these three matchups will be critical.
Braylon Edwards/Jerricho Cotchery vs Sean Smith/Vontae Davis
Only two other NFL teams have even started one rookie cornerback this season. On Sunday, the Dolphins will start two rookie corners following Will Allen's season-ending ACL tear. And they will be asked to defend two veteran receivers who possess a lot of talent.
In their first meeting, Braylon Edwards - despite being a Jet for less than a week - had 5 catches for 64 yards and a touchdown. He also drew a huge pass interference call on Will Allen that gave the Jets a 1st & goal from the 1 yard line. But since then, Edwards only has 4 receptions for 54 yards. However, he's been targeted 11 times over the past two weeks - which results in 25% of Mark Sanchez's total pass attempts. Braylon is big and strong and is a matchup nightmare for many teams.
Of course, for the Dolphins, he's not exactly a matchup nightmare thanks to the size of rookie corner Sean Smith - who has been very good as a starter since day one. If I'm the Dolphins this week, I'm preparing Smith to shadow Braylon everywhere he goes. I know the coaches liked to stick with keeping Allen on one side and Smith on the other. But the Dolphins don't have that luxury anymore. Besides, Smith is athletic enough to handle both the left and right boundaries. It's time to throw the rookie into the fire and see how he responds.
Meanwhile, Vontae Davis will replace Allen in the starting lineup and make his first career start on Sunday. He's been up and down, but has progressed well. He'll be asked to cover either Jerricho Cotchery (if he plays) or David Clowney - who did post a 4-72 receiving line against the Dolphins in their first meeting. Davis is an aggressive corner and I hope to see him up on the line of scrimmage bumping whoever he is asked to cover.
Call me crazy, but in the long run, it might the best thing for the Dolphins to have to start both rookies from here on out. They're going to have their ups and downs for sure. But they're also going to learn a lot about the game and about themselves. This matchup should be a lot off fun to watch on Sunday.
Dolphins offensive line vs Jets front seven
Different week, same critical matchup. We know that the Dolphins can run the football. But last week against the Saints, it seemed like the Dolphins weren't exactly as committed as usual to running the football. On Sunday, it's time once again to ride those two horses and put the onus on those big guys up front to once again dominate the Jets defensive front.
In their first meeting, the Dolphins dominated the line of scrimmage all game long. They did an excellent job protecting Chad Henne and an even better job getting a push to help Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams find running lanes. The Dolphins ran for 151 yards in that game a few weeks ago. And now, the Jets are without nose tackle Kris Jenkins who was lost for the season. Taking his spot has been Sione Pouha, who is smaller and and weaker than Jenkins. Jake Grove did a very good job limiting the impact Jenkins had last time. He should be able to do even better against Pouha.
While I expect the Dolphins be get re-committed to the run on Sunday, Chad Henne will again be asked to make some plays and it'll be up to the big guys up front to give Henne time like they did in their last meeting. There's no doubt in my mind that Rex Ryan and NY's front seven were embarrassed by how they played last time - allowing Henne to feel little pressure for most of the game. So I have no doubt that Ryan will throw new pass-rushing wrinkles at Miami's offensive line. The Dolphins didn't do a great job of protecting Henne last week against the Saints, either. So this unit has got to step up and play like we all know they are capable of playing.
Dolphins defensive line vs Jets offensive line
Don't look now but the Dolphins are no longer have the number one rushing offense in the NFL. No - they are now number two, trailing (of all teams) the Jets. Back in week five, the Jets were able to find some running room on the ground - which most teams hadn't been able to do against Miami until that point. They ran for 138 yards and averaged 4.6 yards per carry.
Since then, the Jets have just gone crazy on the ground. Yes, it was against the Bills and Raiders. But still, back-to-back 300 yard rushing games is impressive. And despite Leon Washington's season-ending injury, the Jets still possess a formidable one-two punch of Thomas Jones and rookie Shonn Greene. Greene ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns last week against Oakland.
But the reason the Jets have been effective on the ground is their offensive line. It's very talented and has really started gelling well recently. There's something to say about a unit that has played together week after week. And did you know that the Jets offensive line currently holds the longest streak in the NFL of consecutive starts made by the same five offensive linemen?
To me, this means two things. One - Dolphin fans have a lot to be excited about because our own offensive line will only continue to get better as they get more comfortable with each other. And two - the Dolphins have got to play stout against the run and force Mark Sanchez to put the ball in the air.