We're getting closer and closer to Sunday's big game between the Dolphins and Jaguars. For all intents and purposes, this game is essentially a playoff game - at least for the Dolphins, as every game has been since last week.
So let's get to my keys to the game. Last week, the Dolphins were three for three with the keys I highlighted. Let's hope for another outstanding performance.
Aggressively attack Jacksonville's secondary
I talked about this earlier in the week as well and I'm going to talk about it again because I think it's extremely important. I really hope that Dan Henning uses what he learned last week against New England - that Chad Henne can indeed win a game with his arm - and applies it again this week against an even worse (statistically) secondary.
Jaguar fans can come onto this site all they want and talk about how their cornerbacks aren't below average players. But without Rashean Mathis, who is again not expected to play, the Jaguars really don't have any cornerback that I'd be worried about throwing at. Don't get me wrong - Derek Cox, the rookie corner, seems like he's got plenty of potential. But when he's your best corner on the field, you got problems. He's allowing 64% of the passes thrown at him to be completed. On the other side, Tyron Brackenridge is giving up over 15 yards per completion and, quite frankly, should probably be no better than a fourth or fifth corner in the NFL.
I'm not trying to trash their secondary. But I just can't believe Jacksonville fans will come on here and defend their 23rd ranked pass defense - a unit that is allowing 242 yards per game - and say that they hope the Dolphins pass against them. This is a pass defense that gives up 7.2 yards per attempt, has surrendered 20 touchdown passes (more than even Miami's secondary has), and lets opponents complete a ridiculous 65.5% of their pass attempts. For comparison's sake, the Dolphins are only allowing opponents to complete 57% of their pass attempts.
Now I'm not saying that we should forget about Ricky Williams and the ground game. I certainly don't want to see Henne throw over 50 passes again. But let's not be afraid to attack a secondary that let Alex Smith throw for 232 yards and two touchdowns just two weeks ago.
Contain the hyphens
I think the Jaguars lead the NFL in longest last names among offensive starters. But both of the "hypheners" - yes, I made up my own word - are very good players.
The Dolphins need to contain Maurice Jones-Drew as best they can. He's fourth in the NFL in rushing yards and first in rushing touchdowns. And we can't forget how talented MJD can be catching the football out of the backfield as well. I'd be lying if I didn't say how worried I am about the Jaguars getting Jones-Drew in space against our inside linebackers. We all know that one thing our two inside backers are not is quick. They're big and powerful - but have no shot at making a play on a guy like MJD in open space.
Luckily, Jones-Drew hasn't looked like himself since his 120+ yard performance four games ago against the Jets. Since then, he has carried the ball 64 times for just 217 yards in three games, averaging just 3.4 yards per carry. That includes a game against Buffalo - one of the NFL's worst rushing defenses - in which MJD gained 66 yards on just 25 carries. If the Bills can do it, so can the Dolphins.
The other "hyphener" is, of course, Mike Sims-Walker. Sims-Walker is a big, physical receiver who is David Garrard's primary target through the air. He leads the Jaguars in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns (52-752-6). But he hasn't been the same receiver, it seems, over the past four weeks. In that span, despite being targeted 32 times, Sims-Walker has just 16 receptions for 198 yards.
It'll be interesting to see which rookie cornerback gets the job of covering Sims-Walker on Sunday.
Get the early lead
You'd obviously like to do this in every game. But I think it's especially important against a team with a great running back. And the stats back it up. The Jaguars are 2-5 when trailing at the half. And one of those wins was an overtime win at home against the terrible St. Louis Rams. But what's more telling is that the Jaguars are 5-0 when leading at the half. Why? I'd say that having a second half lead allows Jacksonville to really work Jones-Drew and the running game late in the game, wearing down a defense. From there, the play-action pass opens up as defenses get desperate to contain MJD and it goes downhill.
Again, not to hate on the Jaguars, but I'm just not a fan of David Garrard. And I'd love nothing more than forcing the Jaguars to abandon the run in the second half and put the game on Garrard's arm. This would allow the Dolphins to really pin their ears back and get after Garrard. The Jaguars surrender a ton of sacks - 34 on the season, to be exact. If the Dolphins can get a lead and force the Jaguars to throw, I think Sunday will be a fine day for Dolphin fans.