The Miami Dolphins will be playing their second primetime game of the season when they take on their division rival New York Jets on Monday Night Football.
The Jets have struggled this season, but make no mistake about it; Rex Ryan's team will show up ready to compete. The Jets would like nothing more than to spoil the season of their hated rival for the second straight season, and they will have their best opportunity to do so on their home turf.
The Jets' upset hopes lie on having control of the line of scrimmage, which the team is perfectly capable of doing on both sides of the ball. However, this article will be dedicated to the Jets defensive front versus an ailing offensive line for the Dolphins. (An article dedicated to the Jets offensive line against the Dolphins defensive front will be out tomorrow.)
Miami's offense will be in for a trench battle Monday night, particularly when running the ball. The Jets allow only 86.2 rushing yards per game (4th in the NFL) and 3.4 yards per carry (tied for 2nd with Denver Broncos).
The Jets are one of five teams to allow less than 1,000 rushing yards this season.
The good news? The Jets will likely be without Muhammad Wilkerson, who leads the team in sacks. Wilkerson is a dominate defender on the interior and would likely have wreaked havoc along the Dolphins' interior offensive line. Also, Sheldon Richardson, the 2013 Defensive Rookie of the Year, is questionable for Monday night's game with a back issue.
However, the Dolphins will be dealing with injuries of their own. Left tackle Branden Albert's season-ending knee injury put Miami's offensive line in a tough spot, but when Ja'Wuan James, who replaced Albert at LT, was injured against the Broncos, the offensive line appeared to be in shambles. The line held strong with Jason Fox at left tackle, who played admirably, but the story now shifts to James' availability for this week's game.
James is listed as questionable on the injury report with a neck injury and was limited in practice on Thursday and Friday. It's likely that James will suit up and try to play Monday with what was originally described as a "stinger", but if James doesn't have full strength in his muscles due to his injury then he may have a rough game at the unfamiliar position of left tackle.
The Dolphin offense has had only three games with less than 100 rushing yards, and two of those came against the top two rushing defenses in the league (Broncos and Detroit Lions) and have been a consistently good rushing team despite a slew of injuries along the offensive line.
That is a testament to offensive line coach John Benton, who has done an amazing job this year. Monday will be an intense battle between Benton's line and Rex Ryan's defensive front. The winner will play with the best technique, leverage, physicality and nastiness. It will also take communication as Ryan will throw plenty of blitzes and exotic looks at Miami's offensive line. The line cannot allow free rushers to breach the line and get a big hit on Ryan Tannehill.
It's going to get ugly in those trenches; Miami's offensive line needs to set the tone (or, at the very least, match it).