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The Miami Dolphins end their 2015 divisional series with the New York Jets this weekend, looking for revenge after a Week 4 loss at the hands of the Jets in London. Miami needs to put together a full game this week, executing on offense, defense, and special teams, something that has not been happening over the last few weeks. Whatr do the Dolphins need to do to beat the Jets?
Plenty. We break down the top three things that need to happen if the Dolphins are going to win this weekend, keeping their AFC Playoff hopes alive and finally getting a division win this season.
Stop Chris Ivory
The Dolphins allowed 207 yards rushing the last time these two teams met, with Jets running back Chris Ivory gaining 166 yards on 29 carries for game highs in both categories. The Dolphins had no answer for Ivory in Week 4, and they better have something better planned this week. "I think that we made a big emphasis of that, what they did to us the first game," interim head coach Dan Campbell said of Miami needing to stop Ivory this weekend. "I think it's going to start with attitude. I think the second thing is understanding that we have to be disciplined and consistent with our gap fits. If that's the type of game that they want to play against us again, I think the addition of (Quinton) Coples could help us too. We'll mix him in. He gives us a little more size and length up front. I think those will kind of address the issues."
Miami's linebackers are banged up right now, with starters Jelani Jenkins (ankle), Kelvin Sheppard (hamstring), and Koa Misi (abdomen) both questionable for the game. Reserve defensive end/linebacker Chris McCain (hip) is doubtful for the contest, with linebacker Spencer Paysinger (neck) questionable. The Dolphins have to hope some of these players are able to contribute on Sunday, if they want to slow down Ivory.
Let Lamar Miller and Jay Ajayi loose
The Dolphins ran the ball 14 times last week, with three of those from quarterback Ryan Tannehill. If they do not fix the lack of a running game, they do not win. The team is 0-6 on the year when Miller has fewer than 12 carries, and 4-0 when he has 13 or more. Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is too quick to pull the plug on the running game, looking to make Tannehill throw the ball on nearly every down. Miami has to commit to the run early, and they have to stay committed to it, even if they fall behind early. Unless Miller and Ajayi are a threat, the Jets defense will simply blitz more players than Miami has blockers on every play, leading to no time for Tannehill to throw and an offense that will go backwards more than it will advance.
Wide receivers stepping up
Jarvis Landry has an injured knee that kept him out of two-and-a-half of the team's three practices this week. He is expected to be able to play tomorrow, but he is officially questionable and could see limited playing time even if he is able to start. That puts Miami's top receiving target in question. Today, the team added receiver Rishard Matthews to the injury report with an illness, making him questionable for the game. While Landry leads the team in targets and receptions, Matthews leads in yards and touchdowns. A game in which Darrelle Revis has been ruled out for the Jets, Miami has a chance to take advantage through the air, but they may have to do it without their top two receivers.
That leaves Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings, and DeVante Parker to pick up any slack. Stills is slowly becoming more involved in the offense, while Jennings has been headed the other way, quickly disappearing from the game plan. Rookie Parker is in need of getting more snaps and touches, having only caught four passes this year and none since Week 3. The Dolphins have struggled to get their 14th overall draft pick involved, and this may be the week it finally happens. Whatever combination of receivers (to include tight ends Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims, as well as Miller and Ajayi) can play the entire game, they are going to have to step up and perform if Landry, Matthews, or both are hampered.