The Miami Dolphins are 30 minutes from getting on the field against the New York Jets for the first time in 2016. To get a better look at New York, I turned to Jeremy Jackson from Gang Green Nation to give us an answer to five burning questions:
1. Ryan Fitzpatrick was seen as a required signing by the Jets this offseason, bringing back a quarterback who broke franchise records last year, but that wanted money that was probably higher than the totality of his career warranted. When the deal finally did happen, the honeymoon phase with Fitzpatrick did not seem to last very long, ultimately leading to him being benched for Geno Smith (who may be the most snake bit quarterback in the league). Smith was immediately injured and the team had to go back to Fitzpatrick, who has said he feels like the team gave up on him and that it is tough to go to work every day when you do not have people who believe in you. This sounds ugly. Is it as bad as it seems from the outside, and why is Fitzpatrick struggling this year, especially when compared to last year?
Basically, the Kansas City game happened. Fitz had a so-so performance against Cincy, and was quite good in the Buffalo game, but he had the 6 INT implosion against Kansas City and followed it up with a poor performance in Seattle and, though the turnovers have slowed down, the offense has basically stopped scoring. Many Jets fans didn't want Fitzpatrick back after his demands and once he imploded, it was a swift fall from grace. The comments Fitz has made are I think the venting of a guy who is frustrated with how the season has gone. I don't believe the team showed a lack of faith in Fitz, they stuck with him for 6 games even though he has played very poorly. Look, to me, winning is a cure-all: If the Jets get back in the playoff picture, everything will be great. If the Jets continue to lose, the heat will fall on Fitz and he's going to be gone after the year is done.
I think last year was a lot of things working right. Brandon Marshall was maybe the best he's been in his career, Eric Decker was playing very well. The run game was better, even if inconsistent, last year. We also played a very easy schedule, one of the weakest in the league. This year it's been a tougher slate, the run game has not been any good, no Decker, Marshall isn't the dominant force he was last year, and we've fallen behind in games early. Fitzpatrick has always been a guy who is able to steer the boat when all the parts are in working order, but he's not good when has to do any heavy lifting.
2. It is beginning to feel like a cruise ship could soon be looking to make Revis Island a tourist destination. What is going on with him this season? The Jets pass defense is ranked 31st in the league right now. Is the secondary that easy to attack?
I feel like this question could be summed up by saying "he's aging" and "yes". Revis recently made comments about how his body has been through a lot and the hits and what not are starting to take a toll on him physically. I mean, he's no spring chicken anymore at 31. When corners start to lose it, it can go fast. There's also been some question about his effort, particularly in tackling. That said, he's far from the only problem in the secondary. To put it simply, they stink. Revis we touched on. Buster Skrine is obviously not an outside cornerback, and though he's feisty, he's small and draws too many flags. The Jets made a serious miscalculation on Marcus Williams in believing he could step up and be a top 3 corner for a contending team. Once he stopped getting all the favorable matchups, he's gotten exposed. The safeties haven't been much better either.
3. Almost exactly opposite the pass defense is the Jets' top-ranked rush defense. The Dolphins, meanwhile, are going to try to run against the Jets, both to keep Jay Ajayi in rhythm and to take some of the pressure off of quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Is there a weakness to the run defense, or are the Dolphins going to eventually have to give up even trying to pick up yards on the ground?
Our DLine, disappointing as they have been in getting after the QB, is still tremendous in plugging the run. Wilkerson, Williams, and Richardson are all Pro Bowl caliber players who are capable of dominating up front. Our inside linebackers play the run well. They're going to bring their lunch pails to stop the run. If there is a weakness, it would be exploiting the edges where we have a couple of young outside linebackers playing and where our secondary hasn't been so terribly inclined to make tackles. But frankly, if the Dolphins are going to run the ball effectively, they have to win against our DL, and that's extremely difficult. Arizona was able to do it.
4. Todd Bowles is a coach many Dolphins fans still remember as both the team's secondary coach and the interim head coach when Tony Sparano was fired. Obviously, it is several years removed from that now, but he is a coach many in Miami at least respect, even if he is now wearing Jets green. He is only in his second season as the head coach, but early in the game last week against the Cleveland Browns, there seemed to be the start of a fanbase turning against Bowles. Was that just hyperbolic reaction during a frustrating game, or is Bowles already starting to lose the fans? How has he been as a coach, overall?
Errr... interesting question. I think last year we saw quite a bit to like. He was creative, he kept the defense strong, and his straight shooter demeanor went over well (especially emerging from a clown show that was Rex Ryan). This year, the coaching has been overall pretty poor. He's sometimes too conservative for his own good and doesn't maximize the team's chances of winning. But more importantly, Bowles has felt a lot of Fitzpatrick collateral damage since he kept and backed Fitzpatrick for so long that the fans have turned on Bowles as well.
5. Obviously, this game is between two division rivals, both of whom have struggled in the early part of the season, but could actually claw their way back into playoff contention with a win on Sunday. What are realistic expectations for the Jets the remainder of this year?
Tough to say. They had a pretty rough start to the year going 1-5, but they played a gamut of really good teams. The last two weeks they've looked better, but they've played 2 pretty awful teams. I think it's fair to say the Jets are somewhere in the bottom third of the league and as such, I'm not expecting any type of playoff push. That said, outside of the 2 dances with New England, I don't see why the Jets would be big underdogs in any of their remaining games. I'm sure they'll win some, lose some, end up somewhere with 6-7 wins, just enough to push us out of the elite prospects.