Back in week three the Miami Dolphins were embarrassed in a 20-6 loss to the New York Jets who secured their first victory of the season. Since that dreadful Sunday, the Jets have proceeded to earn a pair of victories before falling last week to the New England Patriots as they now sit 3-3 on the year.
As a reminder, the first matchup against the Jets featured no points scored by the Dolphins until the final play of the game when Jay Cutler connected with DeVante Parker on a meaningless 3-yard touchdown as time expired.
Sunday’s game will be just the second time this season the Dolphins will play a home game in Miami where they are currently 1-0 with a 16-10 victory over the Tennessee Titans.
The Dolphins, tied for second place with the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East, will look to build off their 20-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons last week, in which the team scored 20 unanswered points to knock off the defending NFC champions.
Here’s a look into five players likely to play a large role in determining the outcome of the rematch against the Jets this Sunday.
Starting LCB: Xavien Howard/Byron Maxwell
Rookie cornerback, Cordrea Tankersley, had another impressive outing last week against the Falcons, so the starter on the boundary opposite Tankersley is now the primary question mark in the defensive backfield.
Maxwell was consistently burned before exiting the first matchup against the Jets before Alterraun Verner replaced him and proceeded to get beat deep for a touchdown against Robby Anderson.
After missing the last three weeks, Maxwell may work his way back into the starting lineup Sunday, as Howard has been limited at practice this week with an ankle injury.
A source of controversy this week among Dolphins fans and media members with discrepancies in his performance so far this season, Howard would have an opportunity to silence his critics if he plays this week against a lesser opponent and a much easier matchup than what he faced in Julio Jones last week.
The Jets’ defense got the best of Ajayi and the Dolphins’ running game back in week three, holding Ajayi to just 16 yards on 11 carries. The same can be said for the team’s performance on the ground weeks’ four and five, but Ajayi finally came out of his slump last week against Atlanta totaling 130 yards on 26 carries.
The Dolphins’ offensive line will have to do a much better job opening holes for Ajayi than they did in the last matchup. There’s no denying that the team’s offense flows best when Ajayi is effective, so this means that the combination of the offensive line – quite possibly without Mike Pouncey – and Ajayi will do the offense a great service if they’re able to reproduce last week’s performance.
Miami’s offensive line allowed three sacks in the first game against New York, two coming via David Bass who typically rushes from the right side, so James will play a large role in protecting Cutler this Sunday.
While the entire offensive line would benefit from a bump in performance – pun intended – keeping Cutler clean against a team that struggles to rush the passer is a must.
The Jets rank next to last in the NFL in sacks recorded as three of their season total seven sacks came against the Dolphins week three.
So far, the 2017 season can be considered a coming out party for Seferian-Jenkins as leading up to this season his career best in games played is nine, catches is 21, yards is 338 and touchdowns is four.
Through four games this season, Seferian-Jenkins has tallied a 23-152-2 stat line.
Posting a stat line of 8-46-1 last week against New England, Seferian-Jenkins nearly scored another touchdown on a controversial call, which played a large role in determining the outcome of the one-score game.
The Dolphins, notorious for struggling against opposing team’s tight ends for the last few years, have improved with the new and improved linebacker unit, but they can’t lapse in performance this week and let arguably the best Jets’ offensive weapon beat them.
A second-year right tackle out of South Carolina, Shell’s performance has been above what you’d typically expect out of a fifth-round draft pick as he’s consistently been one of the Jets’ best and most consistent offensive lineman this season.
Despite allowing a sack to Cameron Wake in the first drive of week three’s matchup against Miami, the entire Jets’ offensive line did a very good job protecting Josh McCown as he remained relatively clean for the remainder of the game.
With the Jets’ run game ranking 18th in the league at 105 rushing yards per game, they may rely on McCown and the passing game as the Dolphins’ run defense remains stingy allowing just 80.4 yards per game on the ground.
In order for the Jets to be effective through the air, the entire offensive line is going to have to protect McCown, especially Shell, who will be the primary blocker against Wake who now has at least half a sack in four straight games.