Sunday’s NFL schedule includes the conclusion of the Miami Dolphins’ annual home-and-home series with the New York Jets. The Dolphins will host the Jets this week, looking to avenge a Week 3 loss to their AFC East division rivals. Who better to give us a closer look at the Jets for a second-time this week than the guys over at Gang Green Nation. I again spoke with GangGreeninYonkers, who answered five questions about the Jets this week:
1. The Jets have played better football than a lot of people expected this year from a team that, prior to the start of the season, looked like it was tanking 2017 for a shot at one of the top quarterback prospects for 2018. What has been the biggest surprise to you through the first portion of the season?
Positively, the readiness of Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye has been the most surprising part of the year. You obviously expect a lot out of players selected in the first two rounds, but the way these two have stepped into their roles and led the defense from day one has been very impressive. Adams has seen his play dip over the past two weeks as tight ends David Njoku and Rob Gronkowski have gotten the better of him, but his body of work on the year is still very strong. Maye is a highly consistent last line of defense. Many questioned the selection of safeties back-to-back, but these two have been arguably the best players on the team.
I'll throw in a negative surprise. The revered Jets defensive line is one of the team's weakest units. Big-money Muhammad Wilkerson is a statue out there. It's anybody's guess why, but he does not produce anything while on the field. He has made life tougher for Leonard Williams, who is without a sack despite hopes he'd turn into an All-Pro level player this year. Williams has still been much better than his stats would suggest, but this line is losing its battles consistently and making few plays.
2. The Jets offensive line seems to be one area in which the team is struggling, with Josh McCown the fourth-most sacked quarterback in the league at this point with 19 sacks through six games. What has been the biggest issue there and will the Dolphins, with Cameron Wake, Ndamukong Suh, Jordan Phillips, Andre Branch, Charles Harris, and William Hayes, be able to exploit those struggles?
McCown himself should take some of the blame for that number being so high, but the offensive line has definitely been an issue. RT Brandon Shell, who had a strong start to the year, has become a liability. The Dolphins, specifically Cameron Wake, had their way with him back in Week 3 and he has gotten beat more often as the season has gone on. Kelvin Beachum has also had a shaky year on the left side. He's got some athleticism, but as one of the smallest tackles in the league will get blasted head-on. In the middle, center Wesley Johnson has taken a lot of scrutiny from Jets fans. He creates little (if any) push in the run game and is likely a main part of the line's many communication issues.
3. On the opposite side of the ball, the Jets have struggled against the run this year, ranking 28th with 138.8 yards per game allowed. Miami appears to have finally figured out that Jay Ajayi is there identity as an offense. Where are the Jets struggling against the run and what does Miami have to do to get Ajayi rolling?
As I mentioned earlier, the defensive line is not the behemoth it once was, with Muhammad Wilkerson being a huge reason for that. The Jets actually were getting the defensive run game fixed from Weeks 3-5 (the winning streak), as over that span they allowed just 54.0 yards a game on 3.2 yards per carry with no touchdowns to lead backs Jay Ajayi, Leonard Fournette, and Isaiah Crowell. Much of the reason for that was greatly improved play from the inside linebackers, particularly Demario Davis. There's been little in between for him; sometimes he has been a monster, sometimes he looks lost. Against New England, he and fellow ILB Darron Lee seemed to struggle filling the gaps once again, and the Patriots had their way running the ball (118 yards, 4.7 per carry, 1 touchdown).
4. On a different note, the Jets had success against the New England Patriots last week - up until the touchdown/touchback ridiculousness. As a team that still needs to face the Patriots twice this year, what did New York do to be able to keep up with, and nearly beat, them?
Offensively, while the Jets only ended up with 17 points (should've actually had at least 21), it was a fast start that got New England on its heels. The Jets converted 5 of their first 6 third downs, including two touchdowns. Over the rest of the game, they were 4 of 11, and in turn got very little done. When things were working, Josh McCown was getting outside of the pocket and making plays, the offensive line held up against 3 and 4 man rushes, and the receivers made plays down the field. As the game went on, the Jets offensive line couldn't get anything going in the run game, and the Pats forced Josh McCown to beat them. McCown finished with over 300 yards in this game, but after the first quarter missed way too many open receivers and threw an interception at the end of the first half that flipped the score by at least 10 points. When you can't run the ball and are forced to rely on a QB of that caliber for too long, those are the results you'll get. I'm sure Miami fans will hope the same doesn't happen to their offense when they face New England.
Defensively, it was a strong performance from the secondary that held Brady to a quarterback rating of 81 (very low for him) and the league's top-ranked offense to 24 points. The Jets did not create much pressure in this game. They didn't even stop the run, as all three Pats backs found chunk yardage with ease. It was the DBs bailing out the front seven this time around. Buster Skrine and Darryl Roberts had particularly strong games in coverage. Morris Claiborne, while he did yield a huge 40+ yard pass to Brandin Cooks that set up a touchdown, had a decent day against the New England burner. Marcus Maye and Jamal Adams played important roles in preventing big plays from becoming huge plays. The one major issue was #87. The Jets isolated Adams with Gronkowski a lot, and Gronk mostly had his way. There were more than a couple instances where Gronk simply ate up balls right over tightly contested defenders. Adams has played very well this year, but Gronkowski again proved that there are few who can handle him 1-on-1.
5. What has changed for the Jets over the last few weeks - either for the good or for the bad? What should Dolphins fans expect to see that they may not have seen last game?
I think most of the in-season change for this Jets team occurred between Weeks 2 and 3 prior to the first Miami game. The team that will take the field in Week 7 is mostly similar to the one that took the field in Week 3 in terms of where the production is coming from and where the problems are.
There are a couple differences that come to mind, though. Defensively, I think one major change is the way teams are targeting Jamal Adams. Over the past two weeks, the Jets have allowed 3 touchdowns to tight ends - 1 to David Njoku and 2 to Gronkowski. Adams was the primary defender on all three. Can Julius Thomas take advantage of this matchup?
Offensively, Austin Seferian-Jenkins has become a huge factor. He did have six targets in the Week 3 game - his season debut - but is now getting lots of looks in key situations. He has 2 (should be 3) touchdowns over the past two weeks, all in the red zone. In the same span, he has made 4 conversions on third down, tied for the most among tight ends and fourth most in the league.