The Dolphins have lost four of their past five games after starting the season 3-0, leaving the team at a crossroads. While those four losses have come against competent opponents (Patriots, Bengals, Lions, and Texans) Miami must get a divisional win at home this week in order to get back on track. In order to do so, the Dolphins need to find a way to stifle New York’s rookie gunslinger.
Each week of the 2018 season, I’m highlighting one player on the opposing team that Dolphins fans should be watching out for. This week, that player is New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold.
Experience: 1st season
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 225 lbs
Darnold’s rookie season has been largely what you’d expect with regards to his statistical proficiency. He’s completing just 55.2% of his passes over eight starts and has thrown for 1,705 yards at the season’s half-way mark. Darnold has also posted an 11-10 touchdown-interception ratio. He’s been sacked a middle-of-the-road 17 times this season.
Darnold is essentially hitting the status quo when it comes to how rookie QBs generally play in the NFL. He has a flare and spark about his play that allows him to make some “wow” throws, but his accuracy and decision making could be improved upon. In short, there’s plenty of room for him to grow, but given his supporting cast, or lack thereof, he’s by no means been disappointing under center for Gang Green.
During the opening weeks of the season, Miami’s defense was playing lights out against opposing offenses. The Dolphins held opponents to 20 points or under from Weeks 1-3. Against the Jets back in Week 2, Miami’s defense clamped down for their best performance of the season, holding Darnold and co. to just 12 points in the Meadowlands.
Unfortunately for the South Florida faithful, the defense has unraveled and defensive coordinator Matt Burke has struggled to find ways to keep the unit together. Since the team’s 3-0 start, the Dolphins have allowed 27 or more points to every single opponent, and though each of those teams are current playoff contenders, Miami must find a way to stifle their competition moving forward.
Cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Bobby McCain make for a talented duo on the perimeter, and Reshad Jones, T.J. McDonald, and Minkah Fitzpatrick constitute what may be the best safety group in the NFL, but communication gaffes have led to far too many big plays allowed by Miami’s secondary. If Darnold finds a way to exploit that weakness and Burke doesn’t manage to clean up the mistakes, Miami’s defensive backfield could be in for another long night. Ensuring McCain has help over the top will be of vital importance, as many of us saw how Deshaun Watson and his pass catchers exposed the former slot corner during last week’s primetime matchup with the Texans.