The Miami Dolphins will face off against the New York Jets on Sunday in a Week 2 meeting between AFC East rivals. Both teams are coming off of wins, with Miami beating the Tennessee Titans 27-20 this past Sunday and the Jets dispatching the Detroit Lions 48-17 on Monday night, and will be looking to continue a fast start to the 2018 regular season. A lot will have to go right for both clubs, as they look to prove they are better than the preseason pundits predicted.
For the Dolphins, several players need to step up and have big games. Miami has to get out to an early lead, then let their defense get after rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, who, after a 16-for-21 for 198 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, is riding high and has the New York fan base feeling good about themselves. Pressuring the rookie should allow Miami’s secondary to continue to pull in interceptions, building off safety Reshad Jones’ two picks last week, with a third interception coming from linebacker Kiko Alonso.
These five players need to have big games on Sunday:
1. Kenyan Drake
Drake was good last week and needs to continue that this week. He and Frank Gore were able to gash the Titans’ defense early, at one point averaging over nine yards a carry and making it look easy. The Dolphins used Drake in a multitude of ways, including lining him up at receiver. Getting production out of Drake early will allow the offense to open up more, especially with the play action pass, and Miami can get to that lead they need.
2. Xavien Howard
The Jets believe they have their franchise quarterback in Darnold, and he has all the confidence in the world right now after bouncing back from a pick-six on his first NFL pass attempt. It is time for Howard to show Darnold that one good game as a rookie does not define a career. Howard has continually shown that he has the potential to be a true star in the league, a shutdown cornerback that can take away a side of the field. This week, with Darnold likely looking to prove he is what Jets fans saw last week, Howard should get a chance to prove he is the cornerback Dolphins fans and South Florida media believes him to be.
3. Josh Sitton, et al.
Sitton gets singled out here because he was “banged up” against the Titans and is now on the injury report, but really this is the offensive line as a whole. The Dolphins really need Sitton to be healthy so they can continue to keep the same starting five offensive linemen they have had since April’s offseason training program began. This is the first year in the last several in which it feels like the Dolphins finally have an NFL-caliber offensive line, and they showed it last week. They were able to create some beautiful pockets for Tannehill and they were able to open holes for Drake and Gore. That must continue this week, hopefully with Sitton; if Sitton cannot play, Ted Larsen or Isaac Asiata (pulled up from the practice squad) make the most sense to be his replacement. Miami’s offense will only be as successful as their offensive line, so those five men need to be big on Sunday.
4. Raekwon McMillan
McMillan now has a true taste off the NFL after missing all of his rookie season with an ACL tear. The Dolphins need their middle linebacker to start playing up to his potential. He struggled at times this past Sunday, which is understandable for a young player, but the Jets will take the ball right up the middle and challenge McMillan, so he needs to be ready and show he is the right choice to man the middle of Miami’s defense.
5. Mike Gesicki
At this point, it feels like a given that Miami’s first-round draft pick, safety/cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick, will have a big game and be a playmaker. Now, it is time for the team’s second-round pick, tight end Gesicki, to do the same. He caught one pass for 11 yards last week, and should have had a touchdown pass if the ball did not slip out of/be under thrown from Tannehill’s hand. Gesicki gives Miami something they have not had in a long time, a true seam-threat, red-zone target tight end. This week, they need to get him involved in the passing game early so he can find his rhythm. It is not all on play calling, however, as Gesicki was slowed at the line of scrimmage several times by the Titans’ defense, either with a defensive lineman or a linebacker lining up on top of him and making sure to get a solid jam on the rookie. He has to be able to shed that quickly and move into his route.