Give the Dolphins front office credit; in just one offseason, with not much salary cap maneuverability, they managed to unload two players, in Suh and Landry, that would have cost them a lot of money going forward and who hadn’t contributed enough on game day to justify what it would have cost to keep them. In 2018, Miami has largely opted for shrewd, low cost moves instead of high profile free agent signings while still adding good talent in key areas and putting a competitive team on the field.
That’s the good news. What fans shouldn’t lose sight of is that the Dolphins are still a work in progress, and I expect them to be exposed by the scrappy, suddenly formidable New York Jets team they’ll face at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. It isn’t just that the Jets seem to have found their quarterback to build around; they’ve been quietly building their roster for several years now, and unlike a bad team that ends up being too much of a reclamation project for a young QB to turn around, the Jets look like they just might be ready to take off with Sam Darnold under center.
Indeed, although its early, the two worst moves of the offseason appear to be the Raiders trading Khalil Mack and the Giants passing on Darnold to select former Penn State running back Saquon Barkley. Then there is the Jets’ speedy, hard hitting young defense. With players like safety Jamal Adams and defensive lineman Leonard Williams, the Jets look to be on a trajectory similar to the tack the Jacksonville Jaguars have taken: stockpile stud defenders, then draft a quarterback high -- only, Darnold may well finish with a better QB rating than Blake Bortles this season. A fast, undersized linebacker from Ohio State? Darron Lee precedes Dolphins rookie Jerome Baker by two years and has a first round pedigree. He returned an interception for a touchdown in the Jets’ rout of the Lions in Detroit on Monday night.
To beat New York, Miami must continue to run the ball and protect Ryan Tannehill the way they did in their week one win over Tennessee, when the offensive line allowed only one sack. They must also muster a better pass rush against the Jets than they did against the Titans, when they were held without a sack, despite All-Pro offensive tackle Jack Conklin being out with a knee injury. Hopefully, the Dolphins can harass Darnold into making some rookie mistakes they can capitalize on for points.
For this game, though, I’d still take Tannehill over Darnold. Ryan Tannehill looked good last week; his 4th quarter 75 yard bomb to Kenny Stills was money. Ryan can throw a football the way Tiger Woods used to hit a golf ball, just a sweet stroke. The thing that nobody talks about is that he probably has one of the strongest arms in the game. He’s careful with the ball, too, and won’t give the Jets the cheap turnovers that Matthew Stafford gave them last week. As was the case a week ago, Tannehill will have to be the difference if Miami is to win this game. It’s a tough assignment, to be sure, but I wouldn’t put it past him. It should be an exciting game.