The Miami Dolphins enter the final weekend of the 2022 NFL regular season with a chance to make the playoffs, but they will need help to make it happen. While they will be hoping for a Buffalo Bills win over the New England Patriots, the Dolphins’ first step toward finding a slot in the postseason is to end their five-game losing streak with a win over the New York Jets. Having already lost to the Jets this year, Miami will need to find an offensive rhythm that has escaped them the last month of the season.
The Jets are already out of playoff contention following their Week 17 loss and are also on a five-game losing streak. They do not have anything to play for this year, but they are expected to play their starters and try to complete the season with the positives of a win and a sweep of their AFC East division rivals.
The Jets beat the Dolphins in Week 5, a game started by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for the Dolphins. Bridgewater only took one snap, however, as he was pulled from the game after an independent spotter worried he may have sustained a concussion after being hit on a pass attempt. Rookie Skylar Thompson entered the game and played the rest of the way.
Now, in Week 18, Thompson will again face the Jets. Starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is out with a concussion and Bridgewater has a knee injury and a dislocated finger that has limited his ability to grip and throw a ball this week.
The Dolphins are not the only team going to their third-string quarterback to start this contest. The Jets’ offense will be turning to Joe Flacco on Sunday to start after bending Zach Wilson and a ribs injury to Mike White. Flacco started the first three games of the year for New York this season, but has been on the sideline ever since. What should Miami expect to see from the veteran signal-caller? And what is the future of the Jets’ quarterback position?
I had a chance to speak with MacGregor Wells from Gang Green Nation to answer those questions and more.
What has happened with Zach Wilson and his development? What was Mike White doing better than Wilson? Do the Jets re-sign White this offseason? What should we expect to see from Joe Flacco this week as he is thrust back into the starters role?
Mike LaFleur, the Jets’ offensive coordinator, acknowledged this week that Zach Wilson probably would have benefitted from sitting behind a veteran quarterback and learning for a year. I think that’s probably correct. Wilson was not ready to start in this league, but was thrust into a starting role immediately as a rookie. He developed some bad habits, was overwhelmed at times, and eventually lost confidence. It’s not clear if Wilson was ever going to develop into a top quarterback, but it seems clear his chances of so developing have been hurt by rushing him into the starting lineup before he was ready.
Mike White was better than Wilson in every aspect of quarterbacking other than arm strength. White was more accurate, he read the field better, he got the ball out faster, he identified the correct read better – White was simply better at being an NFL quarterback. That doesn’t mean White was all that good. He wasn’t. White is probably no better than a long-term backup/spot starter in the NFL. But he was better than Zach Wilson.
I think the Jets will probably re-sign Mike White because they like him and White should be reasonably inexpensive. On the other hand, if some other team likes White as a starter and is willing to pay White low level starter money, my guess is the Jets say goodbye and wish him well.
As far as Joe Flacco is concerned, I expect to see a quarterback who is painfully finished. His arm strength is significantly diminished. He has zero mobility. He is unable to sustain drives or make dynamic plays down the field. He just doesn’t look like an NFL quarterback anymore. Flacco has had one good drive all season for the Jets, in their miracle comeback against the Cleveland Browns. Other than that one drive Flacco has looked completely washed up. This won’t be pretty for the Jets’ offense.
The Jets' defense is the strength of the team and is ranked third overall in yards allowed this season (311.6 per game) and fourth in scoring defense (19.1 points per game allowed). Yet they also seem to have weird times where they struggle to make a stop. How would you attack the Jets' defense and where should the Dolphins stay away?
Well, it’s an interesting matchup. The Dolphins’ strength on offense lies largely in two superstar wide receivers, Hill and Waddle. The Jets’ strength on defense lies largely in arguably the best outside cornerback tandem in the NFL in Sauce Gardner and DJ Reed. For most opponents, the best strategy is to attack the Jets’ safeties and linebackers who all struggle in coverage. That means a steady diet of running backs, tight ends and slot receivers working the middle of the field with short and intermediate routes. No outside receivers have really torched the Jets all season. But how do you advise against going to Hill and Waddle all day? You don’t. It’s strength against strength here. The Jets match up against the Dolphins’ superstar receivers as well as any team in the NFL, but Hill and Waddle still ARE superstar receivers. You have to go to them, and we’ll see which team wins that epic battle. Should be interesting.
The Jets looked like a potential playoff team earlier this season, but fell off late this year (much like Miami, but we will leave that alone) and were eliminated from the playoffs with last week’s loss. What is the biggest offseason need for the Jets and what do you want to see them change for 2023?
The biggest offseason need, and it isn’t close, is a competent quarterback. Quarterback is the most important position in the NFL by far, and the Jets have been hamstrung for more than a decade by consistently awful play at the position. A distant second in terms of need is an upgrade to the offensive line, particularly at the tackle positions.
I think the Jets need to bring in a competent veteran at quarterback. Maybe Derek Carr, maybe Jimmy Garoppolo, maybe Jacoby Brissett. Somebody who can hold down the fort and not be the worst starting quarterback in the NFL. Then the Jets need to draft a quarterback as soon as they find one they like. Could be in the 2023 draft, could be 2024, but soon. It’s possible Zach Wilson still has a shot at developing into a competent quarterback, but the Jets can’t afford to count on that longshot.
Once the quarterback position is settled, the Jets need at least one and possibly two starting offensive tackles. Duane Brown is 1000 years old, George Fant will be a free agent, and Mekhi Becton can’t be counted on to ever come back and stay healthy after missing back-to-back seasons with two separate injuries to the same knee. In an ideal world, Becton comes back strong and the Jets draft a guy who can come in and start on day one. Realistically I think the Jets are going to have to bring in at least one solid free-agent tackle and possibly move guard Alijah Vera-Tucker over to tackle permanently after he performed well there in emergency uses this year. That of course creates a hole at guard for the Jets, but it’s easier to find a good guard in the NFL than a good tackle.
On defense the Jets probably need at least one safety and at least one linebacker, but the offense is the real issue, and the Jets can probably live without much in the way of upgrades to the defense for a year.
Who was the biggest surprise this season for the Jets?
The biggest negative surprise was that Zach Wilson not only did not develop, but by the end of the year he looked like he was taking a step backward. That killed the Jets.
The biggest positive surprises were the performances of rookies Sauce Gardner and Garrett Wilson. Jets fans of course had high hopes for a couple of top 10 draft picks, but I don’t think many thought Gardner would produce at arguably an All-Pro level and Wilson would be a 1000-yard receiver. Those two both arrived as stars at least a year earlier than expected, and were a large part of the reason the Jets were in the playoff hunt for much of this season.
This game started with Miami favored by 3 points, then shifted to the Jets favored by 1.5 points, oddsmakers at DraftKings Sportsbook. Now, with all of the quarterback changes throughout the week, the line is back to favoring the Dolphins by 3.5 points. I know Robert Saleh has said he is playing his starters for this game, despite there really being nothing to play for other than a sweep of a division rival. Miami comes in needing a win and some help to make the playoffs. Do you think the Jets come out fired up for a rivalry game against Miami? What do you expect to see this weekend?
I really have no idea what to expect from the Jets. I know Joe Flacco stinks, so I would be surprised if the offense performed well. The defense might come in fired up after playing arguably their worst two games of the season these last two weeks. Or the Jets could roll over and play dead with nothing on the line. If I had to bet on it, I’d say the Jets offense is putrid, the defense keeps the Jets in the game, but in the end the defense wears down and the Dolphins take the game. Hill and/or Waddle make a couple of big plays and that’s all it takes to beat a Jets team that will be lucky to score in double digits with Flacco at the helm.