The Miami Dolphins will welcome the New York Jets to town after suffering one of their most disappointing loses in recent memory. The Dolphins didn’t close out that game against Tennessee like you would expect to see from a legitimate contender, but that doesn’t mean their season is over. Even with some meaningful injuries starting to pile up, this team is still talented enough to win big games down the stretch. The first step to avoiding an all too typical late-season collapse will be taking out this Jets team on Sunday.
Are the Jets a more difficult opponent now?
The Jets making the move from Wilson to Boyle, never made a ton of sense. This offense has had problems outside of the quarterback for some time now and Wilson hadn’t been awful for most of the season. He was made a scapegoat in hopes of sparking the rest of the team/offense. Well, the Boyle experiment went about as well as every other stop he’s had in the NFL and they were forced to go back to Wilson.
Wilson rewarded that decision by turning in the best performance that a Jets quarterback has had in 2023. He was still pressured on 38% of his snaps (just slightly down from his 2023 average of 42%), but avoided making major mistakes when he was. He completed 8 of 11 attempted passes for 81 yards and no interceptions for a 93.4 QB ratings. It stands out more when you compare that to his 55.8 QB rating under pressure for the entire 2023-2024 season. (per PFF).
The Jets defense is always a tough matchup, but if the offense (specifically Zach Wilson) can keep up this level of production and efficiency they are one of the more capable teams in the NFL. Vic Fangio has got to be livid after how that Titans game finished, so look for him to prepare a strong game plan against Wilson and hope to confuse the young signal caller.
Run the Football
The last time the Dolphins faced this Jets team they had a great day on the ground and that needs to figure into their game plan this week. The Dolphins suffered one of their biggest setbacks of the year losing Connor Williams to a torn ACL and had major problems in pass protection against the Titans. Tua Tagovailoa was pressured on 46% of his dropbacks, a massive jump from his 23.8% season mark. The Titans took away Tua’s early reads and won their matchups on the offensive line.
The offense was missing 4 of their 5 original starting linemen and their #1 weapon (Tyreek Hill) was dealing with an ankle injury for most of that game. This isn’t a situation that is ever going to favor an offense. One of the surprising things from the Tennessee game is that they still ran the ball effectively (158 yards and 5.1 per carry).
Came away really impressed with the run blocking in this game. All three levels (line, backs, receivers) showed up. Eichenberg, Ingold, and Julian Hill had some especially impressive reps. #FinsUp pic.twitter.com/jHSDj5HX2F— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) November 27, 2023
The Jets will present many of the same problems that the Titans did. They’re going to work to take away early reads, focus on stopping Tyreek/Waddle, and get after the quarterback. Even if Robert Hunt, Terron Armstead, and Liam Eichenberg can play in this game, the Dolphins would be smart to stick with their ground game. The Jets aren’t going to be dropping eight in the box very often, so it’s going to be available. Keep Tua upright and give Tyreek a lighter load than usual. Win this game by running the football and playing good defense.
Pressure Zach Wilson
Like we said earlier, Wilson was still pressured a lot against the Texans. The Jets’ pass protection issues didn’t disappear over night and getting after Wilson still needs to be a top priority for this defense. Wilson played well under pressure last week, but performance under pressure doesn’t tend to be consistent when compared to production in a clean pocket. Translation: it is difficult to stack multiple good games in a row for a quarterback who is consistently pressured at a high rate.
The Jets have a litany of problems on offense, the most obvious being pass protection. Zach Wilson wasn't the guy that could overcome those problems, will Tim Boyle? pic.twitter.com/e6xFFocz56— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) November 23, 2023
In fact, Zach Wilson has been one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL when it comes to dealing with pressure (his QB rating under pressure was 18.6 last season..... 18.6). That Houston game was probably his best as a professional. Is it possible that he’s “figured it out,” over the last couple of weeks on the bench? Sure. Is that likely? No.
That means the Dolphins will be looking for another big game out of Bradley Chubb, Zach Sieler, Christian Wilkins, Andrew Van Ginkel, and Emmanuel Ogbah. The Tennessee game was the first time we really felt the absence of Jaelan Phillips since his unfortunate Achilles injury two weeks ago. The pass rush wasn’t awful against Tennessee, but you could see it slow down as the game wore on. Maybe the addition of Melvin Ingram will help give them another productive pass rusher?
It is wild how much a single week can change the feel around a team. Prior to the Monday Night debacle, the Dolphins had a three game lead over the Bills in the AFC East and a good shot at the #1 seed. The division (and even the #1 seed) are still on the table, but between injuries and a head scratching performance it feels like both could slip from their grasp. We all know the story with the Miami Dolphins over the last couple of decades. When the temperature drops and the season wears on, they tend to crumble. They have played their best football of the season in September, which explains why they have the second longest playoff win drought in the NFL while still managing a respectable win-percentage.
McDaniel and his coaching staff have focused on the team playing it’s best football at the end of the season. It’s been a major talking point and It’s why they’ve been conservative bringing back injured players. With the Cowboys, Ravens, and Bills next up for the Dolphins, this Jets game is of the utmost importance. The Dolphins need to find a way to get to Zach Wilson and play clean football on offense. It won’t be easy, but they’ll gut out a 24-17 win against the Jets and get back on track.