After two disappointing and somewhat embarrassing results on the road, the New York Jets make their MetLife Stadium season debut against the Miami Dolphins.
The Dolphins are 1-0 after knocking off the Los Angeles Chargers, 19-17, last week after their season opener against Tampa Bay was cancelled because of Hurricane Irma. Miami would’ve fallen to 0-1 if not for a missed 44-yard field goal by Chargers rookie Younghoe Koo with five seconds remaining. The Dolphins will certainly take the win, considering the circumstances.
The Dolphins drew Jay Cutler out of retirement after Ryan Tannehill re-injured his left knee during training camp. Cutler completed 24-of-33 passes for 230 yards and a touchdown in his Dolphins debut. His mentality will remain the same as a gunslinger who has never seen a throw he didn’t like. The key for the Jets will be forcing the game into Cutler’s hands, but that won’t be easy.
The Dolphins will likely rely on breakout star running back Jay Ajayi early and often Sunday. Ajayi carried the ball 28 times for 122 yards last week and the Dolphins will certainly take notice of New York’s putrid run defense through their first two games. The Jets enter Week 3 ranked dead last in the NFL in rush defense and have allowed 370 yards already during this young season.
Miami’s offensive line isn’t anything special, but it might be good enough to manhandle New York’s front seven. Inside linebackers Demario Davis and Darron Lee have been horrendous. They’ve struggled to shed blocks against the run and have seldom been in the right position to make a play. Ajayi rushed for 162 yards in two games against the Jets last year and could top that total in one game Sunday.
Cutler’s favorite targets by far were Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker. Landry caught 13 passes on 15 targets and somehow accrued only 78 yards. Parker will serve as the vertical threat and caught four passes for 85 yards against the Chargers.
Defensively, Miami’s secondary might be susceptible. The Dolphins allowed Philip Rivers to carve them up for 331 yards on 31 completions and a touchdown. Keenan Allen gave them the most trouble, hauling in nine receptions for 100 yards. The Dolphins did a great job shutting down the Chargers running game, limiting Melvin Gordon to only 13 yards on nine carries.
Of course, the Jets don’t have Rivers under center and an inclination to get off-balance. However, Josh McCown has been competent and perhaps better than expected through two games. He played fine last weekend against Oakland, completing 17-of-25 attempts for 166 yards and two touchdowns. McCown probably isn’t going to win the Jets a game, but he hasn’t come close to the awful standards set by Ryan Fitzpatrick. Expect McCown to target Jermaine Kearse heavily just like he has in the first two contests.
New York’s running game has been a mosh and offensive coordinator John Morton confirmed his offense will utilize a three-man committee in the backfield. The group will likely be led by veteran Matt Forte, who leads the team with 69 rushing yards. Bilal Powell’s role clearly isn’t as large as once perceived after rookie Elijah McGuire got in the mix against Oakland.
How can the Jets beat the Dolphins? Putting up a fight against the run would help. It’s worth noting Ajayi has been held out of practice this week with a knee injury, but it appears the injury isn’t serious. Then again, the Jets have given up rushing touchdowns to Mike Tolbert, Jalen Richard and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson so it might not really matter who’s taking the handoffs.
The Jets will have to turn this into a defensive struggle while exploiting Miami’s weakness in the secondary. The more passes from Cutler, the more likely he’ll throw himself into a mistake. The Jets won’t have to steal this game if Cutler hands it to them.