Xavien Howard, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Contract, PFF Grade
Xavien Howard, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Getty Images

How the New York Jets’ offense can succeed against the Miami Dolphins’ defense

The Miami Dolphins’ defense is suddenly looked upon by many as a juggernaut because of one great primetime performance against the Baltimore Ravens (10 points allowed), but the unit is still a lowly one regardless of that excellent outing. Miami remains 24th in scoring defense (25.2 points per game) and 29th in total defense (383.1 yards per game).

If the Joe Flacco-led New York Jets want to succeed against Miami’s defense, they must exploit these three players.

1. CB Xavien Howard

Yes, you read that right. Big-money cornerback Xavien Howard is a weakness in Miami’s defense right now.

Thanks to his two Pro Bowls, 24 career interceptions, and $75 million contract that ranks fifth-largest at the cornerback position, Howard is a household name. However, in 2021, he has performed nowhere near the level that earned him his current reputation.

Howard has been credited with allowing seven touchdown passes, which leads all cornerbacks in the NFL. He has also allowed the 13th-most receptions (34) and 10th-most yards (463) while committing the eighth-most penalties (6).

Tackling has been an issue for Howard. He has whiffed on 17.1% of his tackle opportunities, which ranks at the 24th percentile among qualified cornerbacks.

The Jets cannot fear Howard. Ignore his name recognition. Challenge him.

Howard typically lines up on the left side of the defense, doing so 79.9% of the time. That should give him plenty of battles against Corey Davis, who has lined up on the right side of the offense on 63.4% of his snaps over his last two games.

Regardless of where Howard lines up or who matches up against him, the bottom line is that the Jets should be proactive in testing to see which version of him shows up – the star or the man who leads the NFL in touchdowns allowed.

Going after Howard is a risky proposition considering how dangerous he can be, but it is a chance worth taking when looking at the numbers he has coughed up this year.

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2. OLB Andrew Van Ginkel

Outside linebacker/edge defender Andrew Van Ginkel is consistently deployed in coverage by Miami. Van Ginkel is averaging 10.5 coverage snaps per game this season and leads all edge defenders with 105 total coverage snaps.

It is odd that Miami insists on using Van Ginkel in coverage so often considering how much he has struggled in that area. Van Ginkel’s Pro Football Focus coverage grade of 27.7 is the worst of any defensive player in the NFL who has played at least 100 coverage snaps, regardless of position. That’s out of 195 qualifiers.

When Flacco catches Van Ginkel dropping into coverage, he must quickly look for his options in the flat or on short curl/sitdown routes. Players running those routes should be able to get open consistently against Van Ginkel.

3. MLB Elandon Roberts

Elandon Roberts is a rotational linebacker who has played 54.4% of Miami’s defensive snaps this year. He can make noise as a blitzer but has been utterly terrible as a run defender this season.

Roberts has missed 12 tackles in the run game, which leads all linebackers despite the fact that he ranks 30th at the position with 196 snaps played against the run. He does not make up for it with playmaking as he ranks only 51st among linebackers with 10 run stops.

The Jets need to figure out ways to exploit #52 in the run game.

Roberts is generally a middle linebacker in Miami’s 3-4 defense. Perhaps the Jets can exploit him by getting Trevon Wesco involved at fullback and using him to clear out Roberts at the point of attack. That’s what the Patriots did to the Jets in Week 7 to exploit New York’s awful linebackers, with fullback Jakob Johnson constantly grading the road for big plays.

Or, the Jets can call some trap runs that allow an interior offensive lineman to immediately fire up to Roberts at the second level while leaving a defensive lineman to be picked up by a puller. Give your guys a chance to dominate Roberts in space, creating second-level room that can turn a good run to turn into a great one.

Another strategy is to consistently leave Roberts as the running back’s responsibility. The Jets can focus their blocking reinforcements elsewhere and force Roberts to make one-on-one tackles in space against Michael Carter.

However they get it done, the Jets have to exploit the worst run-stopping linebacker in football.

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania[at]jetsxfactor.com - Twitter: @Michael_Nania
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1 year ago

They should be able to get some big plays against this defense. I believe this is one reason they are going with Flacco. This team needs wins. Let’s hope Flacco can take advantage of these soft spots and score some points.

1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Nania

Let’s hope the defense holds up because I think it WILL get ugly if the Jets get predictable on offense. Also, it’s time for the WR’s to step up. They should be beating man coverage by now. This could be a game where they hit some screens.