Where the New York Jets can exploit the Miami Dolphins
The New York Jets (2-2) are preparing for a massive October meeting with the rival Miami Dolphins (3-1). It’s New York’s first divisional game of the season, and it comes at a time when the upstart Dolphins are particularly vulnerable. Starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will miss the game and many other key starters are on Miami’s injury report as of Wednesday.
Throw in the fact that New York is at home, and this is a big opportunity for the Jets to make a statement.
Miami is a 3-point favorite, per FanDuel Sportsbook. It’s a fair spread. Miami has a plus-7 point differential this year compared to New York’s minus-25. The Dolphins also have a pair of highly impressive victories over a pair of Super Bowl contenders in Baltimore and Buffalo.
However, the Jets do have sizable advantages over the Dolphins in a few different areas. If they are going to pull off the upset, they must maximize these advantages.
Here are three mismatches New York holds over Miami.
Jets RDT Quinnen Williams vs. Dolphins LG Liam Eichenberg
Quinnen Williams is enjoying an outstanding start to the 2022 season. He’s first among defensive tackles in quarterback hits (6), third in sacks (2.5), and third in pressure rate (11.8%). To boot, he is the anchor of a run defense that ranks sixth-best with 3.7 yards allowed per rush attempt.
Williams, who plays the majority of his snaps on the right side of the defensive line (opposite the opposing left guard), draws an enormous mismatch this week in Dolphins left guard Liam Eichenberg.
A second-round pick in 2021, Eichenberg began his career with a rough rookie season at left tackle. Eichenberg allowed the second-most pressures in the NFL among all offensive linemen (62).
The Dolphins moved Eichenberg to left guard this year. Things have not gone much better. Eichenberg is tied for fifth-worst among left guards with 11 pressures allowed.
Eichenberg is also struggling mightily in the run game, where he is creating very little room to run for Miami’s running backs. When rushing into the left-side A-gap or the left-side B-gap (either side of Eichenberg), the Dolphins are averaging 1.9 yards per carry.
Physically speaking, Eichenberg’s main deficiency is his length. Eichenberg’s 32⅜” arms put him at the 14th percentile among offensive linemen. This will make it tougher for him to get his hands into Williams’s chest before Williams gets contact on Eichenberg, giving Williams a golden opportunity to execute his finesse moves.
New York needs to Williams to completely dominate Eichenberg in both phases. Williams’ destruction of Eichenberg can incite a ripple effect across the line of scrimmage that allows the Jets’ entire defensive line to take control of the trenches.
That brings us to our next mismatch, which also involves the Jets’ DL versus the Dolphins’ OL.
Jets’ left-side edge defenders vs. Dolphins RT Greg Little
Miami’s offensive line has three starters who are playing fairly well this year: left tackle Terron Armstead, center Connor Williams, and right guard Robert Hunt. The offensive line is held back by two weak links: Eichenberg at left guard and Greg Little at right tackle.
Little is tied for fourth right tackles with 11 pressures allowed. He is Pro Football Focus’s lowest-graded pass-blocker at right tackle.
I think this is a golden opportunity for two young Jets edge rushers to explode: Bryce Huff and Jermaine Johnson.
Huff and Johnson shared reps on the left side of the Jets’ defensive line last week. Johnson played 10 pass-rush snaps and Huff played 9. Most likely, that rotation will continue this week, leaving both players with opportunities to beat up on Little.
Johnson is showing a nose for sacks. After picking up a sack in limited reps during the preseason, Johnson has already been in on two sacks during the regular season, which ties him for 30th among edge rushers despite placing 107th with 39 pass-rush snaps.
Little’s woes should give Johnson a great shot to get a third sack this week. Johnson’s speed (4.58 forty time, 93rd percentile for EDGE) should make him a mismatch for the slow-footed Little (5.33 forty time, 34th percentile for OT).
Johnson is working on his pass-rush consistency, as his 7.7% pressure rate is about three percentage points below the positional average. Perhaps this is the week Johnson starts to win on a more frequent basis.
Huff was utilized as a third-down specialist in his season debut against Pittsburgh. All nine of his snaps came on third down with at least four yards to go. The role was perfect for him as he racked up one win after the next. Huff’s 44.4% pass-rush win rate tied him for the best in the NFL among edge rushers in Week 4.
We should also mention Jacob Martin, another player who rotates in for a few pass-rush snaps from the left edge. Like Johnson and Huff, Martin also has the speed to beat Little around the corner. Martin has been racking up quite a few hurries but is struggling to convert them into hits or sacks. This week, Martin will have a chance to get home quicker and make his wins count.
John Franklin-Myers will be Little’s primary opponent in the run game. Franklin-Myers leads the Jets in snaps from the left-side edge, and since he kicks inside in some passing situations, most of his edge reps come in situations where the run is a legitimate threat.
Little, like Eichenberg, is not leading the Dolphins to much success on the ground. When rushing to the right edge (outside of the right tackle), Miami is averaging 3.0 yards per carry.
Franklin-Myers must take advantage. The Mike McDaniel-led Dolphins want to run the ball outside. If Franklin-Myers can consistently set a firm edge against Little, he can redirect runs back inside, where Williams will ideally be waiting to make a play after defeating Eichenberg.
Johnson, who is defending the run excellently this season, should also be expected to make some plays in the run game. His speed and motor will allow him to keep up with Miami’s outside-zone run game. Look for Johnson to string runs out and make stops near the sideline.
Jets WRs vs. Dolphins CBs
The Dolphins have allowed the second-most passing yards per game in the NFL (299.3) and their cornerbacks are the main reason why. Miami’s cornerbacks are allowing 11.6 yards per target this season – the worst mark of any cornerback unit in football.
Xavien Howard is the Dolphins’ big-money star at cornerback. The three-time Pro Bowler is dealing with a groin injury and his status for this week’s game is up in the air.
However, the Jets offense should not alter its plan based on whether Howard plays or not. In fact, the Jets should be licking their chops if Howard plays.
Howard is not playing anywhere close to his usual level. Teams have gained 269 yards on 21 targets in his direction (12.8 yards per target). Howard has allowed the fifth-most yards (269) and second-most touchdowns (4) of any cornerback in the NFL, giving up one touchdown in each game. To top it all off, Howard is ninth in missed tackles (4) and ninth in penalties (3).
The rest of Miami’s cornerbacks are hardly doing any better. Nik Needham (9.9 yards per target), Kader Kohou (9.1), and Keion Crossen (18.0) are all giving up enormous chunks of yardage when the ball comes their way. For reference, the league average yards-per-target for cornerbacks is 7.9.
This is a struggling cornerback unit, which is great news for a Jets wide receiver unit that continues to shine on a weekly basis. New York’s wide receiver unit ranks sixth-best in the NFL with 751 receiving yards.
Plenty of explosive-play opportunities will be there for Zach Wilson.
I’ll join the battle cry of moving JFM inside (the metrics support it).
Play JJ on most first second downs and Huff on 3rd and 5+
I also like Clemons on right DE on early downs. Lawson still in my doghouse.
P.S. If Migdalia is making $92 an hour I’d like to take out a loan and bet $25k on the Jets getting 3.5 pts
After what I saw vs. Cincy I’m not ready to give the DL such a heavy advantage. Two of the three things you have here are due to the DL and I’m in “I’ll believe it when I see it mode.”
We have been hearing about the talent, depth and versatility of this group since the summer. It’s be said the DL will make the entire team better because it’s the only group that can make everybody on their side better and also take away the QB. I want to see it. I want to see players getting home, not getting close. I want to see teams having trouble figuring out what to do because there are so many players being productive. I don’t want to see middle of the road QB’s like Jacoby Brissett completing pass after pass. I want to see an uncomfortable QB. They are improving, yes but I’m not there yet.
I do not understand JFM over JJ in the run game. Especially a wide zone scheme. I’d like to see JJ on run downs, Huff on passing downs, and JFM inside.
I think they like his size for edge-setting but against wide zone teams it would definitely be better to have a more athletic edge.
I agree with Matt. Our starting front should be Lawson, Q, JFM and JJ.
Who do you see losing their spot when Vinny Curry gets activated? Martin?
That’s what I would do, but they did pay Martin a decent amount of money and choose him to start the year over Huff. But to deactivate a young guy in favor of Curry wouldn’t make sense to me.
Considering how well Huff played last game, though, maybe they do pick Martin to lose the spot.
I wonder if Curry even does get playing time though. At this point of his career, after the last two years, are we really certain he’s an upgrade over anybody out there? As a pass-rusher, he might be better than Clemons, but again, is he better by enough to be worth playing over a rookie? Clemons is also probably better vs. the run.
This will be interesting.
Saleh and Ulbrich have loyalty to vets/leaders so I expect them to activate Curry and I am worried huff is the victim. I hope not, ad I’d rather see Martin go, or Shepard and move JFM inside permanently. Worse case you can bring Smart Marshall up from the practice squad to cover depth.
Move JFM inside more and cut Shephard.