Conor McDermott, NY Jets, Jaelan Phillips
Conor McDermott, New York Jets, Getty Images

The New York Jets must figure out how to contain Miami’s elite talent

Yesterday, we discussed three advantages the New York Jets hold over the Miami Dolphins entering this Sunday’s AFC East duel. Today we’ll flip the script and look at some of Miami’s biggest advantages.

Dolphins WRs Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle vs. Jets safeties

I would argue Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are the most valuable duo in the NFL right now, regardless of position. No tandem of teammates at the same position are more important to their team’s success than these two explosive wideouts.

Miami relies on Hill and Waddle more heavily than any other team relies on its top two targets. Hill leads the NFL with 477 receiving yards (119.3/G) while Waddle ranks seventh with 381 yards (95.3/G). Beyond them, Miami’s next-best receiver is Trent Sherfield with a measly 77 yards (19.3/G).

Hill and Waddle are responsible for 70% of Miami’s receiving yards and 59% of Miami’s total offensive yardage. They are getting 57% of the team’s targets.

If you want to stop the Dolphins, it all starts and ends with how well you contain Hill and Waddle.

Speed is the trademark trait of this pairing. Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur even said this week that he thinks the Dolphins’ offense is “maybe the fastest [he] has ever seen.” That is all because of their star receivers.

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Waddle and Hill rank first and third, respectively, among 62 qualified wide receivers (min. 100 routes) when it comes to their average top speed within two seconds after the snap. Waddle’s average top speed at the two-second mark is 13.91 mph and Hill’s is 13.77 mph. The NFL average for wide receivers is 12.44 mph. Pittsburgh’s Diontae Johnson ranks second at 13.80.

The Jets finally have a cornerback duo that can contend with speedy wideouts in Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed. That’s not to say they will shut Hill and Waddle down, but they should be able to do a respectable job even if they get beat a handful of times.

Where Hill and Waddle’s speed really becomes a problem is when they match up against the Jets’ safeties.

Lamarcus Joyner and Jordan Whitehead are each coming off their best game of the season in Pittsburgh, but their full body of work through four games is still poor considering how much they struggled over the first three games. Plus, stopping Chase Claypool and George Pickens is completely different than stopping Hill and Waddle.

As the Jets, I would be very worried about what Hill and Waddle might do to Joyner and Whitehead after the catch. Whitehead is third among safeties with seven missed tackles while Joyner is 17th with four. Meanwhile, Hill (second) and Waddle (sixth) each rank top-six among wide receivers in YAC. Hill is gaining 44.3 YAC per game while Waddle is averaging 38.8. That’s 83.1 yards between the two of them just after the catch.

New York had better hope the Pittsburgh versions of Joyner and Whitehead show up again. If not, Hill and Waddle will be able to turn their good plays into game-breaking plays. The Jets can live with Hill and Waddle racking up 10-to-15-yard catches, but they cannot afford to let them turn short grabs into 50-yard touchdowns.

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Dolphins EDGE Jaelan Phillips vs. Jets RT Conor McDermott

At the moment, it looks like the Jets will be starting Conor McDermott at right tackle against Miami.

McDermott’s poor pass-blocking technique leaves him highly susceptible to getting beat around the corner with speed. We saw him give up the edge on a few plays against Pittsburgh last week.

This makes Jaelan Phillips a nightmare matchup for him.

Phillips rotates between both sides of the defensive line for Miami, so he won’t be matching up with McDermott full-time, but he will get his fair share of opportunities to exploit New York’s sixth option at the offensive tackle position. When he does get those opportunities, it will be a sizable mismatch in Miami’s favor.

Phillips has the necessary speed to dart past McDermott. The 2021 first-round pick is the owner of a 4.58 forty time.

After a cold start to the season, Phillips is heating up. Phillips had two pressures over his first two games before collecting 10 pressures over his next two (five in each game).

Dolphins defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah will also see a lot of McDermott, as he leads the team in snaps from the left edge.

While Ogbah is a solid defensive end for Miami and will likely create some pressure against McDermott, it’s Phillips who has the potential to really explode in this matchup against McDermott. We just haven’t seen anything from McDermott that inspires confidence he could contain an athlete of Phillips’s caliber. Phillips will have a chance to win quickly enough for sack opportunities.

Dolphins DT Zach Sieler vs. Jets LG Laken Tomlinson

Zach Sieler is one of the most underrated defensive tackles in the league. Sieler was one of the position’s most efficient playmakers on a per-snap basis in 2021. Miami rewarded him with a snap-count boost (30.5 per game last year to 42.3 per game so far in 2022) and he continues to provide quality production with the larger role.

Sieler ranks 18th out of 95 qualified defensive tackles with a run-stop rate of 10.8% (7 run stops on 66 run-defense snaps). Last season, he placed second-best out of 103 qualifiers with a 12.7% run-stop rate (34 run stops on 278 run-defense snaps).

Despite being best known for his run-stuffing, Sieler is no slouch in the passing game. He has a pressure rate of 9.0% since last season, recording 30 pressures on 335 pass-rush snaps. That’s above the 2021 league average for DTs, which was 7.3%.

Sieler primarily lines up on the right side of the defensive line. That means his primary matchup will be Jets left guard Laken Tomlinson – a lopsided mismatch in Miami’s favor.

This shouldn’t be a lopsided mismatch in Miami’s favor. Tomlinson is a reigning Pro Bowler who played like a top-10 left guard last year. The Jets paid him to continue performing at that level. But the way he is playing right now, Tomlinson is badly overmatched against a productive player like Sieler.

Despite dealing with an onslaught of injuries along the offensive line, it’s actually been the Jets’ healthiest and most experienced player, Tomlinson, who has been causing the most trouble – not any of the players involved in the injury carousel. Outside of a decent game against the Browns in Week 2, Tomlinson has been consistently brutal as both a pass-blocker and run-blocker.

The Jets desperately need the old version of Tomlinson to return. If he does not return this week, Sieler will cause havoc for the Jets offense – particularly in the run game.

I would also look out for the occasional matchup between Tomlinson and Jaelan Phillips. Miami deployed Phillips on the interior for a few reps against the Bengals last week, and Phillips got great results out of it.

Between Sieler and Phillips, Miami has the weaponry to exploit Tomlinson in both phases.

Tomlinson really needs to step up and start winning his one-on-ones consistently. The Jets already have plenty of other offensive line issues they must figure out how to mitigate. They should not also be tasked with finding a way to work around a Pro Bowl guard who simply cannot execute his responsibilities.

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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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Jonathan Richter
Jonathan Richter
2 months ago

I have yet to see any journalist simply ask Tomlinson “What’s going on with you this season? Why are you struggling like this?”