By: Shawn Williams
The Miami Dolphins beat the New York Jets 20-3. Notice the lack of excitement in that sentence. I, like most fans, are happy to leave East Rutherford, NJ with a win, however this was about as “ho-hum” as you could get. I struggled to ever really feel engaged. There wasn’t any real doubt that Miami would exit the victor. The game didn’t offer much in terms of big plays, and despite Miami needing to win, it felt as meaningless as any game could feel.
Maybe it was the lack of Tua, or perhaps it was the same problems that have riddled Miami in every other game this season bringing feelings of frustration. This win felt so on par with most other games this season, right down to Xavien Howard snagging another interception. Anyway, let’s take the “W”. Here are my 13 thoughts.
1). Ryan Fitzpatrick made his first start since the team last played the Jets. He looked like the same old Fitz, the good AND the bad. There were misplaced balls that could’ve led to turnovers. There were also well thrown 50-50 balls to Mike Gesicki and DeVante Parker. Those are the balls, as the in-game commentators suggested multiple times, that Tua will need to gather the confidence to throw. It was nice to see a more “open” playbook again with Fitz at the helm. He played with his veteran savvy and did exactly what was expected of him. Ho-hum, good job.
2). Both DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki again showed why they need to be the highlight of Chan Gailey’s offense. They are both very reliable with their hands, and most always win their match-ups. As stated before, Tua hasn’t quite thrown the 50-50 balls...yet, but Ryan Fitzpatrick with his trust in those two continue to result in positive productions. Parker had his 10th 100-yard game, and Gesicki pulled down a nice touchdown over the top of his defender.
3). Another tough day on the ground for Miami. DeAndre Washington was the best of them today, but that’s not really saying much. Both Matt Breida and Patrick Laird had fumbles that resulted in turnovers. I suspect the running game will continue to be a wart the rest of this season with shaky blocking and lack of better talent at the position. The running game needs to be a top priority for GM Chris Grier in the off-season as its grown incredibly stale and frustrating.
4). And another tough day against the run for Miami’s defense. I suppose it wasn’t terrible, but too many times Frank Gore rushed for decent gains and first downs. I believe this will be easier to fix for Miami than other issues. Raekwon Davis has the potential to be a monster at Nose Tackle, he just needs to keep learning. Ogbah, Lawson and Wilkins are all decent run defenders. Miami will likely target another Line Backer or two after this season, which should help fortify the run defense, and close the gap on completing the build of Brian Flores’ unit.
5). Miami continued to struggle rushing the passer without the blitz packages. Opposing quarterbacks seem to have forever when there’s only four down lineman rushing, and for Sam Darnold it was no different. Apart from the rush defense, this is really the defense’s only other flaw. I’d have to say that is a good thing, seeing as the Dolphins are only in year 2 of the rebuild, and already boast one of the best statistical defenses in the NFL.
6). The Dolphins evened the all-time series with the Jets at 55-55-1 after completing the season sweep.
7). Tua “may” miss another week with his jammed thumb. That is not a good thing. Brian Flores reiterated in the post-game interview that it’s Tua’s job when he’s healthy, and it should be. The problem is the Dolphins face the lowly Bengals next week, and that would provide an ideal opportunity for Tua to try and find a rhythm and gain some more experience. After next week, the Dolphins play 4 straight pivotal games starting with the Kansas City Chiefs, in what could be a shootout. I think it would behoove Tua to get his finger in order and gain some more playing time prior to facing Patrick Mahomes.
8). Jason Sanders continues his historic season for the Miami Dolphins. Sanders nailed two more over 50 yards, one from 51 and one from 54. He only has one miss on the season, and at this point should be considered the front runner for the Pro Bowl.
9). Speaking of the Pro Bowl, there’s no one more deserving than Xavien Howard. Heck, there can be a case made for Defensive Player of the Year. Howard pulled down his league leading seventh interception of the season and I cannot confidently say there is a better cornerback in the NFL than Howard. His ball skills are unparalleled, he catches almost anything thrown within his grasp. Howard rarely makes mistakes or let’s his man loose. I’d say X is earning every penny of his massive contract.
10). I mentioned Nik Needham’s growth last week, and that showed again this week with a nice interception off of a poorly thrown ball. I think it’s safe to say he’s become a solid NFL slot corner, but he’s showing he can blossom into something even better.
11). Jakeem Grant is such a polarizing figure on this team. He’s capable of taking a punt or kick to the house at any time, and he’s shown he can be a viable pass catcher as well. Jakeem also has had a tendency to “drop” the big play, and today was no different. Ryan Fitzpatrick found him on a deep ball (thrown a little short, but easily catchable) that Jakeem couldn’t bring in. Fortunately, there was a highly questionable pass interference call on the play that made up for Grant’s drop. With Miami’s passing game struggling as it is, it makes Grant’s inconsistency that much more frustrating. His potential has always been there, he just needs to find a way to bring it on every play.
12). The Dolphins reclaimed a playoff spot with their win and some help from others. The Atlanta Falcons devoured the Raiders, while the Titans beat the Colts pushing those teams behind Miami. This puts the Dolphins back in control of their own destiny.
13). Miami fell prey to a “trap game” last week in Denver, next week has the same eerie feel. The Dolphins cannot take the Bengals lightly, Joe Burrow or not. Cincinnati is a frisky team that usually stays in every game. Their defense is solid, and they have weapons on offense. Let’s hope Miami learned a lesson last week.
Please welcome Shawn Williams to PhinManiacs and please check him out on Twitter @swilliams3205