Inside Slant | Notes, Quotes | Strategy and Personnel |
The Miami Dolphins must prove they can win the games they are supposed to win when they begin their five-game December schedule Monday, putting their 6-5 record on the line against the 2-9 New York Jets.
If they do what they should, the Dolphins will be no worse than 3-2 in December with victories over the Jets (twice) and Minnesota (4-7). What happens in the other two games - against Baltimore (7-4) and New England (9-2) - then becomes crucial. Either could be the 10th victory for the Dolphins, the one that gets them into the postseason.
To help ensure they reach the playoffs the Dolphins are still searching for big plays offensively. They're longest scoring plays remains a 21-yard pass from quarterback Ryan Tannehill to wide receiver Rishard Matthews, and they don't exhibit one-strike scoring capability from long distance.
"We've been stressing with the guys, the skill players specifically," coach Joe Philbin said, "when they get the ball in their hands, there are certain plays throughout the course of a game, let's say running plays, might be blocked for two yards or four or eight, and maybe even 10 (yards). Part of the job description of a running back is to make some yards on their own, whether it be elusiveness, whether it be breaking a tackle.
"Lamar (Miller) made (Buffalo's Leodis) McKelvin miss and got a 40-yard (run) two weeks ago. Certainly, we've been stressing that, and in the passing game some of the similar things. There are not a ton of routes in our five-step or our seven-step. A lot of them are 16, 14, 18 yards, but then you have space between you and the defender. You have the ball in your hand, make something happen. So there are other ways. And obviously we want to connect on some of the deeper balls down the field, too."
Big plays on offense could help take some of the burden off the short and intermediate passing game and the running game, the two driving forces of the offense.
Big plays on offense could also help ease some pressure on the defense if they're in a late-game situations such as they were against Green Bay, Detroit and Denver. It would let the defense know even if they give up a key play there's a good chance the offense could come back and even the game or take the lead with one snap. Currently, that's not the case.
Many argue because quarterback Ryan Tannehill rarely throws deep balls that defenses tend to cordon off a 20-yard box beyond the line of scrimmage to defend the Dolphins. Philbin said he doesn't think that's the case.
"Defenses, we've gotten a lot of variety," he said. "I'm sure there are pictures where you could argue on film that's the case, certainly. But there's been a lot of variety."
The Dolphins shouldn't need to put their comeback skills on display when they visit the Jets. But they might need them against their other opponents, and it'd be nice to have that area of the game mastered before it's needed.
The Dolphins are doing well in almost every area of the game - rushing yards, passing efficiency, scoring offense, scoring defense, sacks, rushing defense, etc... but they have a blind spot when it comes to scoring on long offensive plays.
Perhaps that gets addressed this week.
SERIES HISTORY: 97th regular season meeting. Miami leads series, 50-45-1. The Jets won the last meeting, 20-7, to knock the Dolphins out of playoff contention. Right now that stands as the biggest game in this rivalry because it was the most recent game that had meaning. Obviously everyone remembers the Monday Night Miracle in which the Jets scored 30 points in the fourth quarter and defeated the Dolphins, 40-37, in overtime in the Meadowlands. By the way, this game is on Monday Night.