The New York Jets went into Sun Life Stadium looking for an upset win that would crush the Miami Dolphins dreams of making the playoffs, and the Jets delivered with a 20-7 victory. They took full advantage of Brian Hartline‘s early knee injury, and Ryan Tannehill clearly missed his best and favorite target. Geno Smith followed up last week’s controlled display against the Cleveland Browns with a great, turnover-free game to lead the Jets to victory. Below are ten relatively in-depth observations that I gleaned from watching this contest closely.
1. Big props should be given to the New York Jets offensive line, because they did an extraordinary job of blocking in this one. Rookie left guard Brian Winters made several key blocks in the running game, and he continues to impress me. Geno Smith was never sacked in this game, and he was hit just twice. More importantly, he was never hit by a defensive lineman, and the only times the Dolphins truly got pressure on Smith were when they decided to blitz. The line had a couple of hitches here and there (D’Brickashaw Ferguson had a couple of iffy plays), but they were excellent overall and deserve some major praise for holding up against a tough Dolphins front seven.
2. Coming into the game, I highlighted the Dolphins offensive line vs. the Jets defensive line as a huge mis-match. It didn’t seem like the Dolphins would be able to have a solid running game in this contest due to that matchup, and I figured that would put a lot of pressure on Tannehill. There was a lot of pressure on Tannehill and he turned in a poor performance, but it wasn’t due to a lack of a running game or even due to bad pass protection; it was due to solid coverage and the loss of Hartline.
Anyway, the Dolphins pass protection was nearly flawless in this game, but the run blocking is a little more difficult to break down. Sometimes the guys up front won their battles and got into the second level, but they also got overran in some key, short situations. Lamar Miller is one of the most talented running backs in the league, and he had a great game. 73 yards on 17 carries might not seem great, but Miller showed excellent vision, wiggle, and burst in this one to help try and give the Dolphins balance on offense. I can’t wait to see what Miller can do with a better offensive line in front of him.
3. Tannehill had a bad game, but he wasn’t as bad as the three interceptions indicate. I mean, I’ve seen worse quarterback performances end up with less interceptions. He definitely missed Hartline in this one, and I think this game serves as another reminder that Mike Wallace is not a No. 1 receiver in this league. He did a horrendous job of getting open, and he didn’t show good ball skills either. Wallace’s touchdown catch showcased some great route-running, but that was only one of a few good plays from the high-priced receiver. When you spend that much money on a player, you expect a lot more out of him than what the Dolphins have gotten out of Wallace.
Even when Hartline was on the field, though, Tannehill still had some issues hooking up with him. He’s quietly had a very good second-year season, but Tannehill has faltered down the stretch. He’ll need to make some more strides in the offseason, because consistency and decision-making are two keys for him to master in his third season in the league. He’s a good QB and continues to look promising (he had a few great throws against the Jets), but he has to do a whole lot better than that in key games.
4. Geno’s rushing ability and how to use it makes for an interesting discussion, because Smith’s speed and running can give the Jets another dimension to the offense that they could definitely use. While it would be nice to cut Smith loose often, it’s not good for his health either and can hurt his development as a QB if not controlled properly. For instance, there were times yesterday when Smith had a clean pocket but elected to roll to his right. Most of the time, the play simply broken down, because Smith wasn’t able to find an open receiver after doing this.
5. Chris Ivory has been the best player on the Jets offense this season, but he wasn’t even the best running back on the field yesterday. Bilal Powell did an excellent job of stepping up, and he ran better than his average of 3.6 yards per carry indicates. On most plays, the Dolphins defense knew that the Jets were going to run, so it was mostly just about finding balance on offense. He also pushed Smith into the end zone on Smith’s touchdown run, and he had a memorable 30-yard floater to Jeff Cumberland on the left sideline.
6. I liked what I saw out of Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson as route-runners, and their reliability has been crucial for Geno. Santonio Holmes is one of the least reliable receivers around, but Kerley and Nelson do a solid job of moving the chains and getting open. Had Smith not overthrown him badly (he also threw it too late, which is something Smith still really needs to work on), Nelson would have ended up with a touchdown catch. If the Jets can add a true No. 1 receiver who can make big plays, then the Jets offense has some promise.