Ryan Tannehill is the quarterback first-year head coach Joe Philbin hoped he would be at this juncture in the season. He learns quickly, rarely makes the same mistakes twice and now he’s got the Dolphins at second place in the AFC East with a chance to widen the gap between the 3rd place Jets on Sunday. What more could one ask of a rookie in the shadow of a legend like Dan Marino?
The 24-year-old has a chance to put the Dolphins above .500 for the first time this season, providing the team and the fan base a cushion it hasn’t had for some time. Tannehill will look to target fourth-year receiver Brian Hartline who hasn’t had a standout game since his record-setting performance in Week 4 when he caught 12 passes for 253 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals. Since then, he’s caught just four passes for 59 yards, and that was within a two-game stretch. He didn’t catch any passes in Miami’s victory over the Rams. So, Hartline is going to have to step up in this matchup and be one of the guys Tannehill can count on to make the big plays downfield, like he’s done in the past.
Another receiver who may have a breakout game in Week 8 is Jabar Gaffney who has yet to see action in any contest since being signed by the Dolphins in early October. “He’s making progress,” Philbin said Friday when asked about whether it’s a difficult decision to play Gaffney on Sunday. “We’re just going to have to see how things unfold here and make a decision based on what gives us the best chance to win. It’s really nothing more than that.” Based on Philbin’s response, it doesn’t seem as if Gaffney has yet gained the confidence of the coaching staff. Nevertheless, he’s a talented wide out who still has the route-running ability and speed to make a substantial contribution.
As far as Miami’s running game is concerned, starter Reggie Bush is expected to have a big game after fully bouncing back from a left knee injury he suffered in the first matchup against the Jets. He’ll have some help in backup Daniel Thomas who missed Miami’s last contest after suffering his second concussion of the year.
Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez nearly helped his team beat the Patriots last Sunday. However, he let his squad down in overtime, turning the ball over on a fumble after New England had already scored on the first possession of the period. Sanchez will be motivated by that loss, so, Miami’s defense will have to put pressure on him early and not allow him to get into any kind of rhythm.
The Jets will be without one of their best defenders in 11th-year linebacker Bart Scott. Scott has a serious toe injury which may sideline him for two to three weeks. His absence in the game will snap his streak of consecutive games played at 119. Starting in his place at the left inside linebacker spot will be rookie Demario Davis who the Jets drafted in the third round this past April.
The player to watch for the Dolphins is linebacker Cameron Wake who has raked in 6.5 sacks in the last three games. He didn’t have any quarterback takedowns in Miami’s first matchup against the Jets. But will all the trash talking the Jets have done this heading into the matchup he’s certainly been given extra motivation to do some damage.
As for the Jets, the player to watch is tight end Dustin Keller. Keller put forth a top-tier performance against New England’s defense, catching seven passes for 93 yards and a touchdown. Without him the Jets wouldn’t have even come close to the Patriots in the contest. So, the Dolphins will definitely be looking to shut him down in this one.
The New York Jets (3-4) will play host to the Miami Dolphins (3-3) on Sunday at 1 p.m. eastern.