MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It may not have been the prettiest of victories but the Miami Dolphins came home from California with a notch in the win column, which is really all that matters.
After spending the week in Oxnard to train while South Florida recovered from Hurricane Irma, the Dolphins eeked out a win thanks to having a ‘clutch-ier’ kicker than the LA Chargers.
Apologies to Younghoe Koo but…well….
Now Miami moves on to a game that is universally viewed as a must-win. Not because they need the victory to stay alive in the playoff hunt (it is, after all, only Week 3) but because the Jets are that bad and a loss to them would not only look bad but also bring more attention to the team’s off-the-field issues which could suddenly become more relevant.
Rest assured, if the Dolphins play a good game, they will win.
Miami has a lot more talent than the Jets and should have knocked the majority of the ‘Week 1 bye’ rust off.
Heading into this battle of division rivals, here are some questions and storylines to ponder.
Is The Cutler-To-Parker Connection Already A Real Thing?
There is clearly a trust that Jay Cutler is developing in DeVante Parker. That was evident during Miami’s win over the Chargers when Cutler, on multiple occasions, put up a 50-50 ball with full confidence that Parker would make the play, or at least keep the ball from being intercepted.
That’s exactly what happened as Parker made a couple of spectacular catches that fueled the Dolphins exciting comeback win. The big-bodied wideout is poised for a breakout year and having Cutler dropping back to sling him the ball certainly helps push that narrative.
What Will Be Done About The LB Situation?
Miami is thinner at linebacker than any other position, and it’s really not even close. Losing Lawrence Timmons to his team-issued suspension puts a massive hole in the Dolphins LB corps and the patchwork job to keep things together may not hold much longer.
Mike Hull led the Dolphins in tackles against Los Angeles with 10. He was solid against the run but left something to be desired on passing plays.
If and when Rey Maualuga enters Miami’s lineup, he could be a step up from Hull depending where he is at physically. Maualuga’s status for Sunday’s game is still up in the air as he battles back from a hamstring injury.
Undrafted rookie Chase Allen has a nice combination of size and speed but is still very rough around the edges and is adjusting to the speed of the NFL.
Then there’s newcomer Stephone Anthony, acquired Tuesday from the New Orleans Saints for a fifth round pick. That seems like great value for a guy selected in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, but it’s clear that the Saints quickly soured on the 25-year-old and leaves major questions as to what the expectations should be for his time in Miami.
Will Nate Allen Get Better?
It’s clear that Allen is just holding T.J. McDonald’s job down until Week 10, when McDonald returns from an 8-game suspension. When Allen, an eight-year veteran in the NFL, signed with Miami it was viewed as a solid depth addition that could possibly compete for a starting job.
Allen has a playmaking history, racking up 13 interceptions and three forced fumbles during his career. He struggled a bit during Miami’s win over the Chargers, but some of that can be viewed in two ways. On one hand, he dropped a couple of would-be interceptions. On the other hand, he was in position to make a big play for his defense and just couldn’t come down with the ball, but he was still in the right place at the right time.
Glass half full…
Will We See Better Play Calling From Adam Gase and Matt Burke?
The first game of the season is generally where players shake off the rust of the preseason, but the same logic can be applied to the coaching staff. That seemed apparent last weekend as Adam Gade admittedly struggled with the offensive play calling in the first half (Miami scored just three points, on its opening drive) and defensive coordinator Matt Buke couldn’t seem to call anything that wasn’t picked up by Phillip Rivers and the Chargers offense.
How Can Cody Parkey Top His Debut?
In his first game with Miami, the lifelong Dolphins fan lived out every kids dream by making the game-winning field goal in the final moments. It was part of a perfect afternoon for Parkey, hitting all five of his kicks (four field goals and one extra point) and serving up several perfect directional kickoffs.
There aren’t many ways for any kicker to top a game like that. I think most Dolphins fans will be happy if Parkey can just continue to be consistent and steady. Really, the less we think about Parkey for the rest of the season, the better. If we’re not thinking about him, odds are he’s not messing up.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
- Jay Ajayi vs. Jets Run Defense – Ajayi ran the ball 28 times for 122 yards in Miami’s win over the Chargers, adding a pair of catches for four yards. He’s clearly the bell-cow runner in the Dolphins offense. Meanwhile, the Jets have given up a league-worst 370 rushing yards, an average of 185.5 per game. To put that into perspective, the next-worst team gives up an average of 162.5 yards per game. Yeah, a difference of over 20 yards. PER game.
- Miami’s Secondary vs. Jets Passing Game – There is no way around it…the Dolphins secondary was abused by Phillip Rivers last week. Part of that is a lack of pressure on the quarterback, part is on great play and recognition by Rivers and part goes to an underwhelming effort from guys like Byron Maxwell and Nate Allen. The unit will have a chance to bounce back this week against a struggling Jets passing game with no big weapons (Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brandon Marshall would’ve been starters for this team and where are they now?)
- Miami Pass Rush vs. Jets Offensive Line – The Dolphins failed to generate much of a pass rush against Rivers and the Chargers, but I give the quarterback a lot of credit for this one. It was a constant theme that whatever blitz package Miami would throw at LA, Rivers recognized it quickly and got rid of the ball accordingly. Even if the Dolphins don’t sack Josh McCown five times on Sunday, getting consistent pressure in his face should do enough to derail an already shaky Jets passing game.