Notes heading into an all-important weekend for Dolphins

In what has been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride of a season, the Miami Dolphins find themselves at 8-8 with one game to play, and their playoff hopes are not all in their control.

While a win against their AFC East rival New York Jets is paramount, of course, the postseason will not be a reality unless the New England Patriots lose to the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park on Sunday – a game being played simultaneously to Miami’s.

How we all got here following an 8-3 start isn’t a blame that can be put on one person or one unit. The 3-0 start was met with a trio of losses following the injury situations plaguing the Miami quarterbacks, let alone several key injuries on defense that seemed to be one key name after another, week after week.

Regardless of the controversy and playing defense with second-stringers in key areas, especially the secondary, the Dolphins were still able to rattle off a five-game winning streak, only to follow up with the five-game losing rut they find themselves in heading into Week 18.

Despite the trials and tribulations that this team has gone through, led by a rookie head coach in Mike McDaniel, Miami still has the opportunity to have a third straight winning season, a franchise feat that hasn’t been seen in essentially twenty years (2001-03).

When looking at the all-time series in this rivalry, it’s dead even, as the teams are 56-56-1 in regular-season play. Miami did win the lone playoff meeting between the two.

Recently, in Miami, the Dolphins have won six straight home games against the Jets, and a win Sunday would set the all-time series record for consecutive home wins with seven.

How will Miami be able to get that win? They face a Jets team with no chance at the playoffs but an opportunity to eliminate a rival, as well as head into the 2023 offseason on a positive note, following their own breakdown of a season.

Starting for the Dolphins will likely be the rookie seventh-round quarterback, Skylar Thompson, who, even after a solid preseason, has proved that in the NFL regular season, he isn’t at Kansas State anymore.

Miami even signed veteran journeyman backup Mike Glennon to the practice squad on Wednesday.

For the Dolphins to be successful against the league’s third-best unit in defense, they’d be wise to utilize the ground game. The Jets hold opponents to 192.5 yards per game through the passing attack, which is second in the NFL. On the flip side, they are a bit more vulnerable against the run, ranking 16th in the league, giving up 119.1 yards on the ground per game.

Enter the Dolphins running back duo of Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. At times throughout the season, each has shown brilliance. Although the consistency and volume have not been there week-to-week or even quarter-to-quarter, each back holds a very respectable per-carry average. Mostert is gaining 4.8 yards per run and Wilson is rushing for 4.7. If you want to count Salvon Ahmed, he’s averaging 5.2 yards per carry when he makes a cameo.

Collectively, the Dolphins need to keep the ball on the ground, extend drives, keep their injury-riddled defense off the field and make life easy for Thompson. These are all obvious statements.

Thompson also has the riches of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, so quick hits to them and letting each use their yards-after-catch ability could be the recipe for success; extended run plays so to speak.

Defensively, last week Miami was down Bradley Chubb and Xavien Howard, and their status as of Wednesday’s official practice report was no improvement, as they did not participate.

On the field, and perhaps the Dolphins’ 2022 seasonal defensive MVP has been Christian Wilkins. The fourth-year defensive lineman has put together two straight campaigns of elite output at the position. He is two tackles away from breaking the Dolphins’ all-time record in a season at his position. Held by Jeff Cross with 93 from 1993, Wilkins currently has 92. The third most tackles in a season for Miami happened last season, also by Christian Wilkins.

Since 1994, just two NFL defensive linemen have recorded more tackles than Wilkins’ 92 tackles in a season. He has a chance to surpass both Dallas Cowboy Anthony Spencer from 1992 and Arizona’s Michael Bankston from 1997 with at least four tackles on Sunday.

Additionally, he is tied for seventh among NFL defensive linemen with 15 tackles for loss this season and has recorded a tackle for loss in 11 of his 16 games played so far.

Surrounding Wilkins as the strength of the defense, and in closest proximity, has been Zach Sieler, who has been playing fantastic within the interior of the line. Jaelan Phillips has also been proving his worth, leading the Dolphins in sacks and quarterback hits.

Veteran captain Elandon Roberts at the linebacker position has also been solid this season, racking up his 100th tackle last week, reaching that milestone for the first time in his career.

The secondary has been the unit that has been affected the most, with consecutive injuries in back-to-back weeks coming from Nik Needam and Brandon Jones. Of course, the invisible elephant in the locker room is the Byron Jones situation, and it doesn’t help that Howard has not been healthy, nor his usual self this season. Undrafted rookie cornerback Kader Kohou has had an outstanding freshman campaign and played himself into solidifying himself into the Dolphins’ future.

As a unit, the Dolphins’ defense, and its leadership must reach down deep, and scheme up a plan to stop a Jets team who would very much enjoy a potential sweep, and a sweep in a way that can brush Miami from the playoffs.


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Story originally appeared on Dolphins Wire