Put up or Shut up – Dolphins at Jaguars Preview

If there is one great thing coming out of Miami’s 31-28 loss this past Sunday to the Buffalo Bills, it’s that they get to shift their focus immediately on their next opponent just 4 days later. There’s no time to dwell on how bad the defense has been in these first two games, and it’s time to focus on the Jacksonville Jaguars. Thankfully being the road team on a short week is that their game is only between 300-350 North of Miami, so traveling is not too much of an inconvenience(if you want to call it that).

Let’s start with the injury report. The Dolphins did not practice on Monday, but they put out an injury report and the status’ of players as if they practiced. Tuesday, every single players’ status from Monday was the exact same. Only one player was a DNP, and that was CB Byron Jones, who fans expected to be on there. Then on Wednesday, Byron Jones was yet again on the injury report as DNP, S Clayton Fejedelem was limited Monday-Wednesday this week, and his status is Doubtful. Fejedelem as yet to suit up for the Miami Dolphins this season. Every other player on the injury report was a full participant on Wednesday.

Byron Jones not playing Thursday, as expected. pic.twitter.com/eZqxPEve7R

Now let’s get to Thursday’s game. If the Miami Dolphins proved anything in the 2019 season, is that the coaches and the players on the field don’t tank like fans think they are. That is the case with the 2020 Jacksonville Jaguars. In the last 10-12 months, Jacksonville traded CB Jalen Ramsey to the LA Rams in the middle of the 2019 season, and they also traded DE Yannic Ngakoue to the Minnesota Vikings right before the 2020 season, their prized 2019 Free Agent QB Nick Foles to the Chicago Bears, DE Calais Campbell to Baltimore, waived their former 1st round pick RB Leonard Fournette after his second 1000-yard season in 3 years, the list goes on. This had every indication that the Jacksonville Jaguars are attempting to “Tank for Trevor,” right? Does not look that way after 2 weeks into the regular season.

Jacksonville through 2 weeks is 1-1, they won by a TD in Week 1 against Phillip Rivers and the Indianapolis Colts. Just by looking at the box score and a few highlights, here’s what Jacksonville did right to come out on top. They converted 50% of their 3rd down conversions, and they did not turn the ball over, Gardner Minshew had 3 TD’s and 0 INT’s. Jacksonville had a turnover margin of +2, despite being outgained in yards by over 200 yards and Jacksonville only had the ball for 26:37. Their first-round pick C.J. Henderson came to play in Week 1, had an interception in the first half, although it was a pass that Phillip Rivers threw in double coverage. Henderson also had 3 passes deflected, including a 4th-down play where he put the game on ice against Colts WR T.Y. Hilton. So things are looking good for the 9th overall pick out of Florida.

Although they fell short against the AFC runner-up Tennessee Titans in Week 2, they put up 480(165 on the ground) total yards, 30 points on the board, and converted on 71% on 3rd down. A couple of Minshew mistakes cost Jacksonville from being 2-0. They were even tied with the Titans with 7:29 left in the 4th, so we know already that this tanking narrative for Jacksonville is nonexistent. CJ Henderson had a pass breakup as well in this game, and their other first-round pick got involved, K’lavon Chaisson, who had a sack in this game(the pick they got from the LA Rams in the Ramsey trade). So early on, their replacements for Jalen Ramsey and Yannick Ngakoue seem to be working out for Jacksonville.

One thing we know is that with how aggressive Jay Gruden’s offense in Jacksonville has been aggressive through 2 games, they’re going to attempt a lot of passes in the air against Miami, they’re going to attack down the middle of the field in running situations too. I don’t need to remind you how bad the Dolphins defense has been through the first two games, you can go back to my Patriots game and Bills game recaps to remind you.

One question to ask is, what is Brian Flores and Josh Boyer going to do about which corner covers the opposing team’s best receiver? Through 2 games, Jaguars WR DJ Chark has caught all of his targets through two games, so Gardner Minshew is hitting his best receiver and Chark is helping his QB out in the process. Are we going to see another game where Xavien Howard does not get that assignment? Are we going to see another game where Jerome Baker and Kyle Van Noy are having communication issues presnap and the QB ends up with a big run down the middle or there happens to be an open receiver? Are we going to have another game where the single high safety falls for the QB pump fake and there is a wide-open man deep downfield for a big touchdown play? Are we going to see Garnder Minshew have all the time in the world inside of the pocket as he scans the field waiting for the open receiver? Communication and coaches putting their players in the best position is what is going to win this football game. Miami’s offense performed decently on Sunday, Jacksonville has put a lot of points up in two games. So one can only guess that this game will end up being a shootout. The question is, which defense will make that one-stop when it matters most.

I predicted Miami being 1-1 after 2 weeks of football, as did probably a lot of you. However, going into a game where you’re 0-2, against a team that was supposedly “tanking” has won a game before you, it’s put up or shut up time for the Miami Dolphins, usually this is not said for the 3rd game of the season, but if Miami wants any chance to sniff the postseason, it starts with a win on Thursday, this is before the schedule gets even tougher with Seattle at home, traveling cross country to San Francisco to play the defending NFC Champion 49ers, and then playing in the high altitude of Denver. Though San Francisco and Denver are banged up, and Seattle has to travel east, those will not be easy games. So Thursday week 3 for the Dolphins, there is no other way to put it: MUST-WIN!

Prediction: Miami 37, Jacksonville 33

Like I said earlier in the article, I expect a shootout. On paper though, Miami is way more talented than the Jaguars. Miami had to face two of the AFC East favorite’s early on in the season(not that it’s an excuse to play like they have through 2 weeks), but I expect Miami to come hungry, desperate for a win. Hoping to see Miami get the ball to Mike Gesicki and Parker early and often more touches possibly for Matt Breida while continuing to trust Myles Gaskin with the carries. Jacksonville was able to hold Derrick Henry in check but gave up a passer rating of 145.7 to Ryan Tannehill, so I like Fitzpatrick and Miami’s chances in the air. Will we see Xavien Howard covering DJ Chark? Miami will be facing a QB who is not nearly as mobile as Josh Allen and Cam Newton when they go against Gardner Minshew. So like Miami’s chances in their ability to get to the QB in this game, although Minshew can scramble a bit. I do expect the Jaguars to get it in the air often, hoping for the pass rush to get in Minshew’s face to force him into a bad throw, like what Tennessee did in week 2.

How much of a hole would the Miami Dolphins be if they went to 0-3? Since 1980, only six teams out of 176 have made the postseason after starting 0-3(3.4%), most recently the 2018 Houston Texans. So in a 40-year span, an average of every 6 2/3’s years a team makes the postseason after starting 0-3. That’s not a position you want the Dolphins to be in right now, despite there being an added playoff spot starting this year.

It’s put up or shut up time for the Miami Dolphins, and the fans of both Jacksonville and Miami, along with the rest of the nation will be watching to see what they got on Thursday Night 8:20 on NFL Network. Let’s see if Miami is up to the challenge.