After a small hiatus, three matchups to watch are back. The Dolphins (3-1) head into this week’s game against the Jets (2-2) off their first loss of the season to the Bengals.
Miami has had extra time to prepare for their division rival, which is important since the team is starting Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback following Tua Tagovailoa’s scary concussion last Thursday.
The Dolphins have had the Jets number the past couple of seasons, but New York looks significantly more competent this season. This is set up for a sneakily competitive game, despite Miami’s advantages in a lot of areas.
Let’s dive into some of the key matchups.
Tyreek Hill & Jaylen Waddle vs. The Jets’ Secondary
The Jets’ secondary isn’t a total liability? They rank 15th in total passing yards allowed and 17th in average passing yards per game.
Those numbers don’t seem overly impressive, but when looking at their personnel, it’s actually fairly impressive. Rookie Sauce Gardner has been solid, but D.J Hayden, Michael Carter, Lamarcus Joyner and Jordan Whitehead aren’t world beaters, especially in coverage.
Yet, the Jets have managed to cobble together competent secondary play. Gardner struggled a bit against Cleveland, but in the past two weeks, he’s allowed just four catches on 12 targets for 60 yards, according to PFF.
Obviously, Miami’s track-team duo of Hill and Waddle will be the toughest assignments the Jets have seen this season. Hill leads the league in receiving yards, while Waddle ranks seventh.
Miami is the only team in the NFL with two receivers in the top 10. The Jets like to play a lot of cover-three on the backend. It allows their cornerbacks to minimize big vertical routes down the sideline but give up easy throws underneath.
Against cover-three this season Hill has caught five passes on eight targets for 70 yards, while Waddle has caught eight passes on 12 targets for 121 yards, according to The 33rd Team’s “The Edge” tool.
Miami clearly has an advantage in this area, but the Jets aren’t the same pushovers they were in previous seasons.
Zach Wilson vs Miami’s Blitzing
Wilson returned from injury last week, and, to his credit, led the Jets to a 10-point comeback victory.
The former BYU Cougar was off to a rough start for the first three-quarters of the game, throwing multiple interceptions while struggling to hit easy completions.
Then, the fourth quarter happened. Wilson finished the game 18-of-36 for 252 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. How much of that came in the fourth quarter?
Wilson went 10-of-12 for 128 yards and one touchdown in the final quarter. He made several impressive throws, so it wasn’t just the Jets’ offense scheming him wide-open receivers to hit.
This is probably Wilson’s best quarter of football in his NFL career, and if Miami wants to win, they’ll have to make sure it doesn’t turn into a trend.
One area where Wilson struggled throughout last week’s game was against the blitz. He finished 3-of-8 for 41 yards with one INT against five or more rushers, according to Sports Info Solutions.
For Miami’s part, everyone knows they play a hyper-aggressive defense that involves a lot of blitzing and single-high-man coverage. Miami ranks sixth in blitz usage this season and fifth in one-high shells, according to SIS.
Wilson even struggled against cover-one defenses specifically last week. He finished 5-of-14 for 91 yards and two interceptions against single-high coverage, according to The 33rd Team’s “The Edge” tool.
Miami’s scheme is likely Wilson’s worst nightmare. Still, he showed some impressive stuff last week. It’ll be interesting to see if any of that success carries over or if Miami’s blitzes are too much for him to handle.
Connor Wiliams vs. Quinnen Williams
This is one of the most interesting 1v1 matchups for Sunday’s game. The Dolphins signed Williams this offseason and moved him from guard to center.
The move was met with a fair amount of pushback, but Williams has performed incredibly well at his new spot. He’s got a 73.5 PFF run-blocking grade while allowing just three QB pressures and zero sacks in 238 offensive snaps this season.
That’s about as good as anyone could’ve asked for from Williams, and it is a substantial upgrade over their center production from the past several years.
On the flip side, the Jets have one of the best, young interior defensive linemen in the sport. Williams has recorded 11 total pressures — including seven in the last two weeks — three sacks, and five run stops this season.
He’s got an 87.5 PFF pass-rush grade and an 84.8 overall defense grade. Williams doesn’t get the fanfare players like Aaron Donald, Chris Jones, and DeForest Buckner get, but he’s having an impressive 2022 season.
If the Jets are going to disrupt the Dolphins’ offense consistently, Quinnen Williams will likely be a big part of it. It’s up to Connor Williams, and the rest of the interior, to continue their solid play and keep Quinnen Williams in check.