An inside look at Sunday’s Jets-Dolphins Week 5 matchup at MetLife Stadium.
Dolphins WR Tyreek Hill vs. Gardner Sauce CB Jets
The Jets nearly acquired Hill in a trade with the Chiefs back in March, but the Dolphins swooped in and landed him. Now, the Jets will have to try to guard him. Hill enters the game as the leading receiver in the NFL with 477 yards.
There are a few things working in the Jets’ favor, though. Hill landed on the injury report this week as questionable, with a quad injury, and it is unclear how serious that is. Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel has been coy about Hill’s availability. The Dolphins are also playing with backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in place of Tua Tagovailoa, who is out with a concussion.
Those things will help, and it will also help if Gardner continues to play the way he has so far, early in his rookie season. Gardner has lived up to his billing and he has been tough to complete a pass on him. Gardner won’t guard Hill exclusively. DJ Reed will also cover Hill (and Jaylen Waddle, who also is listed as questionable with a groin injury). But the matchup everyone wants to see is Gardner vs. Hill.
“This is what I dreamed about coming to the NFL,” Gardner said. “The goals that I have for myself like Rookie of the Year, All-Pro, Pro Bowl, all that type of stuff, I’ve got to go against guys like that in order to be recognized. It’s a great opportunity. Me and DJ and the rest of the secondary was talking about it. It’s a great opportunity to show the world what we can do.”
The Jets could catch the Dolphins at a good time. Miami has a lot of injury questions entering this game. But I think Teddy Bridgewater will be able to do enough and hit a few big plays on the Jets’ defense to pull out a close one.
Dolphins 28, Jets 20
Zach attacks: Jets quarterback Zach Wilson showed what he was capable of in the fourth quarter last week against the Steelers. Wilson completed 10 of 12 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown in the final quarter. He led the offense down the field twice to erase a 10-point deficit.
The question now is whether it will be the fourth-quarter Wilson who shows up against the Dolphins, or if it will be the quarterback who was 8-for-24 with two interceptions in the first three quarters.
“To put together those two drives in the fourth quarter says a lot about those guys, says a lot about him as a leader, how much he’s continuing to grow and grow and mature,” offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said. “He was last year in terms of just being a leader. Through experience, it’s going to continue to get better and better.”
The Dolphins have given up yards in the passing game this year. They are 31st in the NFL in passing yards against. They could be without star cornerback Xavien Howard, who did not practice all week because of an injured groin.
Teddy time: The Dolphins have spent the past 10 days trying to move beyond the Tua Tagovailoa concussion controversy. They can do that on the field Sunday with a strong performance from backup Teddy Bridgewater. The Jets know the veteran well. He was a member of the Jets for a brief time in 2018, and the they faced him last year when he was the Broncos’ quarterback. Denver won that game, 26-0, and Bridgewater was his usual efficient self.
“He got after us last year when we went to Denver,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh said. “Teddy is a very well-respected quarterback within league circles.”
Losing my division: There are plenty of areas in which the Jets have been dismal in recent years, and you can start within the division. They have lost their past 12 AFC East games. You have to go back to the final week of the 2019 season, when they beat a Bills team resting most of their players, for the Jets’ last division win. The last time they beat the Dolphins was a few weeks prior to that.
Saleh has emphasized “closing the gap” in the division since the minute the 2021 season ended. It was part of his message during the first team meeting in April, and “Own the East” is written on walls around the building. They can start closing the gap on Sunday.
Gas hall: Rookie running back Breece Hall looks like he is figuring things out. He ran hard last week in Pittsburgh, and the coaches were impressed with the adjustments he made from earlier in the season, when he was not as physical in his rushes. Hall had 66 rushing yards on 17 carries last Sunday and scored the game-winning touchdown. He also had two catches for 12 yards.
The Dolphins can expect another heavy dose of Hall this Sunday.
“He’s two-dimensional,” Wilson said, “he does a great job in the pass game as well, and he’s still learning every single game, but he’s tough, the game is not too big for him, he’s doing a great job, so I’m excited that we have a running back like that.”