On Sunday in Miami two state rivals will play each other. Neither of them have a hopes of the playoffs. The Jaguars are already eliminated, the Dolphins on the brink of it. The game itself is not a big deal as well. One of the teams has started rebuilding under a new QB and head coach the other will push the reset button again after 4 years of building to nowhere. Still, even this meaningless game has a twist. 2 words: Chad Henne. He was drafted by the Dolphins in the 2nd round of the ’08 draft to become the next Dan Marino. After 4 years of inconsistency and injuries, the new Dolphins coaching staff selected a new QB, Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill and moved on. Henne, although he was open to returning, had to search for a new team. A new home was found in the same state, and for the past month he has been the starting QB for the Jaguars. After 2 really good performances, the veteran signal caller had 2 not so good games (1 rushing and passing TD but 3 interceptions and a lost fumble) and people are starting to doubt that he is the starting QB for the Jaguars in ’13. Now he’ll face a team and defense he used to throw against in practice the last 4 years. Can this bring back his groove or will the struggles and concern about him continue? Let’s dig deeper.
The good news for Henne and the Jaguars is Cecil Shorts will return to the starting lineup after a 1 week hiatus. If his concussion does not limit his performance, the 2nd year wideout could have another great day, and move closer to 1,000 yards receiving; something every Jaguar receiver has failed to do since Jimmy Smith retired in 2005. The good news is, if there is a weak point in the Dolphins defense, it is the secondary. CB Sean Smith had a very rough day against the 49ers last week, and although he is the best cornerback on the roster he is a bit inconsistent. Nolan Carroll became his partner after Vontae Davis was traded to Indianapolis for a 2nd round pick right before the regular season. He hasn’t recorded a pick yet (although he has a sack). The two safeties have had more luck. Chris Clemons has 2 and Reshad Jones has a team high 3 picks. The 3rd year S has had a really good year, if there is somebody in the Dolphins secondary who is able to make plays, it’s him. Henne played at least 2 seasons together with everyone from this unit, so they know each other quite well.We will see who’ll benefit from this more.
The bad news for Henne and the Jaguars is the Miami D-line which is maybe the best pass rushing unit the team has faced so far. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle can be really proud of this unit, especially DE Cameron Wake. The standout DE has recorded exactly the same amount of sacks as the entire Jaguars defense in 2012: 14. He is even more dangerous on 3rd or 4th down situations, where he is ranked 1st in productivity! He has recorded 8 out of his 14 sacks during these situations. Making things worse, he will face Cameron Bradfield who has struggled in the last few weeks, and he was especially bad when he faced elite pass rushers like Mario Williams, JJ Watt and Brian Robison. That is a huge mismatch for the Jaguars. Eugene Monroe will face Jared Odrick, who has collected 4 sacks this season. Monroe can handle him, but once again he must help out a new LG; a player who has never played a snap in the NFL before. Austin Pasztor will start at LG this week after Eben Britton blew his last chance to prove he has a spot on this roster. Pasztor, like Monroe, is a Virginia product, and the two players played together in Monroe’s senior season. However, he will face Randy Starks, one of the better interior defensive linemen of the NFL. Starks is 2nd behind Wake in sacks with 4.5 It will be an extremely tough matchup for the rookie. The other DT, Paul Soliai has has a quieter year, with only 1.5 sacks. Let’s hope Uche Nwaneri can handle him so Meester can help out Pasztor guarding Starks. A quick note, Tony McDaniel is still on the Dolphins roster. He was traded to Miami before the 2009 season. Yes, he just have 0.5 sacks and 8 tackles, but he is contributing for a very good defensive line. The Jaguars and Gene Smith valued him as 7th round pick… The player the Jaguars drafted with the pick, Tiquan Underwoood, meanwhile is long gone (he is with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers right now)…
Behind the great D-line there is a strong LB unit led by Karlos Dansby, the leading tackler for Miami (105- 79 solo). The other 2 starters, Kevin Burnett and Koa Misi, are also reliable, and all have sacks. Luckily for the Jaguars Misis, (who adds 3.5 to the 37 sacks) is ruled out. His backup Jason Trusnik had some run stopping issues against the 49ers.That being said, Montell Owens and Richard Murphy will face a tougher task running the ball this week. Owens was great when he started last week. By the way, Chad Henne will not be the only one to play against familiar faces. The chess game continues between offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski and Dolphins defensive coordinator Levin Coyle who worked together for a decade in Cincinnati. They know each other’s play calling and schemes very well, so it will be interesting to see which coordinator will have bigger advantage!
Let’s see how Tannehill and his teammates match up against the Jaguars defense. This duel will be similar to the last 2 games. Like the Bills and the Jets, the Dolphins also have a very powerful running game lead by Reggie Bush who’s having a decent year. Behind him there is a great rushing tandem in Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller. The backups are so promisingly productive, that most likely Miami will let Bush walk away after the season! The Jaguars must face all 3 of them plus FB Jorvorskie Lane, who is used in goal line situations and has 2 TDs as well. Meanwhile, the Jaguars have allowed 408 yards rushing in the last 2 games. 242 against Buffalo and 166 yards against the Jets last Sunday. You can expect that the Dolphins will pound the rock as well with their backs on Sunday. If the Jaguars defense can’t stop them they can win with an average performance by Tannehill. Fitzpatrick and Sanchez were a game managers at best in the last 2 weeks and the Jaguars still lost to both QBs…
If the Jags can stop the run, then their chances for success increase dramatically. After some promising games, this year’s 8th pick, Ryan Tannehill, shows signs of struggling. Some say he has hit a wall in the last few weeks. He has thrown more picks (12) than TDs (8). Without Jake Long, this has become an increasing problem. The Nr. 1 pick of ’08 is on IR, and rookie RT Jonathan Martin is now protecting Tannehill’s blind side. He had a really tough day against Aldon Smith (but seriously who hasn’t this season?…). If he faces Jason Babin (as he should) the Jaguars All-Pro DE should make a play or 2 against the rookie. Babin had 3 sacks last season when the Dolphins played against the Eagles. That is a good sign. At RT things aren’t looking great either. Nate Garner has just 10 starts in his 5th year as a pro. So if the Jaguars defense can’t boost the sack number against these 2 tackles, I don’t know when they can. Jeremy Mincey needs to step up, because, quite frankly, he is having a similar terrible like Marcedes Lewis had last year after he got paid. But at least Lewis could have the excuse of not being on the same page with his rookie QB last year. What is Mincey’s excuse for his really poor performance in ’12? The interior line of the Dolphins is solid with C Mike Pouncey and Gs Richie Incognito and John Jerry. Plus I’m now at the phase where expecting any positive impact from the Jaguars DTs besides maybe CJ Mosley is just a dream anyway…
Tannehill will face the Jaguars secondary without his 2nd best WR, Davone Bess. So the Jaguars can focus on Brian Hartline who’s having an outstanding year. He is just 75 yards shy from crossing the 1000 receiving yard line, and he could do it this Sunday. The Dolphins have a really reliable TE in Anthony Fasano who has the most TD catches on the roster (4). Bess will most likely be replaced by Marlon Moore, and the Dolphins signed Arnon Binns this week, so he can prove the Jaguars wrong after they cut him last year when they announced their final roster. As for the Jaguars secondary, I am looking forward to seeing 2 things: 1) Derek Cox play a game from start to finish without injuries and breakdowns. If he wants a good deal after the season he must take out Hartline all by himself. 2) The playing time for Mike Harris and Rashean Mathis. Harris is starting to become a decent surprise lately, he is now even starting at CB instead of the Jaguars All-Pro corner. Since Mathis will become a FA after the season, Harris could take over his position if he plays well in the last few games.
Special teams wise the Dolphins are a mixed bag. They have a very dangerous returner in Marcus Thigpen who already scored 1-1 TDs each in punt and kick returns. However, for example last week, the Dolphins ST unit made 2 costly errors, like a muffed punt by Thigpen helped the 49ers to their first TD. The Jaguars ST unit lost one of their premium gunners by waiving Kevin Elliott this week. I wonder how John Bonamego’s unit will perform with losing key ST players on a weekly basis.
I seriously don’t know what to expect from tis game. Miami has the defense and the running game to beat the Jaguars easily. But Chad Henne is a major X-factor for this game. If he brings his A-game and Shorts is the Cecil Shorts we have seen all year long, then they can be the spark that could make this game very close. Not to mention the chess match between Bratkowksi and Coyle who know each other’s schemes better than anybody. I see a close game, but I pick the home team on this one. The Jaguars have faced two not-so-good teams in the last 2 weeks and they lost both games. Despite their record I think Miami is better than the Bills and the Jets. I think because of Henne we will see a close game, but I think in the end South Florida will be a little bit happier place than the Northeast part of the state.
Prediction: Dolphins 21 – Jaguars 17
– Zoltan Paksa