By Brad Carroll
The New York Jets are off to an 0-2 start for the first time since 2007, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason to believe the losing will end any time soon. The Jets have been embarrassed in their first two games, losing to Buffalo and Oakland, but do get to come home for the first time Sunday afternoon. The AFC East rival Miami Dolphins await.
The Dolphins, with quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Jay Ajayi, will pose another problem for a beleaguered Jets defense, which has allowed a league-worst 370 yards on the ground. Ajayi ran 28 times for 122 yards against the Chargers last week, while Cutler was solid in engineering a win in what was the Dolphins season-opener.
Never before has a Jets season been thought to be over just two weeks into the season, but there is no question the feeling around the fanbase is a depressing one, with not even the hype of a home opener lessening those thoughts.
But a win over the Dolphins could change that mindset and give the fanbase and team something to build on. That is, of course, if you aren’t hoping for an 0-16 season, which should hopefully bring USC quarterback Sam Darnold into the fold next season as a potential savior, er, franchise quarterback.
Either way, here are three keys to victory for the New York Jets as they open the home slate of their 2017 schedule against the Dolphins.
Jets Must Contain Jay Ajayi
The Jets defense, supposedly the strong suit of the team coming into the season, has been downright horrible, suffering huge letdowns against both the Bills and Raiders. The opposing running games have been the difference, as the Bills ran for 190 yards in Week 1 and the Raiders picked up 180 on the ground in Week 2. LeSean McCoy himself ran 22 times for 110 yards in the opener, while Marshawn Lynch rushed 12 times for 45 yards and a touchdown and Jalen Richard added 58 yards on six carries the following week. Ajayi is next up for either the Jets to stop, or to get torched by. Right now, there’s no reason to believe Ajayi won’t have a big game. In the last meeting between the Jets and Dolphins, Ajayi ran 24 times for 111 yards and a touchdown. If the Jets don’t keep Ajayi in check, holding him to under 100 yards rushing for sure, this game will end up just like the first two of the season. It would also be nice if Leonard Williams and Mo Wilkerson made some plays for once this season.
Force Jay Cutler Into Bad Decisions
Everyone knows Cutler makes mistakes, but the Jets absolutely have to make sure they force him into making them. That means the Jets need to get pressure on the former Bears quarterback and hurry him into bad throws and even worse decisions. And when Cutler makes those ill-advised decisions, the Jets defense needs to make them count with turnovers. The Jets just might need a pick-six to have a shot at an upset. Cutler was 24-of-33 for 230 yards and a touchdown last week against the Chargers. He didn’t turn the ball over. But over his previous 35 games played, Cutler has thrown 34 interceptions. The Jets have to create turnovers to win, and they could have the perfect quarterback on the other side to help them achieve that.
Throw The Ball, A Lot
It’s easy to say the Jets need to run the ball in order to win, but both Matt Forte and Bilal Powell, along with the offensive line, have done nothing this season, rushing as a team for a combined 164 yards in two games. So, considering that as a trend, the Jets are going to have to open the playbook for quarterback Josh McCown and get the passing game going against the Dolphins. Opening up the offense could do wonders for the Jets, especially receivers Jermaine Kearse and Robby Anderson, who have to be given the opportunity to make big plays. Plus, the Dolphins allowed Philip Rivers to complete 31-of-39 passes for 331 yards and a touchdown last week. The Chargers ran for just 44 yards. The Chargers missed a field goal at the buzzer that would have won the game. McCown hasn’t been asked to do much in the early going, but if he's the starter, the Jets should act accordingly and let him throw the ball.