The Miami Dolphins will take a quick trip on I-95 South to Jacksonville to face Florida-rival Jacksonville in a Thursday Night Football prime-time special to kickoff week three of the NFL season.
Expectations will be slim from the two teams as both failed to finish with a winning record last season, but both the Dolphins and Jaguars could put on a unique showing Thursday.
Grizzled veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and “Minshew Mania” QB Gardner Minshew could pick apart the struggling defenses on both sides and turn this game into an unlikely shootout. On paper this should be a doozy at first glance, but deep down, I’m not so sure.
Miami’s Defense Will Likely Struggle
It was no secret that last season was a very bad year for the Dolphins defense. Despite multiple secondary additions ahead of 2020, their defense hasn’t meshed together much better this season, still sitting in the bottom third of the league in all categories.
The Dolphins went searching for a few franchise pieces in hopes of completely revamping the secondary during its rebuild, including snagging cornerback Byron Jones, edge rusher Shaq Lawson and stealthy veteran linebacker Kyle Van Noy.
However, Jones is expected to miss a few weeks with a knee injury, Lawson so far hasn’t accumulated much pressure on QBs and Van Noy is moreso a vocal leader than a statistical leader on defense through two games.
Igbinoghene, Perry, Needham Face Another Tall Task
CBs Noah Igbinoghene, Jamal Perry and Nik Needham got abused by Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen and WRs Stefon Diggs and John Brown last week, and with a short week before Thursday’s game, they’ll have to do some soul searching if they want a better showing. If not, it’ll be the likes of WR D.J. Chark and surprise-showing wideout Keelan Cole who take full advantage, with rookie Laviska Shenault Jr. likely not too far behind.
Jaguars Defense Will Likely Struggle
Thankfully for Miami, the Jaguars defense is pretty much in the same boat.
Just a few years ago Jacksonville featured a top defense with CBs Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye and defensive ends Dante Fowler and Calais Campbell who helped them reach an AFC Championship game. However, all those pieces are now elsewhere.
Even though Jacksonville pulled an unlikely upset against the Indianapolis Colts in week one and nearly started 2-0 after losing by three points to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, their defense is to blame. Unable to hold a lead for hardly any time through two weeks, a high-power Minshew will continually not be enough to get the win.
What it Comes Down To: Who Wants it More?
The history of both these teams playing is in favor of the Jaguars who lead the series all-time 5-4. The defense for both teams will pray to find its mojo and hopefully get help from their respective offenses.
If Fitzpatrick can find his footing again and build off a turnover-less, 300-yard game from week two Miami can front scores. If Minshew continues to build on his multiple-TD games and the Jaguar wideouts continue to get open and spread the ball around they’ll be tough to stop as well. Minshew has had three passing TDs in each of his team’s first two games.
I think it will come down to the secondaries success in stopping crossing patterns early, who can win the turnover battle and whose offense will score last to dictate and decide this game.
Kickoff is slated for 8:20 eastern on Thursday inside TIAA Bank Field.
Editor’s Note: Jamal Perry does not have a player profile on profootballreference.com, the site FPC Dolphins uses to highlight players.