The Miami Dolphins kick off the NFL’s week three matchup tonight just up the road against Florida-foe Jacksonville on Thursday Night Football. This will be Miami and Jacksonville’s only primetime games of the season and it looks to be a good opportunity for the Dolphins to gain some momentum against a surprising Jaguars team.
Byron Jones’ Absence Will Hurt Dolphins
Cornerback Byron Jones (knee) is OUT and will force CBs Noah Igbinoghene, Jamal Perry and Nik Needham to fill in for him on rotation. Jones hasn’t had much to work with after his first two games with the team. Like his previous season with the Dallas Cowboys, opponents usually throw in the opposite direction of Jones because of his pass-break up, turnover and big play abilities. Against the Patriots, Jones allowed just three completions out of four passes for just 21 yards.
Ryan Fitzpatrick Has a Big Role Thursday
Miami is looking to continue building off a strong performance against the Buffalo Bills. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick had his first 300-yard game of the season against them last week and will need to keep it going against a pass-first but well balanced Jaguars defense. Fitzpatrick will also likely want to keep his zero turnover streak going into this game, after a vast improvement from his three interceptions in the opener.
He spread the wealth to nine different receivers on Sunday and the four of them finished with at least five receptions, including No. 1 WR DeVante Parker who finished with five receptions and no limitations with his hamstring injury. Parker turned in two limited practices this week and a full practice yesterday and will lead Miami in the shootout-potential primetime matchup.
Gardner Minshew Looks to Stay Hot
Jacksonville was thought to be in a rebuilding year, but its QB Gardner Minshew is looking to prove the doubters wrong and keep the Jaguars competitive throughout the season. His team is just a field goal away from being 2-0 this season, after a three-point defeat to division-rival Tennessee on Sunday.
Minshew’s Play Ships Foles Out
Minshew has been on a mission to prove he belongs in the NFL. After Minshew came in for an injured Nick Foles right before halftime in week one of 2019, Minshew has outplayed Foles well enough to get the team to trade him for draft capital. While Jacksonville would probably like to have the Super Bowl winning Foles to backup Minshew, his contract was too high, and the Jaguars found a suitor in the Chicago Bears to take it on. Minshew will be backed up by veteran Mike Glennon tonight.
Minshew’s Accuracy Nearly Has Jags Two Wins
Jacksonville started off the season surprising the Indianapolis Colts, beating them by a touchdown, 27-20, behind Minshew’s 19 completions on 20 attempts. He added three TDs and 173 yards in the victory, proving to be a consistent passer in the contest. In week two, Minshew again stepped up in an even bigger way, throwing for 339 yards and three TDs. His two interceptions on the night ended up plaguing the Jaguars down the stretch, but he kept Jacksonville in it, pulling a Fitzpatrick, and completing passes to eight different receivers.
Minshew has proven to be a reliable quarterback for Jacksonville, and in their only primetime game of the season, Minshew will be looking to build off another strong performance and will hope to take advantage of a struggling Dolphins defense.
Miami’s Defense: Still Rocky
While Miami currently sits in the top-half of the NFL in pass defense, it has still allowed 551 yards in the air through two games, and an average of two passing TDs per contest.
Additionally, the Dolphins are also giving up 5.1 yards per carry on the ground and have already surrendered 329 rushing yards on the season.
This not only opens the door for Minshew, but also for guys like running back James Robinson who quietly has 164 yards and a TD through the first two games.
Dolphins Run Game Improving, Using Committee
Miami has stuck with the three-man RB committee through two weeks, surprising many. RB Myles Gaskin in just his second season is leading the team with 16 total rushes and is ahead of both veterans Matt Breida (12) and Jordan Howard (13).
Myles Gaskin: Miami’s Current Top-Rusher
Gaskin has played very well in these first two weeks giving the Dolphins all the more reason to keep him involved in the offense.
“It feels good, but it’s running back by committee. I had some great runs, (but) Jordan (Howard) got the touchdown. So I think it takes all of us week in and week out,” Gaskin said about being trusted amongst veterans.
Gaskin has led the Dolphins through the first two weeks with 86 rushing yards and 62 receiving yards, more than Howard and Breida combined. Howard has struggled with just 11 yards on the season but has Miami’s only two rushing scores so far.
Can Mike Gesicki’s Breakout Continue?
Dolphins’ tight end Mike Gesicki could also be in for another huge night. Last week he had the best game of his career catching eight passes (11 targets) for 130 yards and one TD. Gesicki has slowly come into his own with Miami after the last three seasons and has developed a much better understanding of the game, according to offensive coordinator Chan Gailey.
“He understands the game. He gets the game. He gets what he needs to do and where he needs to be.” Gailey said. “He’s able to catch the ball with his hands away from his body, and he has such a big body that people have a hard time going around him to get to the ball. Right now he’s a tough target for people to cover.”
Jaguars Won Last Meeting Against Dolphins
The last time the Dolphins played the Jaguars was on Dec. 23, 2018 with quarterback Ryan Tannehill leading the way for Miami. In that game during Gesicki’s rookie season he caught the one pass thrown toward him for just five yards. The Dolphins couldn’t get much going in a disappointing 17-7 loss, due much in-part to a highlight-reel interception return for a TD from the Jaguars defense.
Thursday will be a quick turnaround for both teams, but if Miami wants to lock in its first win of the season it cannot allow the Jaguars to go on extended drives and find their footing. The Dolphins will have to find a way to keep their offense on the field and continue to implement their run game while also spreading the ball around.