3TFO: Jaguars @ Dolphins, Week 15
The Dolphins and the Jaguars face off this Sunday in a game with few playoff implications. The Dolphins have a very small chance of making the playoffs, but it would require them to win out and have a minor miracle occur with the six teams currently ahead of them for the last wild-card spot. Both squads have rolled the dice on young quarterbacks this season and both have been burned. Such is the way of the NFL nowadays. For every Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck there is a Ryan Tannehill and Blaine Gabbert who struggle making the leap to the NFL, and their teams suffer accordingly.
This game will be about next year for both sides. As a fan you want to see a young player break out, or an underachiever put in a solid performance. Every player is still fighting for his job and that’s what makes every single game in an NFL season exciting. This one will be no different. Here’s who I’ll be watching.
Cameron Wake vs. Cameron Bradfield
Cameron Wake has to feel a little like Matthew Stafford probably felt last year. Wake is turning in a season that would have been worthy of the DPOY award any other year, but is being overshadowed by other outrageous performances around the league. One of Wake’s best attributes is his ability to completely dominate an opponent (see Weeks 3 and 4). If his opponent on Sunday, Cameron Bradfield, performs like he has against the elite ends he has faced this year it could get ugly.
Bradfield has blocked admirably this season considering he is in his second year after going undrafted in 2011. He ranks 35th among all tackles in Pass Blocking Efficiency and has a total grade of +0.6 overall. That being said, he has struggled in tough matchups. Against Brian Robison in Week 1 and Mario Williams in Week 13, Bradfield was abused and his inexperience showed. He faces his toughest matchup this week, and there is no evidence to suggest that it won’t be more of the same.
Trouble on the Edge
Jake Long will not be protecting Tannehill this week, and that could mean trouble for the rookie quarterback. Jonathan Martin switched from right to left tackle for their matchup with the 49ers, and the results were abysmal. He allowed four hurries and a sack and the Dolphins managed to gain only 150 yards through the air. Martin has been a sub-par right tackle this year and one would expect his shortcomings to be exacerbated on the left side.
Martin’s matchup should get quite a bit easier, though, because he doesn’t have to face the league’s sack leader again. In fact he will be facing the man ranked 41st in Pass Rushing Productivity among all 4-3 ends, Jeremy Mincey. Mincey has had only one pressure in the past four games and only two sacks this season. If he can’t break the slump he is in this week, his job may be in serious jeopardy.
Coming off a Bad Game
The Dolphins’ linebackers got exposed last week against the 49ers, allowing 155 yards on 28 carries. Colin Kaepernick’s game-icing touchdown run was a microcosm of their overall play that game. On the touchdown, Jason Trusnik and Karlos Dansby both bit hard on the fake handoff to give Kaepernick an easy stroll on the outside. Despite that poor performance, they are still the ninth-ranked run defense and will no doubt be looking to bounce back strong. Their matchup gets considerably easier this week going against the Jaguars, the fourth-worst rushing offense in the NFL.
The Dolphins linebackers will have to try and tackle Montell Owens, who gave the Jaguars’ ground game some signs of life last week after getting the bulk of the carries for the first time all season. The seventh-year back out of Maine gained 91 yards on 14 carries and broke three tackles. His 91 yards were the most from a Jaguars running back since Week 3. Even though the Jaguars’ rushing attack showed some improvement last week, it is unlikely to see it happening again against a Dolphins team that has been tough to run on all year.
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