Miami Dolphins: 5 Keys to a Road Win Against the Jaguars
There ain’t nothing wrong with a little interstate rivalry. The Dolphins travel to Jacksonville this weekend to face the Jaguars in a game that is now a “must win” for both teams as they march forward in the second half of the season.
For the Dolphins, a win means continued momentum. It is proof positive that Miami is marching toward the postseason and is the definitive second best team in the AFC East.
For the Jaguars, a win – along with the one last week against Cleveland – means the franchise has turned on the switch and is ready to be taken somewhat seriously in an AFC that is truly up for grabs with the exception of Denver.
Can the Dolphins get another road win? Here are five keys to a victory on Sunday – according to miamidolphins.com.
Run The Ball - Most of the consistent teams in the NFL usually control the line of scrimmage and have the ability to run the football. It sets the tone for the game and gives the offense flexibility in play calling and play action passing game. I believe this is where quarterback Ryan Tannehill excelled last week in the first half, using a positive running game and turning it into space in the passing game. Also Tannehill's ability to execute the zone-read just adds to the running totals and completely freezes the edge of the defense.
Miami is fourth in the league in rushing averaging 136.3 yards per game and facing a Jaguars defense minus arguably their best defender in linebacker Paul Posluszny. This unit likes to get after opposing quarterbacks - Jacksonville's 22 sacks rank 2nd in the NFL - so it would be beneficial for the Dolphins to continue to have balance in their offensive attack.
Play With The Lead - It must have been a great feeling for this team last week to generate a 14-0 lead and take that two touchdown spread into halftime. It's only the second time this season - the Oakland game in London - the Dolphins have been able to gain an advantage after 30 minutes, and in both games, that lead allowed both sides of the football to play at their desired tempo.
The offense doesn't need to press or lean on the passing game, and the defense can mix it up, not relying on creating pressure with exotic pressures that might expose a secondary. The fast start on offense last week looked like a continuation of the second half execution against Green Bay and let's hope there's more of the same in North Florida on Sunday.
Squeeze Bortles - It's been fun to watch this defense get after the quarterback this year, from Tom Brady in the opener to chasing Aaron Rodgers all over the field two weeks ago. This week comes a different challenge in rookie quarterback Blake Bortles, who has some of the same characteristics as Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger. Bortles stands at 6'5 232 pounds and is not afraid to take chances down the field, but also completes a high percentage of throws.
He can also use his elusiveness to shake off pass rushers and use his legs to extend the play. It will be important for the front seven to get consistent pressure on the rookie early, which might get his eyes looking out for the pass rush instead of scanning the secondary for room to fit the football into.
Keep The Red Zone Green - This is one area on the field where Miami must convert and find a way to get into the end zone against the Jaguars. The last couple of weeks, this offense didn't execute consistently (fourth and goal against Green Bay and a blocked field goal against Chicago) and failed to convert positive field position into easy points.
The Dolphins defense set the table three times (plus 23, 16 and 35 yard line) and the offense could only generate 10 points.
This is the formula that Jacksonville used last week to beat the Browns, where the Jaguars defense held Cleveland to only six points and also stopped them on a fourth and one on the 24-yard line. Miami has been efficient for the most part converting chances into touchdowns (53 percent) and this must continue on the road against Jacksonville.
Stay Aggressive - Now is the time for this team to start stacking up the W's and creating some separation from the bottom of the AFC East. Now is the time to keep pace with New England and matching a victory with a victory. In order to do that this team needs to stay aggressive in the way they approach each week, every quarter and every series.
The Miami Dolphins have enough talent to make a run and are proficient in all aspects to get this win in Jacksonville on Sunday, and the way to do that is to keep attacking on both sides of the ball. If the Dolphins continue to attack and be aggressive against a team that they are more talented in across the board, it should be enough to come out of EverBank Field with a win on Sunday.