Miami at New York Jets; Game Preview

Breakdown preview of the Miami Dolphins at New York Jets battle in week-two of the NFL season.

Miami Dolphins (0-1) at New York Jets (0-1)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
TV: CBS, Dick Enberg, Dan Dierdorf
SERIES: The Jets have an all-time lead of 38-35-1, including victories in nine of their past 10 meetings and five straight wins in the Meadowlands. The Dolphins posted a 30-3 victory over the Jets last September with Vinny Testaverde under center but lost in New York, 13-10, with Chad Pennington as the starting quarterback.
2003 RANKINGS: Dolphins: offense 18th (21st rush, 17th pass); defense 30th (24th rush, 30th pass). Jets: offense 31st (28th rush, 31st pass); defense 19th (30th rush, 9th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: Like the Texans last week, the Jets' offense relies on fast receivers running timing routes. Miami did a poor job of mixing zone coverages in with their traditional man-to-man coverages, and needs to disrupt the Jets' timing to prevent big plays. The Jets are determined to have success throwing downfield, so protecting immobile QB Vinny Testaverde is a must. The Dolphins also want to focus on their passing game by taking advantage of the Jets' slow linebackers. If the Dolphins have success passing over the middle, it should open holes for RB Ricky Williams.

FAST FACTS: Dolphins: DE Jason Taylor has 7.5 career sacks against the Jets and had two last season. ... Miami has never started a season 0-2. Jets: Testaverde has thrown for less than 200 yards in 15 of 20 starts under offensive coordinator Paul Hackett. ... The team has won nine of the past 10 meetings and five consecutive against Miami in the Meadowlands. ... The team is 13-1 under coach Herman Edwards when taking a lead into the fourth quarter.
*2003 rankings: Dolphins: offense 18th (21st rush, 17th pass); defense 30th (24th rush, 30th pass). Jets: offense 31st (28th rush, 31st pass); defense 19th (30th rush, 9th pass)

PREDICTED SCORE: Dolphins 23, Jets 17

   --LB Zach Thomas (ribs) was downgraded from probable to questionable for Sunday's game against the New York Jets but said he will play. Thomas practiced Thursday after taking just four snaps during Wednesday's session.
   --MLB Tommy Hendricks took almost all of the practice snaps with Miami's first-team defense Wednesday in place of the injured Zach Thomas (ribs). While Hendricks said he would be ready if given the chance to start his second career NFL game, Thomas said he plans to play Sunday against the New York Jets and did practice Thursday.
   --CB Sam Madison (ankle) didn't practice Thursday, leaving his status in doubt for Sunday's game against the New York Jets. Whether or not Madison plays will probably be a game-time decision.
   --S Shawn Wooden (hamstring) didn't practice Thursday, but Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt said he will play Sunday against the New York Jets if he is able to participate in Friday's session.
   --C Tim Ruddy (knee) was held out of Thursday's practice, but Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt said he still plans for him to start Sunday's game against the New York Jets.
   --C Seth McKinney worked with the first-team offense Thursday in place of starter Tim Ruddy (knee). While McKinney is pushing Ruddy for his starting spot, Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt said there would be no changes on the first-team offensive line for Sunday's game against the New York Jets.
   --T Mark Dixon (ankle) didn't practice Thursday and will miss Sunday's game against the New York Jets.

   --LB Jason Glenn did not practice Thursday because of a sprained right ankle. He is listed as probable and will likely play against the Dolphins on Sunday.
   --QB Jamie Martin continues to grow accustomed to the offense as he prepares for his eventual role as the backup to Vinny Testaverde. He remains a few weeks away and is still the No. 3 quarterback.
   --QB Brooks Bollinger will go into the Miami game as the backup for the second straight week. While just a rookie, Bollinger remains the quarterback most accustomed with the offense other than Vinny Testaverde. Jamie Martin will eventually be the backup but the Jets feel more comfortable will Bollinger running their offense at this point if Testaverde got hurt.
   --LB Sam Cowart has started this season much better than last year, when he was in his first year with the Jets and completely confused by the defense. He had six tackles and one pass defended against Washington but was still having problems against the run.
   --QB Vinny Testaverde may have the cuffs removed from his passing game but the Jets will probably stay conservative because throwing deep too often leaves Testaverde open to making costly mistakes, which have hurt the Jets in the past. Instead, the Jets will open up their passing game by spreading out the offense and use three-receiver sets.

   Despite being downgraded Thursday on Miami's injury report from probable to questionable with a rib injury, Dolphins middle linebacker Zach Thomas said he will play Sunday against the New York Jets.
   Thomas said he was injured in last Sunday's 21-20 loss to Houston when Texans center Steve McKinney landed on his chest. Thomas finished the game but only took four snaps during Wednesday's practice. He did practice Thursday.
   "It's real painful," said Thomas, who plans to wear rib protection against the Jets. "It's kind of an annoying pain, but you can get rid of that in a game."
   If Thomas can't play, Tommy Hendricks would make his second NFL start at middle linebacker. Hendricks has played predominantly on special teams in his first four NFL seasons.
   "The main thing is preparation," Hendricks said. "Take this week and prepare like I'm going to be the starter so if something does happen, I can go in there and be effective."

   The Jets proved deficient against the running game early last season as opponents racked up 176 yards a game rushing and a 5.3-yard per carry average through the first six games. That year, the problem was a defense playing six new starters.
After one game this season - in which the Jets allowed 160 yards on the ground to Washington and an average of 4.6 yards on first down - they say it's a simple matter of execution rather than confusion.
   "Last year we didn't know if we were in the right position," nose tackle Jason Ferguson said. "Now it's a better situation. We should have stopped them when we needed to and we didn't. Other than that we've got things we can fix."
   This week they face the Dolphins' Ricky Williams, the NFL's reigning rushing champion.
   "He's the type of guy where you can hold him for a loss, hold him for a loss and he'll make three or four yards," coach Herman Edwards said. "They keep running the same play and all of a sudden he breaks a tackle, the guy in the secondary misses him and it's a touchdown.  That's what he is.  He's very, very fast, strong, powerful back. It takes more than one guy to bring him down."
   That's why the Jets need 340-pound DT Chester McGlockton and the 305-pound Ferguson to clog up the middle and force Williams - one of the best downhill runners in the NFL - to go east to west, where he can do less damage.
   Stopping Williams and the running game will also allow the Jets to take advantage of what has become a defensive strength - rushing the quarterback. The Jets had four sacks last week against the Redskins and got penetration throughout the game. If the Dolphins running game can be slowed, Miami will have to rely too much on quarterback Jay Fiedler, a solid yet unspectacular passer.
   "If we shut (Williams) down then we have a chance to get after the quarterback and do things that we do very well," said McGlockton, who got in on 19 plays last week and should get around 25 against Miami. "We have to discourage them from running the ball. My thing is I've got to defeat the guy who's in front of me. Then I've got to get to Ricky and make sure he can't get on those long runs."

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