John Congemi 1) Win on Third Down
Miami's defense has not played with the aggression anticipated heading into this season. They haven't been able to make many plays behind the line of scrimmage or force opposing offenses into mistakes, especially on third down chances. New England and Buffalo were able to stick to their game plan, running and passing on their terms, and moving the chains at will. Jacksonville has had success moving the football in their first two games, and rank first in the league on third down at 62.5 percent. The Jaguars mentality is they want to run the football, and have done so efficiently enough to take some pressure off of the passing game. The Dolphins defense must slow down the running game of James Robinson, who is averaging more than five yards per rush. If that happens early in the game, it might force Jacksonville's offense to be more pass heavy than it wants to be. This should allow a defense that hasn't negatively effected the quarterback on third down to force a turnover, or at worst, get off of the field on third down situations.
2) Force Minshew Mistakes
Jacksonville's second-year quarterback Gardner Minshew is fun to watch. He brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the Jags offense and provides a spark with his ability to keep plays alive when he avoids pressure with his scrambling ability. The Miami defense needs to force Minshew into those situations by turning up the pass rush on Thursday night. We haven't seen much pressure in the pocket from the Dolphins defense, but that's what it going to take to force a turnover or two for this group. Bringing an extra pass rusher or two should lead to limited time, and hopefully force a throw slightly off target that the Dolphins secondary can take advantage of. Miami is currently sitting at minus one in turnover ratio, and for the Dolphins to win Thursday night, they need to win this category. Speaking of the Thursday night, this defense just might be without starting cornerback Byron Jones, who left the Bills game early in the first quarter with a groin injury. That should mean more playing time for rookie Noah Igbinoghene. I expect the aggressive style of Igbinoghene to bounce back after a challenging day chasing Stefon Diggs all over Hard Rock Stadium last Sunday. He might see a lot of attention early, and I would expect Noah to meet the challenge and have a solid performance.
3) Pass First Offense
Sometimes you need to mix the offensive game plan up a bit to achieve the results your looking for. Miami's run game through two games hasn't complemented the passing attack, rushing for a total of just 186 yards. Running back Myles Gaskin has been a pleasant surprise, averaging 5.4 yards per attempt, and is second on the team with 10 receptions in the passing game. This offense has had more success early this season when it starts out aggressively throwing the football, with two, three and sometimes four passing plays called to start the possession. It's allowed veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to get defenders to retreat away from the line of scrimmage. His decision making, especially against the Bills, was exceptional. Mixing in a medium to deep throw while having the ability to check the ball down to Gaskin, opened up some daylight in the running game. Matt Breida assisted Gaskin on the ground and could be more involved this week getting his chances to catch the ball in space as well. Miami's size and speed with DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki and Preston Williams should be used early, and hopefully that create more room in the Jacksonville defense for a balanced offensive attack. At the end of the day, if this offense starts to move the ball with consistency and scoring points, no one is really going to be concerned with how it's getting done!