Jets notebook: Dolphins' run game will present all sorts of problems - Metro US

Jets notebook: Dolphins’ run game will present all sorts of problems

Jay Ajayi has emerged as a force in the Miami backfield.
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The NFL trade deadline came and went on Tuesday, with the Jets’ roster remaining mostly intact.

While there were unfounded rumblings about a Brandon Marshall trade, and real conversations surrounding talks of moving defensive end Sheldon Richardson, the Jets (3-5) stayed pat – except for the free-agent signing of running back C.J. Spiller — meaning for better or worse, they’re all in with the roster they have.

The Miami Dolphins are the next target on the Jets’ schedule, and with their roster set for the most part, now is the time for Gang Green to make a mini-run and get back into the AFC Wild Card race. If they beat Miami (3-4), that’ll be three-straight wins, with the hopes they’ll soon get to .500 and be a darkhorse in the playoff jockeying.

But first thing’s first. Gang Green needs to figure out a way to slow down the Dolphins’ suddenly potent rushing offense. Miami has seemingly found a gem at running back Jay Ajayi, who is coming off back-to-back 200-yard performances – just the fourth time in the Super Bowl era that a back has done so. Stopping him, or at least slowing down the former Boise State star, is the Jets’ top priority.

It’s a good thing Richardson wasn’t cast aside, as the Jets will need all the help they can get in trying to neutralize a running back with a hefty 6.3 yards per carry average. New York has had its issues this year on defense, but that’s mostly been via stopping the pass. The guys they have along the front seven, however, are having a good year and are equipped to stop any rushing attack. The Jets are tops in the league in rushing yards allowed (74 per game) and second overall in yards per rush (3.31 allowed).

Head coach Todd Bowles said they have a tall task ahead in trying to neutralize Miami’s rushing attack. And while his defense has played better in recent weeks, he needs more out of them.

“We’re playing alright, but we still have to play better. We still have to cut down on the big plays [and] play more sound football,” Bowles reasoned.

Ajayi has amassed 535 rushing yards on 84 carries, so something has to give, making for Sunday’s tilt very intriguing. Both teams are coming off two-game winning streaks, and neither can really afford a loss, especially with the New England Patriots (7-1) all but wrapping up the division and at least one wild card likely coming out of the highly-competitive AFC West. The Dolphins haven’t beaten the Jets since Dec. 2014, so there’ll be extra desperation by the host.

Bowles knows how important this game is. And more importantly has been stressing all week how vital it is for his team to stay poised, play their assignments, and get off to a fast start.

“It’s just a mindset … and calming down [because] everybody is doing their own job, but some people try to over-do their jobs,” Bowles said. “We’re doing our jobs, but we still need to find a way to have better chemistry and get off to a quicker start.”

By getting off to a fast start and stifling Ajayi and co. early, Bowles thinks it’ll provide even more confidence for a team looking for its third-straight win. He credited the current streak to the team’s collective character.

“It’s our locker room leadership,” he said. “We’re still working at it [because] we know none of these remaining games are going to be easy. … That’s [the Dolphins] a good football team right there. We’ve won two [in a row]. We just have to build on that.”

Gang Green notes:

-The team was reportedly actively seeking to trade Richardson, with the pass-rush needy Dallas Cowboys as the primary target. New York’s asking price was apparently too steep. Richardson was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013 and a Pro Bowl alternate in 2014. He’s set to make $8 million in 2017 after the Jets picked up his fifth-year rookie contract option earlier this spring.

-When the Jets signed Spiller, it meant they put an end to the odd manner of the signing – and then immediate releasing – of running back Knile Davis, who has been employed by three teams in less than a month. The former Kansas City Chief and Green Bay Packer was claimed off waivers by the Jets just one day prior to the Spiller signing.

-To make room for Davis’s initial addition, the team had released running back Troymaine Pope.

-Offensive tackle Jesse Davis and wideout Myles White were added to the practice squad. And in a corresponding move, center Kyle Friend and linebacker Reshard Cliett were released from the practice squad.

-Neither rookie linebacker Darron Lee nor defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson were able to practice today.

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