It wasn't pretty, but the New York Jets successfully outraced the Miami Dolphins in Week 14 of the NFL season.
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Sam Darnold will earn a QB win, a fourth-quarter comeback and a game-winning drive, but it was a largely forgettable performance from the young signal-caller from USC. Darnold struggled to connect downfield — he was 2-of-9 on throws targeted 20 or more yards downfield. While he was solid from a clean pocket—a statistic that bodes well for future performance—his play under pressure was abysmal against a Dolphins defense that has been porous all year.
The Jets' offensive line was a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde group, as the left side of the unit performed relatively well while center Jonotthan Harrison and the right side was a bit rough. Right tackle Brandon Shell held up well in pass protection but rarely paved the way on the ground.
It was a great all-around effort by the Jets' defense, one that was spearheaded by the pass-rushing abilities of Nathan Shepherd, who was seemingly unblockable for most of the game. Edge defender Jordan Jenkins will get the praise for his two sacks, but Shepherd was the more disruptive rusher on a per-snap basis.
Linebacker James Burgess was everywhere for the Jets D, as he recorded a couple of pressures, 11 tackles and eight stops. Burgess also earned himself a pass breakup and shut down anything that came his way with quick tackles.
Ryan Fitzpatrick had the Dolphins in place for a win, but that was thwarted when his defense gifted the Jets the game on their final drive. Fitzpatrick attempted one throw over 20 yards—one that didn't connect—and he failed to bring the magic we're accustomed to seeing a few times a game.
The Dolphins have the draft capital to improve across multiple positions, and perhaps the second biggest need after QB is the offensive line. The interior of the unit was dreadful today, as they didn't give Fitzpatrick much time all game long nor did the running backs have much room to work within the running game.
If there is a bright spot on the Dolphins' defense this year it's been the work of the rookie first-round interior defensive lineman, Christian Wilkins. While the position isn't going to move the needle by himself on the win/loss column, Wilkins' ability in run defense and rushing the passer should help long term.
Another big need for the Dolphins in the draft will be cornerback, as the secondary has been getting torched all year. Yes, Xavien Howard—their top cornerback—has been injured most of the year, but the unit needs depth and playmakers. The biggest error on the game might have been Nik Needham‘s defensive pass interference on 3rd-and-17, which essentially gave the game away.