4 keys to a Jags victory vs. the Dolphins. The Jacksonville Jaguars will be taking the field for their annual game across the pond today and then will head into the bye week afterward. It certainly would be nice for them and their fans if they were able to do so with a win as it’s been since Week 1 of 2020 since the team last tasted victory.
Luckily, Sunday’s international game presents them with a good chance to make that happen as the Miami Dolphins are struggling at the moment and only have a Week 1 win (against New England) to their name. Of course, a big reason for that has been the absence of their starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, but they’ve also struggled defensively. In fact, their defense will come into the game ranked 30th overall and 24th and 27th against the run and pass, respectively.
With that being the case, in addition to the absences of receiver DeVante Parker and Xavien Howard, it would be a shame if the Jags couldn’t take advantage of Sunday’s game. However, here are some keys to the game that needs to happen to help the Jags avoid returning to the United States winless:
The No. 1 running backs of the Dolphins’ opponents haven’t really had any issues finding success against them, which is a good thing for James Robinson. In their first four games, three rushers (Jonathan Taylor, Damien Harris, and Peyton Barber) have been able to at least hit 100 yards and have also at least rushed for 4.8 yards per carry on Miami. With that being the case, it would be a crime if Robinson doesn’t get 20 carries or more against this team, which would be the first time all season he’s garnered such a workload.
Robinson has been the Jags’ top offensive weapon the last few weeks and it’s helped Trevor Lawrence and this offense tremendously. He will also have plenty of momentum by his side after registering a season-high of 18 carries for 159 yards against the Tennessee Titans last Sunday. That said, why not make him the featured weapon against this Dolphins unit that has given up more rushing yards on average than Tennessee?
Simply put, it would be a tall task to defeat this Dolphins team without utilizing Robinson properly, especially with the team being without DJ Chark. Additionally, it would open up more opportunities to take advantage of a passing defense that’s even worse than the running defense. Not only are the Dolphins not great against the pass (allowing an average of 288.6 yards on average), but they will be without their top corner in Xavien Howard. That makes this the perfect opportunity to get Laviska Shenault Jr. going, who only had a catch (albeit a huge one) last week against Tennessee.
Part of the reason why he didn’t get many targets seems to be because he was making a transition to the perimeter with Chark out. In fact, he had over four times the amount of snaps out wide Week 5 (45) than he did Week 4 (10), per Pro Football Focus.
With Howard out of the mix and Nik Needham likely replacing him on the perimeter, now would be as good a time as any for Lawrence to get his connection with Shenault going. When looking at what he’s done well, getting him the ball through the short passing game is likely the way as he’s been a monster after the catch. The Dolphins will also be without starting receiver DeVante Parker as previously mentioned, so it appears Jaylen Waddle would be Tagovailoa’s next favorite target when looking at the Dolphins passing figures. If that’s the case, the Jags need to be mindful of where the rookie is every snap because he has the speed to make it a long day for the defense.
When looking at his game logs, the stats may be deceiving as he’s only had a career-high of 61 yards, which came Week 1 when Tagovailoa started the whole game before fracturing his ribs the following week. Afterward, Jacoby Brissett had to be inserted into the lineup as the starter, and a change at quarterback isn’t exactly the easiest thing for a rookie receiver to deal with.
With Tagovailoa back now, Waddle could be looking to pick up where they left off Week 1. Additionally, the two players have a connection from college (at Alabama) that could help them get off to a quick start, and the wisest move to offset their chemistry may be to put Shaquill Griffin on the rookie. He’s clearly the best corner the Jags have on the roster, and rookie Tyson Campbell (if available) hasn’t performed well enough for the Jags to trust him with such a task just yet. The Jags didn’t have the best game last week when it came to stopping tight ends Anthony Firkser and MyCole Pruitt, and a huge part of it boiled down to communication. However, that will need to get cleaned up this week as Mike Gesicki is one of the league’s ascending tight ends.
Since Week 2 of the regular season, he’s been heavily targeted (30-plus times) in this offense, and that could continue to be the case with Tagovailoa back. As of now, he’s 13th in tight end statistics when it comes to the whole league with 227 receiving yards and a touchdown and will undoubtedly be looking to ball out against a Jags passing defense that ranks 26th.
When looking at his connection with Tagovailoa, the Jags especially need to be mindful of Gesicki in the red-zone as the two connected for three touchdowns then. That said, the Jags leaders need to make it clear of whose responsible for Gesicki at all times and can’t let him rome freely in situations where Miami is threatening to score.