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2020 Matchup Preview: Jets vs. Dolphins

Will the QB Matchup Be Sam Darnold vs. Ryan Fitzpatrick and/or Tua Tagovailoa in November?

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (13) drops back to pass against Auburn during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

After posting a 7-9 record last season, the Jets will have seven games against 2019 playoff teams and the 2020 schedule strength is .533. With training camp on the horizon and September not too far off in the distance, is examining each of the Green & White's matchups next season. We continue our series with Dolphins analyst John Congemi as the Jets will visit Miami in Week 10 and then the clubs' Week 11 bye will precede the return matchup at MetLife Stadium in Week 12.

The Headline
Prior to the 2019 season, many pundits questioned whether the Dolphins were "Tanking for Tua" and had their eyes on Alabama standout QB Tua Tagovailoa as owner Stephen Ross stated that he was committed to rebuild. And the 'Fins looked like they would cruise to the No. 1 pick after the first four games saw them outscored by an average of 41 to 7, but rookie head coach Brian Flores displayed his chops and journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick found his "Fitzmagic" down the stretch as Miami finished 5-11. Despite the wins, including a 26-18 triumph over the Jets in November, the Dolphins still were able to select Tagovailoa with the fifth pick in April's draft. Prior to adding five players in the first two rounds, Ross opened up his checkbook in free agency and spent a boatload of cash.

"I think this roster right now as it is composed on paper is much stronger or more well-rounded at each position than it was going into the 2019 season," said Dolphins analyst John Congemi. "I think you add what Brian Flores does as a head coach, the way he motivates guys on a daily basis, the way he challenges guys on a daily basis, I think this is a competitive group that he's assembled from the coaching staff down through the quarterback and down through each position on offense, defense and special teams. It should be a much improved team in 2020 — hopefully it has some of the grit that the 2019 team had."

What's Changed
What hasn't changed? They addressed the defensive line with the signings of Shaq Lawson (BUF) and Emmanuel Ogbah (KC), made Byron Jones (DAL) the highest-paid corner in football and Flores will reunite with the versatile former Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy. Another past Patriot, Ted Karras, figures to take over at center and Miami hopes to get the best out of former first-round pick Ereck Flowers (NYG) at guard. And while Tagovailoa might not be the starting QB opening day, the expectation is fellow first-rounders T Austin Jackson and DB Noah Igbinoghene along with second-rounders G Robert Hunt and DT Raekown Davis will contribute immediately. Jordan Howard, who was most recently an Eagle but a 1,000-yard rusher for the Bears in 2016-17, and former Niner Matt Breida, a speedster who averaged 5.0 YPC in his first three NFL seasons, should make for an improved offensive backfield. 

"At running back, at linebacker, at safety, at cornerback and at defensive end, you could have upwards of 10-12 guys just at those positions not only starting but playing significant snaps," Congemi said. "And you may have four of five new names on that offensive line start opening day, so 10-12 (new starters) is probably a good number."

Matchups to Watch
The Dolphins feel better about their front seven talent and depth, but this is a team that finished 2019 last in both sacks (23) and QB pressures (16.5%). With an excellent cornerback group on paper that features Xavien Howard, they might elect to blitz more and load up in the box to stop the run. The 'Fins were 22nd against the run in terms of yards per carry (4.5) and 27th in yards per game (135.4). Will the Jets' reshuffled line win at the LOS for Sam Darnold, who orchestrated a game-winning drive in the Jets' 22-21 win over Miami last December, and RB Le'Veon Bell?

No matter who is slinging it for the Dolphins, the Jets corners have to combat the size of Preston Williams (6'5", 218), who had five catches for 72 yards and a TD in the clubs' first meeting last year, and DeVante Parker (6'3", 216) on the outside.

"You have two wide receivers who, if they stay healthy, can impose their will on opposing corners who don't have the size and don't have that compete level going up in the air and battling to get the football," Congemi said.

Why It's Important
After splitting the season series in 2019, the Jets will visit the Dolphins in Week 10 and then the clubs' Week 11 bye will precede the Dolphins visit to MetLife Stadium in Week 12. This will mark the first time since modern bye weeks began in 1990 that the Green & White will face the same team twice in 3 weeks surrounding the bye week.

"I think it's probably 50/50 that you may see Tua in one of those two games," Congemi said. "But if the Dolphins have gotten through the tough part of their schedule, which is the late September/early October, and they get to the middle of the season with Fitzpatrick playing well, there could be a chance that Tua is still watching."

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