Ferguson held Taylor to one sack in their first meeting
Come Monday night, the New York Jets will have a lot more on their plate than simple holiday distractions and the hype of a nationally televised game. Miami defensive end Jason Taylor, the veteran sack extraordinaire, is hungry for revenge after the Jets' 20-17 victory over the Dolphins in October.
"I thought we should have won that game," said Taylor. "I thought there were some big plays that we gave up and we did some stupid things that cost us the game. But it's easy to just sit there and say what you should have did, but we didn't. They made the plays that won the game."
Following that early season bout, the Jets evened their record at 3-3 and had a good grasp of their system while Miami was in the midst of a four-game losing streak at 1-5. Since then, Nick Saban's South Beach crew has gone 5-3 including a 21-0 shutout win over the division leading Patriots. Last season the Dolphins rode a hot streak to end the year while winning their final six games, but they failed to keep that momentum going into '06.
"We really put ourselves behind the eight-ball in the first seven games of the year," Taylor admits. "We won six games at the end of the year ('05), but it doesn't mean it's going to automatically transfer into this year and translate into wins. You still have to go out there and do the things necessary to help you win games, and we just didn't do that early in the year. We didn't execute and it took us a little while to get going."
Behind the Dolphins' late season surge is the success of Taylor and a fellow defensive Pro Bowler, middle linebacker Zach Thomas. Taylor and Thomas have combined for 199 total tackles and Taylor is second in the league in sacks with 12.5.
"I think he's had such an incredible career. He is tough; he's a problem every play," said Jets head coach Eric Mangini. "You see it game-in and game-out. He can make plays in the running game. You see those big guys bounce off him or he makes a move and he can make those negative plays in the passing game."
Mangini recalls one Taylor play in particular against the Jets this season that basically defines Taylor's prominence.
"On third down, we threw the screen out wide to Tim Dwight and he beat a couple of blockers and made the play there," said the first-year head coach. "He is the type of guy where even when you have him taken care of – you have an X for that O – it's still a problem."
One person whose primary job it is to deal with this problem is Jets' rookie left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson. Last game, Taylor wound up with seven tackles and a sack – which seems about average for the five-time Pro Bowler. Both the Dolphins and Ferguson have improved since.
"I think he's improved; you can see he's moving better," Taylor said of Ferguson. "He doesn't seem as fidgety. I think his movements earlier in the year were choppier, for lack of a better term. He was trying to guess and figure out what was going on because it was new to him."
"He's going to be a good player for a long period of time," he added. "Especially once he gets to the offseason and starts with the NFL lifting and running, getting himself in NFL shape and getting bigger and stronger. He's definitely going to be a force."
When Taylor, a 1997 product out of Akron, entered the league he was considered too small to play the end position.
"I do take a lot of pride in being able to do that. I take a lot of pride in doing it as an undersized guy," said Taylor of his success. "I was never that big defensive end that everyone always talked about, but I take pride in not being that 295-300 pound defensive end. I've done it at 240, and I've done it for 10 years."
Over the years, Taylor has adapted to make the most of his strengths and relies heavily on speed – not to say that he lacks any power.
"I remember when he came out. He was a thinner guy playing defensive end, and you always wondered how he'll do against the bigger offensive linemen, even though he had the edge in terms of speed," said Mangini. "He is always a threat because he has that pure speed off the edge and a nice combination of power and his motor is like the motor of guys we have talked about – it just doesn't stop."
Due to Taylor's production and leadership, it will be tough to picture the stout Miami defense without him.
"When you get eight, nine, 10, 11 years in the league and you get up to 30 years old, people start talking about your replacements," Taylor said. "I don't think it matters how old you are if you're making plays and you're doing things that are needed to help the team win games. That's all that matters."
"I think he provides great leadership to the team," Mangini added. "Not knowing him personally but the things I've heard about him. Between him and Zack, they are just outstanding people in addition to being outstanding players."
Thursday Injury Report Jets Questionable: FB B.J. Askew (foot), CB David Barrett (hip), WR Laveranues Coles (back), RB Cedric Houston (calf) & Eric Smith (foot)
Probable: *RB Kevan Barlow (calf), *LB Matt Chatham (foot), *C Nick Mangold (hip), *WR Justin McCareins (foot), *OL Brandon Moore (back), *DL Rashad Moore (hand), *QB Chad Pennington (calf), *LB Anthony Schlegel (illness), *DE Bryan Thomas (shoulder), *S Jamie Thompson (ankle) & *WR Wallace Wright (thigh)
Dolphins Out: DT Dan Wilkinson (calf)
Doubtful: WR Marty Booker (ankle)
Questionable: *CB Will Allen (groin/quad) & *RB Ronnie Brown (hand)
Probable: *QB Joey Harrington (ankle) & *DT Keith Traylor (knee)
*Denotes players who participated in practice