It was a bit weird for linebacker Jason Taylor to return to Miami to face the Dolphins in the Jets' 31-23 Week 3 victory over their division rivals. On Sunday the Jets host Miami and with one game against his former teammates under his belt, Taylor seems to be blocking out any personal ties in this next showdown.
"It was obviously unfamiliar to me down there and a new experience but we got past that hurdle," Taylor said. "We won the game and it was big for us. Not personally, but as a team it was a big win for us. This one is even bigger. We understand what we need to do and a rivalry game, division game, home game, trying to get to the playoffs. We have a lot at stake and I'm not even looking at the personal side of things."
Taylor started four of the first six games this season, including that contest against the Dolphins, and during that stretch he recorded 19 tackles and three sacks. Starting linebacker Calvin Pace returned from injury in the Week 5 matchup against the Vikings but wasn't at full strength until after the Week 7 bye.
Since then, Taylor hasn't started and has only recorded 10 tackles and one sack. In Monday's loss to the Patriots, he played only 15 of the Jets' 58 defensive snaps.
"I'm not happy with how we used him last week," head coach Rex Ryan said Thursday. "This guy is a great football player. We need to use him more. I think it was more dependent on the plan of attack we had. Obviously things changed when we had Jim [Leonhard] out. When Jason's out there, he's making plays. He's a great player and we need to utilize him."\
Overall Taylor's numbers are on par with or better than the ones he put up last season when he was with the Dolphins and the season before when he played for the Redskins. However, for a player who was the NFL's Defensive MVP in 2006 and has racked up 750 tackles and 131.5 sacks in his career, he was pretty tough on himself on Thursday.
"Not good enough," Taylor said of his play this season. "I need to make more plays. There have been games where I'm very close to making plays or completing a play. Everybody wants to see numbers, sacks and all of that. I think there have been times where I've done pretty decent pressuring and affecting throws and affecting quarterbacks and there are other games where I haven't as much."
Coordinator Mike Pettine feels that Taylor has earned more playing time. When asked if Taylor would see more snaps Sunday than he has in recent weeks, Pettine seemed sure that the 14-year pro would.
"I think so," Pettine said. "Miami week, I think, is a big week for him. I think he's amped up and ready to go. I think JT, in the limited time he's had, he's graded out well, he's done his job. It merits more time for him."
If the Akron standout and Pittsburgh native is thinking at all about the personal side of playing against the Dolphins — the team that drafted him and for which he played for 12 seasons — he's not showing it. When asked about the Dolphins, he responded matter-of-factly.
"They have a good football team," he said. "I know they have their own set of issues that they're trying to work through but that's none of our concern right now. We understand that this is a game that we need to win for a lot of reasons and we're playing against a talented football team."
While talented, the Dolphins are sitting in the middle of the pack offensively, with the 16th-ranked passing attack and 18th-ranked ground game. Since starting 2-2, they've alternated wins and losses and sport a 6-6 record — a result the 'Fins were not expecting when they started the season as a potential playoff candidate.
The Jets, on the other hand, look to be in fairly good playoff shape at 9-3, and even though Taylor isn't getting a ton of playing time, he is happy about his situation and his chance to make an impact.
"If I was inactive and we were 9-3 I'd still be happy that we were winning," Taylor said. "It's not about me, it's about our team and this defense as a whole. Anywhere that I could plug in and help, help make plays or take the attention off of somebody else or whatever I can do, I'm here to do that.
"With that being said, I do want to play. Everybody wants to play. If there's anybody in this locker room that didn't want to be on the field, I would be disappointed in that person."