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Davon Godchaux – From Plaquemine to the Pros

Travis Wingfield

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Adversity-stricken backstories are not uncommon among the near-2,000 players in the National Football League. Growing up in poverty, or dangerous neighborhoods, often serve as a platform to develop the work ethic required to reach the sport’s highest honor. Additionally, injuries can cut a premiere prospect’s career tragically short.

For Davon Godchaux, it was all of the above.

The target of a 2012 drive-by shooting, Godchaux’s twin brother, Devin, was mixed up with a bad crowd. Unfortunately, this was nothing new for the family from Plaquemine, Louisiana.

Incarcerated at the time of his birth, Godchaux never knew anything other than growing up with a single-mother. Unable to work due to a medical condition, Albertha Godchaux and her six children, were evicted from their shot-up-home during Davon’s junior year.

That adversity bestowed a fire within Davon – something he would need to rekindle just one year later.

Barely 10 minutes into his senior season at Plaquemine High, Godchaux suffered a torn ACL and LCL in his right knee.

Just one year later, Godchaux worked himself into the defensive line rotation at LSU. 12-months removed from major knee surgery, the true freshman would go on to pile up 40 total tackles and one forced fumble.

Brimming with talent, the 19-year-old demonstrated the desire and discipline required to play at the next level. But before he could do that, he needed to serve two more years at the college level.

After racking up six sacks and nine tackles for loss, Godchaux was named to the pre-season all SEC second-team heading into his junior season. With another 6.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss, Godchaux nearly doubled his numbers of total tackles (37 to 62.)

Three years of dominating the best conference in college football was enough for Davon to test the next level — the pinnacle of football, the NFL.

Despite his stout build, terrific hands and pad level, Godchaux fell to the fifth round.

Miami Dolphins draft pick Davon Godchaux smiles as he speaks during a news conference, Friday, May 5, 2017, at the Dolphins training facility in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

With Ndamukong Suh dominating one defensive tackle position for the Dolphins (and compensated as such,) Miami desperately needed a low-cost, impact player to pair with the future Hall of Famer.

And they found it.

Godchaux entered training camp firmly entrenched behind 2016 starter, and 2015 second-round-pick, Jordan Phillips, on the depth chart.

Through hard work came production. And through production, came recognition. After a dominating performance against the second and third stringers of the Atlanta Falcons, Godcaux was elevated to starter in pre-season game number two.

Chomping at the bit for his first regular season NFL action, Godchaux would have to delay his enthusiasm for another week. Hurricane Irma forced the NFL to post-pone the Dolphins week one game. In the meantime, Godchaux would relinquish his hard-earned starting gig to incumbent, Jordan Phillips.

The demotion wouldn’t prevent the Plaquemine kid from making an impact in his first NFL game. As the old adage goes, it isn’t about how you start, but rather how you finish. Despite coming off the bench, Godchaux would play 32 of the Dolphins 58 defensive snaps – second most among Miami defensive tackles.

It didn’t take long for Godchaux to make his impact. Here, the rookie teams up with Suh for a run stuff.

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A myriad of changes has helped the Dolphins jump from the 30th ranked run defense in 2016, to the 5th best stop unit in 2017. Godchaux’s unrelenting motor and low pad level have certainly contributed to the turn-around.

In his third consecutive start, Godchaux made his greatest impact. Epitomizing his never give-up-attitude, Godchaux is beat on this play against the Tennessee Titans. Continuing to work his way back to the ball, he spins off his block and punches the ball out for a crucial Miami takeaway.

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Defensive tackle isn’t a position that draws a lot of glory. Often, the job description consists of eating up double teams, and freeing up other players to steal the highlight. Grunt work is where Godchaux earns his pay check. Against the Falcons, he frequently took on a guard-center combination block, held his ground, and forced the back to find room elsewhere.

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Most fifth round draft picks wash out of the league in a few short years. Even for the players taken at the top of the draft, year one can often be a transitional year as the player learns the intricacies of life as a professional.

Not for Davon Godchaux.

Fully entrenched in the Dolphins defensive line rotation, Godchaux has eaten up between 50-60% of the team’s defensive snaps in each of his first five games. He is an integral part of a a revamped Dolphins defense, that has Miami off to its first 4-2 start since 2003.

Football is the ultimate parallel to life. Just as in life, the game is a perpetual series of ups and downs. Defensive linemen learn from a young age that the low man wins.

And I would never bet against a young man as grounded as Davon Godchaux.

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Miami Dolphins

Fins Fall to Rivals, Officials – Dolphins Jets Week 14 Recap

Travis Wingfield

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Dolphins, Jets, officials all struggle Sunday in a walk-off winner for the home team

The decision to reverse an uncalled defensive pass interference on Cornerback Nik Needham is the story from an otherwise sloppy, forgettable game between two of the NFL’s oldest rivals. Yet, that call wasn’t even the most egregious decision adjudicated Sunday at the Meadowlands.

 

Stat Dolphins Jets
Total Yards 362 374
Rushing 122 112
Passing 240 262
3rd / 4thDown 4/13 (30.8%) 5/14 (35.7%)
Penalties 5 (48 yards) 5 (88 yards)
Sacks For 1 2
TOP 30:06 29:54

 

One of the just two touchdowns scored by either team was incorrectly ruled as such. Overturning an incompletion in which Demaryius Thomas failed to complete the catch on the way to the ground — because of a Needham pass break up — gave the Jets an extra four points and, ultimately, a victory.

The foul on Needham was confirmed as the correct decision by the league. It probably was, but it bailed the undeserving Jets out of a certain loss. New York was stuck in 3rd and 18 from its own 44-yard-line after Andrew Van Ginkel’s first career sack. With only 60 seconds remaining, a reception there puts the Jets into a long field situation, at best. Instead, New York were awarded a fresh set of downs and would inch closer before a 44-yard winner from Sam Ficken.

The Dolphins had many chances to overcome the hometown help, but failed to do so repeatedly. Stunningly short-handed on the offensive side (each of Miami’s top four wide receivers were out for one reason or another) Ryan Fitzpatrick couldn’t get it going on four separate trips inside the Jets 10-yard-line.

Miami entered the week as the third best red zone outfit, but followed up last week’s perfect 4-for-4 showing with a goose egg in the game’s most critical area.

With drives spanning 92, 67, 65, 62, 45, 36, and 56 yards, Miami’s ability to move the ball was rather astonishing. If we’re talking about the starting lineup the team entered training camp with, the Dolphins were on running backs number 4 and 5 Sunday, and wide receivers 5-7. One of those receivers arrive in Miami this past Thursday.

Concussions knocked Devante Parker and Albert Wilson out of the game. Michael Deiter played, but didn’t start the game, and Patrick Laird and Myles Gaskin are making a case for more significant roles in 2020.

The defense executed a bend-but-don’t-break game plan. New York put together drives of 74, 77, 62, 51 and 49 yards, but Miami also forced three punts (two three-and-outs), a turnover-on-downs, and picked off Sam Darnold for the eighth time in four career head-to-head games.

For the second time this season, Miami and its band of misfits outplayed a New York roster that was assembled for playoff contention. This time, however, Miami came up short, and it’s probably for the best. The Dolphins retain the fourth position in the 2020 NFL Draft, where a victory would have seen Miami slide all the back to the eighth spot at the close of week 14 business.

Let’s get to the individuals.

Quarterbacks

This was the worst game Ryan Fitzpatrick played in several weeks, even after it started off so strongly. Fitzpatrick was constantly under duress, and was forced to create improvisational success.

Fitzpatrick led the way in rushing with 65 yards on the ground. That brings his season total to 186 yards, just 15 behind the team’s leader in Mark Walton. Fitzpatrick aside, Miami’s three leading rushers on the season won’t contribute another yard (Kenyan Drake, Kalen Ballage and Walton) for the Dolphins this season.

Accounting for 16 of the offense’s 22 touchdowns, the only things Fitzpatrick isn’t doing are cooking the meals and flying the plane. Still, this was not his best showing. He was late and off-target on several occasions, and threw a number of interceptable passes.

The creativity off-script kept Miami in the game, just as did Fitzpatrick’s ability to quickly process the coverage, and make the corresponding play. He recognizes man coverage and a free rusher well enough to make the opposition pay with his legs, and he’s very deadly against zone looks. More on this in the wide receivers portion.

Running Backs

Patrick Laird has been a welcomed shot in the arm to a running game that’s dead on the vine. Miami’s run blocking leaves plenty to be desired, but The Intern (A.K.A. White Lightning) put together 48 yards on the ground. But he was also in the air, and everywhere, to the tune of 38 receiving yards, including an ankle-breaking sluggo route.

That was the only set of ankles Laird broke — quite literally.

Myles Gaskin didn’t have the production this week, but he showed the patience, vision and burst that made him a four-time 1,200-yard rusher at Washington. He’s a viable option next year as a change-of-pace back that can correctly identify the lanes on outside or inside zone.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Devante Parker helps Fitzpatrick beat man coverage with his leaping and big-play ability, which was on display for Parker’s second and final catch of the game. When Fitzpatrick can identify his matchups, it makes the passing game dangerous against any coverage. But when the offense is down so many players, the matchups become few-and-far between.

Parker would leave the game after his head slammed to the turf. Devante tried to shake it off, but he was clearly woozy, and would not return.

Allen Hurns is the usual security blanket for Fitzpatrick against zone coverage, and he made a number of big plays despite playing through an ailment of his own. Hurns piled up 68 yards on five catches.

Isaiah Ford received an unexpected opportunity this week and ran with it. He made some noise after the catch and picked up 92 yards on six receptions. He displayed strong hands and toughness on a number of bang-bang receptions.

Mike Gesicki did not do well to follow up his career-day against the Jets in November, but that was more of a function of New York’s defense. Gesicki ran into brackets throughout the game, and Fitzpatrick missed him the one time he uncovered in the end zone.

Offensive Line

Michael Deiter saw his 100% snap record broken Sunday by losing the starting job to Keaton Sutherland. Sutherland had some moments in the run game; he shows a penchant for engaging, turning and sealing off some nice gaps in the run game.

Deiter returned to the lineup and got some work late, including a big hold that momentarily backed Miami out of field goal range.

Jesse Davis had his best game at right tackle last week, and did not put together back-to-back performances. He struggled once again to wall off the edge in the passing game, but he did seal the edge in the ground game a few times.

Evan Boehm was back in at right guard for Shaq Calhoun, but he had his worst game as a Dolphin. Boehm was constantly over-powered or beaten with quickness.

The same was true of Daniel Kilgore at center. Kilgore is asked to reach a lot and it’s a 50/50 proposition if he’s going to get there on any given play.

Defensive Line

Just as the run game got going for the first time since October, Miami had its best run-defense day of the year. The Jets ran the ball 32 times for an average of 3.5 yards per rush.

Davon Godchaux was at the forefront of the quality day from the front. He continues to overpower guards and centers in one-on-one situations and hold the point against doubles. He also walked the Jets guards into the quarterback a couple of times.

Christian Wilkins was in on five stops, but had a lot of bad reps getting rolled out of the gap.

Gerald Willis was involved a few times putting together his best showing in his young Dolphins career. He added his first QB hit.

Charles Harris still isn’t playing very much, but he made a play possible for Vince Biegel with a strong edge forcing the split zone tight end into the ball carrier.

Linebackers

Raekwon McMillan was back to doing his thing in this game. McMillan played his best, fastest game in a number of weeks. He constantly timed up the Jets snaps and knifed into the backfield to blow up a lead block, or go directly to the source and get the ball carrier.

Jerome Baker was off to a miserable start, but really turned things around in the second half. He took after McMillan with the aggressive, reckless abandon flying in against the run and blowing up blocks.

Vince Biegel has been the most pleasant surprise to this Dolphins team. He was in on nine stops, closed down the backside on runs away from him, and held the point on runs in his direction.

Andrew Van Ginkel showed the type of rush traits this scheme calls for on his first career sack. He worked up field, engaged the blocker, kept his eyes on the quarterback, and came off to get Sam Darnold to the ground when he tried to escape.

Defensive Backs

Nik Needham was involved on two plays that arguably proved to be the difference in the game, which is unfortunate because he was excellent otherwise. Needham was involved as a tackler, he undercut routes for big break ups on third down, and he played the ball extremely well.

Steven Parker made two huge plays in this game — one for the Dolphins, and one for the Jets. He picked off Darnold driving out of his deep half position for Miami’s lone takeaway. He also inexplicably gambled on the play that put the Jets in position for a game-winning field goal.

Ken Webster had a difficult day. The Jets went after Webster relentless and he was regularly a step late.

Jomal Wiltz continues to tackle efficiently, but he too was often a step late in coverage. The same was true of Ryan Lewis.

Recap

The passion Brian Flores showed at the end of the game is difficult to ignore. Far be it from me to compare myself to Coach, but passion has fueled the entire Locked On Dolphins venture and watching that man bear his heart and soul into this is the most admirable trait I’ve seen in a Dolphins Head Coach since the Don.

Flores cares. This stuff matters to him. It effects his pride and his spirit with the Dolphins lose games, and that personality is rubbing off on his team. This Miami Dolphins squad, the one that is comprised of nearly 50% undrafted free agents — because of shipping off or losing almost half the original starters to injury — is a two-point conversion and botched officiating away from a 5-4 record post-bye.

There are still a lot of areas to fix on this roster, especially to fully execute the defensive vision of Flores, but once he gets those parts, this will be a fun team to watch.

The Dolphins are already tough, smart, and disciplined. The last piece of that puzzle is some more talent.

With 14 draft picks (6 in the top 60) and nearly $130 million in cap space, those final ingredients will arrive in March and April.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins had a huge week of roster moves

Shawn Digity

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Isaiah Prince Miami Dolphins
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports

MIAMI (Locked On Dolphins) – Miami Dolphins make a myriad of roster moves

The Miami Dolphins made another handful of roster moves, which has been par for the course this year.

The Miami Dolphins have not been shy about their presence on the waiver wire. And leading into Week 14’s games, the team has once again claimed several new players to add into the mix.

Let’s address the moves in chronological order.

The first flurry of transactions included claiming and being awarded wide receiver Trevor Davis from the Oakland Raiders and running back Zach Zenner from the Arizona Cardinals.

The Green Bay Packers drafted Davis in the fifth round of 2016’s draft out of California, and he spent three seasons with the Packers before being traded to the Raiders for a 2020 sixth-round pick.

The Raiders waived Davis earlier this month.

Zenner, on the other hand, went undrafted in 2015, coming out of South Dakota State. He spent a bulk of his five-year career with the Detroit Lions but also spent time with the New Orleans Saints and Cardinals.

In the corresponding moves, running back Kalen Ballage was added to the Injured Reserve list, thus ending his season, and safety Montre Hartage was waived.

The Miami Dolphins Twitter account confirmed these transactions (and all others mentioned).

The league ratified the moves on December 3.

On December 4, the Miami Dolphins continued their roster churning with another claim and a practice-squad poach.

The team signed interior offensive lineman Evan Brown from the New York Giants practice squad.

Brown is in the midst of his second season in the NFL after the Giants originally signed him an undrafted free agent in 2018.

The Dolphins were also awarded wide receiver Mack Hollins from the Philadelphia Eagles.

Hollins spent his college career at the University of North Carolina before the Eagles drafted him the 2017 Draft’s fourth round.

To make room for Brown and Hollins, cornerback Ken Crawley, who was awarded to the Dolphins off the waivers at the end of October, and interior offensive lineman Chris Reed were waived.

The most recent move occurred on December 5 and included the release of sixth-round rookie offensive tackle Isaiah Prince.

The Dolphins drafted Prince out of Ohio State.

This move was made to clear a spot for another claimed player, Zach Sieler, from the Baltimore Ravens.

Sieler is a defensive tackle and was initially taken by the Ravens in the seventh round of the 2018 Draft.

All these moves, which featured four players being claimed and won off the waiver wire, are apropos of the Dolphins’ 2019 season.

The team has scoured the waiver wire every week with a fine-tooth comb, looking for hidden gems that could be developmental investments.

 

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Dolphins Jets Week 14 Preview

Travis Wingfield

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Dolphins seek to make it five straight over rival New York

Who: Dolphins (3-9) at Jets (4-8)
When: Sunday December 8, 1:00 East
Where: MetLife Stadium — East Rutherford, NJ
Weather: 42 degrees, partly cloudy
Vegas Slant: Dolphins +5.5

DolphinsJets

In the most Adam Gase event imaginable, the Jets followed up a three-game winning streak with an embarrassing, resounding defeat at the previously winless Bengals. Gase has been assured of job security until at least opening day 2020, but another run of losses to close out the season might change that thought.

The very fact that the Dolphins can leapfrog the Jets in the AFC East standings with a win — which would count for back-to-back sweeps of the Jets — is an indictment on the Gase program in New York. The Dolphins, a team made-up of 42% undrafted free agents, are within striking distance of a team that planned the offseason around the idea that they were a playoff outfit.

For the Dolphins, a victory over 8.5-point favorite Philadelphia Sunday has folks thinking Miami could rattle off a win streak down the stretch. A win could cost the Fins several spots in the draft next April, and three more December victories will take Miami out of the top 10 altogether.

With the once promising quarterback class inching closer to last year’s futile crop, maybe the best thing for Miami is to prove that they can beat these bad teams with their own short-handed roster.

Brian Flores has already won his rookie season with three victories. Miami’s preseason win-total projection from the books in Vegas was 4.5, and that was before the Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick trades. With three victories to his credit, Flores has already exceeded expectations by developing talent, getting resurgence from several veterans, and improving this team nearly across the board from the first month of the season.

The key to a potential winning streak, is to do it convincingly. If Miami whips up on the Jets, Giants and Bengals, then Miami will be an offseason destination that attracts free agents. It will prove that Flores is capable of going 6-10 with indisputably the NFL’s worst roster, and provide the fan base with oodles of hope heading into the 2020 season.

The Scheme:

Offense:

This portion of the preview serves as a pleasant reminder that we don’t have to dissect Gase’s system any longer — at least not for the home team. The story is the same; minimal utilization of analytics, a conservative approach that replaces creativity in the run game with screen passes, and an offense that constantly throws the football short of the sticks.

All offseason, Gase talked about the abilities of Sam Darnold and how his presence afforded the coach to be more aggressive. Still, the Jets offense ranks near the bottom in air-yards, and every major offensive category.

Gase’s run scheme became more diverse in 2018 when the Phins hired Eric Studesville to coordinate the rushing attack, but with Le’Veon Bell in New York, Gase reverts back to exclusive zone concepts. Plenty of outside zone, complemented by split-zone, the Jets have operated in two-back sets this year, but mainly in short-yardage. That’s also the situation where the Jets unveil some gap-scheme runs.

The passing game will feature a lot of three-by-one alignments where the Jets will try to capitalize on backside isolation, and three-man combinations to the play-side that are designed to free up one receiver.

Late last season, Gase started deploying more 12-personnel, but was almost exclusively an 11-personnel offense prior to the bye week. This year, with the Jets, he’s back to the nearly-exclusive 11-personnel approach using one back and one tight end on 80% of the Jets snaps.

The Jets rank 31st in total offense, 30th in rushing, 31st in passing, and 28th in scoring offense.

Defense:

Gregg Williams might be the only NFL personality more stubborn than Gase. Operating primarily from a traditional 3-4 base, the Jets will often leave two or three linebackers on the field regardless of the offensive personnel.

The way Williams diversifies his proverbial portfolio comes through pressure packages. He’s going to blitz, blitz, and then blitz some more. Sending an extra rusher at a 38.4%-clip, only the Ravens, Browns, Cardinals and Bucs blitz more than Williams. He’ll dial up zero-pressure (no safety help), and use his best player (Jamal Adams) in a variety of roles down around the line-of-scrimmage.

Using edge pressure will create one-on-one opportunities inside for Quinnen Williams. Jordan Jenkins gets plenty of opportunities as the overhang, outside backer in odd fronts.

The Jets rank 6th in total defense, 1st in rushing, 19th in passing, and 19th in scoring defense.

The Players:

Offense:

Sam Darnold entered the NFL with the label of turnover prone quarterback. With 25 career interceptions and 10 fumbles, Darnold averages 1.59 potential turnovers per game. Seven of those interceptions came against the Dolphins, including an egregious decision inside the five-yard-line that led to a Jomal Wiltz interception in the first meeting this season.

Still, Darnold offers a sharp post-snap mind. Despite seeing ghosts against this same defensive scheme as Miami in that notorious Monday night New England game (with the opposite end of the spectrum from a talent standpoint), Darnold’s next good game against Miami will be his first. He’ll have to displace the Miami defenders with his eyes and body-positioning in the pocket, something he’s more than capable of doing. The Dolphins inability to create pressure all year should serve the Jets offense well.

The Jets are one of the few offensive lines in the league that makes Miami look decent up front. Adding three, past-their-prime veterans to the group was the most Adam Gase special, and he’s paid the price. Kelechi Osemele was cut after the team tried to force him to play through a serious shoulder injury, and Ryan Kalil and Alex Lewis are proving why they were cut (or about to be cut before a trade) by their former teams. Chuma Edoga is a rookie, so he has an excuse, but Brandon Shell has been a bad tackle for years.

Jamison Crowder had the best day of all Jets receivers last time around, and he figures to be in a position to do the same Sunday. He’s a shifty, savvy route runner from the slot and Miami’s secondary continues to lose players each week.

Defense:

Jamal Adams is New York’s best player, but he’s questionable for this game. Adams is a game-wrecker. He changes the way teams call protection up front, and acts as an additional ‘backer in the run-game. Ryan Fitzpatrick will have to I.D. Adams on every play.

Adams’ counterpart, Marcus Maye, has had a strong 2019 season. Teams are finding little success when targeting him in coverage, but he will miss his fair share of tackles.

Quinnen Williams and Steve McClendon are both mountains in the middle of the Jets defense. Daniel Kilgore is not a good matchup for these two players, and things could get dicey for Miami up the gut. Kilgore has always struggled with power and that pair for the Jets provides plenty of it. Miami will have to double either of these guys to move them off the point.

Rookie Folorunso Fatukasi has been one of the Jets quality acquisitions of the offseason. The 2018 sixth-round pick has been a rotational player, but he’s been among the Jets most efficient run defenders.

Trumaine Johnson and Daryl Roberts make up perhaps the league’s worst perimeter tandem, but Brian Poole has been one of the best in the league in the slot, but he’s in the concussion protocol.

The Medical:

Update Friday

The Opportunities:

It would be foolish to do anything other than going back to the well from last week, or the previous Jets game for that matter. The Jets perimeter corners and linebackers can’t cover, and with a hobbled — if at all — Jamal Adams, Devante Parker and Mike Gesicki are in for big days once more. Keep an eye on Allen Hurns as well. Gregg Williams is going to blitz a lot and Hurns’ ability to uncover quickly inside could be valuable to Ryan Fitzpatrick.

On the other side, getting Darnold to do what he does — turn the ball over — will be the key for Miami. Perhaps this is a chance for the Dolphins pass rush to get healthy, they sacked Darnold three times last go-round.

The Concerns:

The Jets run defense is stout and Miami can’t run the ball on anyone. That’s been the case all year, however, and that one dimensional offense won’t work weekly. Fitzpatrick has done well to protect the ball since the bye week, but poor weather has a way of bringing out the not-so-fun aspect of Fitzmagic.

If Darnold is afforded the opportunity to stand in the pocket and survey the Dolphins defense, it’ll make for a long day. The Jets line and Dolphins pass rush is the antithesis of an immovable object up against an unstoppable force.

The Projected Outcome:

Expect Gase to pull out his best game plan of the year. We thought that might be the case in Miami, but that was a road game, and we all know how Gase teams perform on the road. The Jets last home date was a drubbing of the Oakland Raiders, and Miami’s reliance on the passing game in cold weather could prove problematic.

This game could turn into another shootout with neither pass defense offering much resistance.

Dolphins 28
Jets 30

@WingfieldNFL

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