Their playoff hopes long gone, the Jets have not phoned it in. Against the Dolphins on Dec. 2, the Jets played with a chip on their shoulders, a defiant response to being underdogs against the now 0-12 Fried Fish.
It was the most complete, dominating performance of the season, 40-13. Nice, yes. A sign the Jets are on their way back, not quite. The Jets did what they were supposed to do. They soundly defeated the most dilapidated team in the league. The win has to be kept in perspective. Tougher tests are ahead.
The 2007 Miami Dolphins are one of the worst teams in recent NFL memory, maybe in the league’s entire history. The squad head coach Cam Cameron put on the field Sunday was reminiscent of a third-string lineup you’d see in the 4th quarter of a preseason game. The Dolphins didn’t have a lot of talent when the season began. Several injuries and the trade of WR Chris Chambers have depleted the roster. They’re down to the backups to the backups.
Had the Jets not dominated the game you would’ve been right to question whether the New York coaching staff spent the week on vacation in the Swiss Alps instead of preparing a game plan on Long Island.
Before you declare the Jets are improving, watch what they do this Sunday against the 7-5 Cleveland Browns. You shouldn’t take too much away from a one-sided victory over the doormat Dolphins.
The Browns, on the other hand, will pose a legitimate test. QB Derek Anderson, RB Jamal Lewis, WR Braylon Edwards and TE Kellen Winslow lead an explosive offense.
The Jets held the Dolphins to a meager 187 yards of total offense. If Gang Green repeats that against Cleveland, then you can get excited. If the Browns shred the Jets, then you’ll be reminded Mangini’s 3-4 defense is a flop and major personnel changes are needed.
QB Kellen Clemens (15-24, 236 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT) played well against the Dolphins, aided by offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s most creative game plan this season. Clemens needs to build on it; Romeo Crennel’s Browns give up 28 points and a league-worst 390 yards per game. The Jets offense should score more than their usual one offensive touchdown.
The 3-9 Jets might think they’re not too far behind the 7-5 Browns. Had a few plays gone the Jets way in some of those close losses, the argument goes, maybe they, too, could be 7-5 and in contention. This Sunday Mangini’s squad will get a chance to prove it.
Expect the Browns to go after Clemens. The Dolphins were successful when they blitzed, racking up six sacks. The Jets offensive line, as it has all season long, had difficulty picking up the extra pass rushers.
Since their bye week the Jets have put up two strong performances and laid one egg. They caught the Steelers in a sleepwalk, surprising them with an attacking defense. The Cowboys brought them back to earth. The Dolphins made the Jets look like world-beaters. Mangini always talks about consistency; how does back-to-back good games sound? Or even back-to-back wins?