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Jets-Dolphins preview: Bilal Powell, Isaiah Crowell rotation working for Jets

Both running backs had impressive debuts against the Lions, and were given nearly equal workloads.

Sam Darnold #14 of the New York Jets

Sam Darnold #14 of the New York Jets hands the ball off to Isaiah Crowell #20 of the New York Jets in the second half against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on September 10, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan.  Photo Credit: Getty Images/Rey Del Rio

The Jets used a balanced attack in the backfield in their first game as Bilal Powell and Isaiah Crowell each were in on 24 snaps. It was effective, so it may continue that way.

“The most important thing is keeping them fresh,” offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates said. “I thought that’s what the rotation did.”

Crowell had an impressive Jets’ debut. He rushed for 102 yards on 10 carries, and scored two touchdowns against the Lions. Powell finished with 65 yards total on 13 carries. Rookie Trenton Cannon was in at the end of the game when it was out of reach.

But Powell and Crowell give the Jets a good combination because both can be three-down backs because of their pass-catching ability. Powell caught 58 passes two years ago and has four career receiving touchdowns. Crowell was the lead back for the Browns the last three years.

Bates plans to use this to his advantage.

“Both of them can run, both of them can catch and both of them can pass protect, so they can do everything you need a running back to do,” Bates said.  “The ability to just rotate them and keep them healthy and keep them fresh and keep applying the pressure on the defense is powerful.”

The Jets have a similar situation at wide receiver.

They have no real No. 1 receiver. But Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, Jermaine Kearse, who is expected to make his season debut Sunday, and Terrelle Pryor have all had seasons in which they surpassed 800 receiving yards. It’s a versatile group and gives rookie Sam Darnold more weapons.

A BIG PROBLEM

The Jets offensive line will be tested again. This will be a recurring theme as the Jets face different pass rushers each week.

On Sunday, they’ll have to keep edge rushers Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn offDarnold.

The maligned unit did a good job in Detroit. Darnold was sacked twice, and once it was more his fault than the line's. The Jets also benefited from Ziggy Ansah leaving the game with a shoulder injury.

Wake has 22 sacks the past two seasons. Quinn’s production has dipped since he had 19 five years ago, but injuries have played a part.

“Both are premier rushers, both cause a problem,” Todd Bowles said. “When they rush four, those two will [make it] seem like you’re rushing six. They’re going to create a big problem.”

Bowles was Miami’s assistant head coach when Wake was a rookie, and spent four seasons coaching him. Bowles isn’t surprised Wake is still a factor as he nears his 37th birthday. Wake is eight sacks shy of 100. Hall of Famer John Randle is the only other undrafted player with more (137.5).

He's a guy that takes care of his body,” Bowles said. “He may be in his 30s, but he keeps himself in shape like he's in his 20s. He's in prime condition and he’s a physical specimen and he is explosive off the edge.”

THE X FACTOR

Safety Doug Middleton is in line to start again if Marcus Maye misses a second game with a foot injury. Since Maye didn’t practice all week that is likely. Middleton could be busy against Kenny  Stills and DeVante Parker, if he returns from a finger injury. The Dolphins could take deep shots with both. Middleton, who played every defensive snap against Detroit, was the only member of the Jets starting secondary that didn’t get a pick. But he broke up a pass and had five tackles. Defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers said Middleton “stepped in and did some good things” but there were also things he “would like to improve on.”

MONEY WELL-SPENT

Josh McCown is the highest-paid backup quarterback at $10 million in the league. But Jets CEO Christopher Johnson said McCown is invaluable as a mentor and leader for not only Darnold but the team overall. McCown was the first person who talked to Darnold on the sideline after his first-pass pick-six against Detroit.

“I’ve seen Josh do that before,” Johnson said. “He went laser focused on Sam. I have no doubt that helped Sam get his head together, get set for the next series. Josh is very valuable, whether he’s on the field or not; and not just for Sam, for a lot of players. They talk about his leadership. I think he’s money well spent.”

15

 The yards Dolphins running back Frank Gore needs to pass former Jet Curtis Martin (14,101) for fourth place on the NFL’s all-time list.

STOPPING STILLS

The Jets know Dolphins wide receiver Stills all too well. He caught two touchdowns against them in a Dolphins’ win in Miami last October.

But Stills is a bigger part of the Dolphins’ offense since Jarvis Landry was traded to Cleveland. Coach Adam Gase said Stills is more than just a vertical threat and he will be used differently this season.

“He’s always been one of our stronger players,” Gase said. “He’s probably our most consistent receiver we’ve had since I’ve been here the last three years. He’s a tough guy to defend because he plays all the different spots.

“He could be in the slot, he could be the No. 3 in three-receiver sets. He could be outside. He has a large route tree. Everything we’ve asked him to do he’s executed at a very high level. He’s a guy who’s been very impactful to us.”

Stills has been a big-play receiver throughout his career. Since his rookie season in 2013, Stills ranks second in yards per reception at 16.3. Only DeSean Jackson is higher (17.4). In 14 games playing with quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, Stills has four touchdown receptions of 50-plus yards, including a 75-yard score last week.

HOME COOKING

2-1: Jets' home opener record  under Todd Bowles

6-2: Jets home opener record at MetLife Stadium


 


 

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