Key matchup: Jets defense vs. Dolphins RB Bush

Posted Sept. 21, 2012 @ 11:55 a.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

In the AFC East divisional game between the Dolphins and Jets, Reggie Bush’s performance will be key to the result.

Jets defense vs. Dolphins RB Reggie Bush

No longer does Reggie Bush have to answer questions about whether or not he can be a No. 1 back, or if he can run between the tackles or if he can handle a heavy workload. He answered most of those last season, with career-high rushing numbers across the board (216 carries, 1,086 yards, 5.0-yard rushing average).

In Week Two, Bush was named the AFC’s Offensive Player of the Week for his 26-172-2 performance against the Raiders, which included a 65-yard touchdown run. Even in Week One against a stout Texans defense, Bush managed a 4.9-yard rushing average and six catches for 46 yards.

Bush is off to a great start, and that is important for the Dolphins’ offense. He is clearly their top playmaker and as long as he can get the ball in space and make plays, that takes pressure off rookie QB Ryan Tannehill, who threw three picks in the opener but settled down in his first win in Week Two.

The problem for Bush and the Dolphins is their opponent this week — the Jets, coming off a bad loss to the Steelers and boasting one of the league’s best front-seven groups. On the D-line, Muhammad Wilkerson, Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito are all solid against the run, especially DeVito on the edge. Pouha vs. C Mike Pouncey in the middle will be a key matchup to watch. The Jets may want to take advantage of the right side of the Dolphins’ line, which features rookie ORT Jonathan Martin and ORG John Jerry.

The linebackers will also cause problems for Bush. ILB Bart Scott looks revitalized this year, flying into the backfield to make plays. ILB David Harris is one of the league’s best at stopping the run as well, and that pair will be key in keeping Bush grounded when he goes out as a receiver.

This is a bad matchup for the Dolphins’ passing game, considering the Jets’ secondary — which is supposed to get Darrelle Revis back — and Miami having a rookie quarterback. Week Two is probably what Joe Philbin wants to see from the Dolphins, focus on the run game (they ran the ball 43 times for 263 yards vs. the Raiders) to make things easier for Tannehill. If the Jets bottle up the run, like they did against Pittsburgh (the Jets held the Steelers to 66 yards on 28 carries, a 2.4-yard average), it could be a long day for Tannehill and the Dolphins.

Look for Miami to do its best to get Bush the ball where he can make defenders miss, using him as a receiver to keep the Jets on their toes and handing the ball off to him on stretch plays to get him outside the tackle. In four rushing plays off left end this season, the Dolphins are averaging 16.50 yards a run, and on 10 plays going off OLT Jake Long, the Dolphins are averaging 7.00 yards a carry. They may also mix in RBs Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas to take the load off Bush, but he is the key for the Dolphins’ chance of an upset.

For the Jets, if they allow Bush to run wild, it will give the Dolphins, and Tannehill, confidence, which could put pressure on a Jets offense that was abysmal against Pittsburgh and faces another formidable defensive front in Miami.

Follow Kevin Fishbain on Twitter