In a season where he could really use some early success, Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin seems to be getting help from the schedule makers.
After opening with a win over the wayward Washington Redskins, the Dolphins visit a Jacksonville Jaguars team Sunday that showed few signs of being ready to reverse its recent losing ways in Week 1.
Philbin was brought back for a fourth season despite failing to take Miami to the playoffs in his first three, though the tepid one-year extension he received in March and the team's splurge for defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was a clear indication he's on the hot seat. The Dolphins got 2015 off to a desirable start, though last week's 17-10 road victory over the Redskins didn't exactly move the needle.
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The Dolphins generated a pedestrian 256 total yards of offense and allowed 161 rushing yards on defense, with Washington holding the ball for nearly 38 minutes. They were bailed out by Jarvis Landry's 69-yard punt return touchdown with 10:22 left and two interceptions of Kirk Cousins.
Suh, signed to a historic six-year, $114 million contract in March to upgrade a defense that ranked 24th against the run last season, had just one tackle in his debut.
" We've got to play better across the board, our players know that," defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. "Like they say 'you can make a lot of improvements between week one and week two,' we've got our share to make and we will."
Coyle's unit surrendered 176 rushing yards in last season's meeting with the Jaguars, but returned two Blake Bortles interceptions for touchdowns that made the difference in a 27-13 win at EverBank Field Oct. 26.
Bortles had two more interceptions, including one returned for a pivotal touchdown by Josh Norman in the third quarter, while throwing for just 183 yards in last week's 20-9 home loss to Carolina that displayed many of the same offensive problems that plagued Jacksonville throughout its 3-13 campaign of 2014.
The Jaguars were 3 for 12 on third downs, lost a fumble in the red zone and had several drops by its young receiving corps. They also allowed five sacks of Bortles, who was brought down a league-high 55 times as a rookie last season.
"It's not the way you want to come out and start the season," Bortles said. "We're not going to sugarcoat it. It wasn't good enough and we've got to be better.''
More pressure may be coming Bortles' way Sunday with left tackle Luke Joeckel uncertain after spraining an ankle in the opener and Miami sporting a formidable defensive front anchored by Suh and four-time Pro Bowl end Cameron Wake.
The Jaguars also will be without tight end Julius Thomas (broken hand) for a second straight week, though wide receiver Marqise Lee may return after missing Week 1 with a hamstring injury. Rookie Rashad Greene had seven catches for 28 yards and a touchdown against Carolina in Lee's place.
Jacksonville has fewer concerns about a defense that held the Panthers to 263 yards and amassed 45 sacks last season, though tackle Sen'Derrick Marks could miss another week recovering from December's ACL tear.
The group will have to pay particular attention to Landry, who extended his team record with a 10th straight game of at least five receptions by making eight catches for 53 yards against Washington.
"One of the things that's important as a skill player, offensively, when you get the ball in your hands is trying to make something happen when you do have it, and he's a guy that when he has his hands on the football he's dangerous, he's a weapon," Philbin said. "He's a tough guy, his attitude and I think all of those things were personified in that (punt return)."
Tight end Jordan Cameron added 73 yards on four catches in his Dolphins debut and provides another option for Ryan Tannehill, who finished 22 of 34 for 226 yards and a touchdown without an interception in his first game since signing a six-year, $95 million extension.
Tannehill had a modest 196 yards with one touchdown and one interception on 16 of 29 passing in last season's meeting with Jacksonville, with Denard Robinson rushing for 108 yards on 18 carries for the Jaguars.
Miami has won three straight in the series and is 4-2 overall against Jacksonville, including a 3-1 mark at EverBank Field.