5 Miami Dolphins under intense scrutiny vs. New York Jets

Jay Ajayi didn’t do much against the Jets last time. (TNS)

DAVIE—These are the types of games the Dolphins can’t afford to throw away if they’re serious about making a repeat trip to the playoffs. They’ve already blown one chance against the Jets, and losing to them at home Sunday would be a major derailment to their recent progress.

A win, conversely, could have Miami atop the AFC East by the end of the night at 4-2. That’s quite a place to be considering all the turbulence the Dolphins have encountered this season.

With the stakes as high as ever, here are five players who will be under a microscope:

1. RB Jay Ajayi
Miami’s running game has been puzzling the last two years. Ajayi is coming off a 130-yard performance against the Falcons, but he managed just 16 yards on 11 carries in the Week 3 loss to the Jets. Over two seasons as the starter, he has six games of 100-plus yards and eight games under 50. He’s also trying to prove himself as a receiver, which is a particular concern after he had no catches on three targets last week.

2. LB Rey Maualuga
The Dolphins didn’t have Maualuga when they gave up a season-worst 103 rushing yards to the Jets last month. Not only is he in the lineup, he looks good and he’s a huge part of the team’s linebacker revitalization. With Lawrence Timmons and Kiko Alonso, this might be the best group Miami’s had at the position in years. Maualuga is the run stopper of the bunch and he needs to have a big game to keep New York’s trio of running backs in check.

3. LT Laremy Tunsil
Tunsil’s been fine, but the Dolphins expected more than fine when they drafted him No. 13 overall last year. As the line tries to hold together through a rocky start to the season, Miami needs Tunsil to be right there with Mike Pouncey as its best players up front. The Jets have one of the worst pass rushes in the league, and the Dolphins’ line shouldn’t have any trouble keeping them quiet.

4. CB Cordrea Tankersley
This guy’s been solid, but he knows his hold on that job is tenuous. Tankersley can’t have any letdown with Alterraun Verner and Byron Maxwell eager to swoop in and take his spot. Jermaine Kearse is the primary concern in the Jets’ passing attack and he has 26 catches for 299 yards and three touchdowns so far this season.

5. QB Jay Cutler
Last week was good, not great. Cutler completed 19 of 33 passes for 151 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. His 76.7 passer rating was the best he’s posted since the opener. Last time he faced the Jets, though, it was ugly. He completed just 59 percent of his attempts and was sacked three times. Miami punted on its first seven possessions and didn’t do anything until Cutler hit DeVante Parker for a touchdown pass as time expired.

[A meaningful moment between Adam Gase and Jarvis Landry after the Atlanta win]

[Rookie corner Cordrea Tankersley with some late heroics vs. Atlanta]

[Michael Thomas weighs in on bizarre botched punt]

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