MIAMI GARDENS — The Miami Dolphins are hit with a unique circumstance this week.
So unique, in fact, it’s the first of its kind in the NFL.
The Dolphins (7-3) are participating in the league’s first Black Friday game when they travel to face the AFC East rival New York Jets (4-6) in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The NFL added a 3 p.m. Friday kickoff this year, tacked on to the three Thanksgiving Thursday games that have been played since 2006, when a night game was added to the traditional Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys afternoon home games.
“I haven’t played on Friday since high school,” wide receiver Jaylen Waddle said Monday.
You and many other Dolphins, Jaylen. The NFL doesn’t do it. Maybe some players had a college game on a Friday, the way the Miami Hurricanes are playing at Boston College this week.
Most NFL teams have at least one Thursday night game every season. The Dolphins were spared that in 2023, but in place of it, their short week comes ahead of a Friday game.
“I’ve never played on a Friday,” coach Mike McDaniel said, “but in my brain, it’s a Thursday night game.”
Whether a Thursday or this rare Friday game, it’s still a cram for the team. The Dolphins will only hold one true practice, on Wednesday, in preparation for the Jets.
Then, they travel on Thanksgiving to get situated that Thursday ahead of the Friday game at MetLife Stadium.
“Definitely excited about it, but obviously we’re going to miss Thanksgiving with our family, so that kind of sucks,” wide receiver Tyreek Hill said Sunday after the 20-13 win over the Raiders. “But like I say, any (time) we get a chance to play this beautiful game of football, I’m honored, blessed, grateful, all that.”
An added element against the Jets is how the Dolphins started the week with mystery about who the Jets are starting at quarterback. Zach Wilson, who has been behind center since New York’s offseason acquisition Aaron Rodgers was injured Week 1, was benched in the third quarter of Sunday’s 32-6 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
Dolphins players and coaches didn’t know whether they were preparing for Wilson or backup Tim Boyle, who entered for Wilson in Orchard Park, at the time they spoke to reporters Monday. Since, reports indicate that Boyle is in line to start Friday.
“I’ll leave that up to the coaches and how we prepare and everything and how we go about that,” defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said. “Either way, we’ve got to get ready.”
The Dolphins have their own question marks with running back De’Von Achane’s status in doubt again after he just returned from missing four games on injured reserve. He hurt the same knee he was rehabbing and McDaniel said the team is taking it day to day in monitoring his status.
McDaniel is also trying to get his offense back into its early-season rhythm after producing just 20 points against the Raiders, being held to 14 in the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Germany that preceded the bye week and only scoring one offensive touchdown two weeks earlier in Philadelphia. On Sunday, the offense had three turnovers and Miami was 3 of 11 on third down.
McDaniel operates with knowledge that the Dolphins have to be better in short-yardage situations, something that plagued the team last season.
“I already know before a call a short-yardage play that there’s a heightened awareness of that situation,” McDaniel said. “I also keep very close to reality, in terms of, we expected to have more gains in those scenarios. There’s been some defensive presentations that have been problematic. There’s been some execution and there’s been some — when they don’t work, another play could work. So you have all of that.”
Notably, in addition to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s two turnovers — an interception and a fumble lost — and tight end Julian Hill’s lost fumble, the Dolphins had essentially a fourth turnover, on downs, when a screen to Tyreek Hill on fourth-and-1 at the Raiders’ 3-yard line went for a loss.
Miami’s defense, however, has had back-to-back games shutting out its opponent in the second half, and the Dolphins get a struggling New York offense that ranks 30th in passing and total offense and 23rd in rushing offense. The Jets, while strong overall on defense, are vulnerable against the run, ranked 30th on the ground.
The Friday game will stream on Amazon Prime Video. It will also air locally on CBS-4 in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.