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Jets’ Lamarcus Joyner, Jordan Whitehead can prove selves vs. Dolphins stars

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Jets’ Lamarcus Joyner, Jordan Whitehead can prove selves vs. Dolphins stars

Ethan Sears

Garrett Wilson has been in the position in which Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle will find themselves Sunday at MetLife Stadium: Lining up as a receiver and seeing one safety deep, the cornerback opposite him on an island, all alone. 

“Every receiver will say when you see single-high and you know you got a vertical route, your eyes get a little bit big and you get excited, man,” Wilson told The Post on Friday afternoon. “You feel like you can’t be guarded.” 

The Jets will not be so rigid against the Dolphins this weekend, but if the injured Hill (quad) and Waddle (groin), both listed as questionable, do indeed play, they will line up against a heavy share of one-high coverage, and yes, their eyes will be lighting up. 

Adding to the intrigue of that chess game is that the Jets’ safeties are coming off a standout performance in Pittsburgh. After struggling through the first three weeks, the safeties combined for three interceptions (two by Lamarcus Joyner and one by Jordan Whitehead) against the Steelers. 

Lamarcus Joyner participates in drills at Jets practice. Bill Kostroun/New York Post

The focus will mostly be on the corners, particularly when the Jets stay in their primary coverage looks, but there may yet be a role for the safeties to play. 

“I think we just played more disciplined,” Whitehead told The Post. “We didn’t change anything [against Pittsburgh], had the same defense out there. We’re starting to get it. 

“First time with the defense, new DB group. We’re learning. Every week.” 

This test, of course, could be much tougher. 

While with Tampa Bay, Whitehead went up against Hill, then with the Chiefs, twice in the 2020 season, including in the Super Bowl. The Buccaneers, he said, played one of those games primarily in single-high and the other with two safeties deep. 

“I think they both kinda worked,” he said. “It’s just like the right play, right time. Coach can call anything, any defense, he’s got the guys executing them. We got cover-three stuff that can take away every play. Guys just gotta be disciplined.” 

What about Hill and Waddle, who come into the week with 477 and 381 receiving yards, respectively, to their names? 

“They’ve got the speed, four flats, 4.1 [40-yard-dash times],” Whitehead said. “They’re great, fast receivers that you gotta know where they’re at at all times. That’s the objective.” 

Jordan Whitehead. Bill Kostroun/New York Post

Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said Thursday that the amount of motion the Dolphins use adds another layer to covering them. The play of his safeties against Pittsburgh, though, is a positive he hopes can carry through this week and the rest of the season. 

“Them getting going like this is exciting for the entire unit because we’ll go a little bit as they go in that way, because there is so much predicated not only on their play but their communication and their ability to run out defense from the back end,” Ulbrich said. “Having time on task from a back end standpoint is one of those things that I think is highly underrated in this league. 

“You look around the league and the great defenses, it’s the ones that have had continuity, the same system, the same players, especially from the safety position. You look at the San Franciscos, the Buffalos, those guys have had a ton of time on task doing the same stuff over and over again where it becomes unconscious competence.” 

That is a lofty goal. And if the Jets face Miami’s star duo on Sunday, they will end the day knowing just how close they are to reaching it.

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