EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Jay Cutler could have ended up in the other huddle on Sunday.
The Miami Dolphins quarterback was still weighing his playing options during the offseason after being released by the Chicago Bears in March. That’s when the New York Jets came calling, and Cutler listened.
“We were just feeling each other out,” Cutler recalled. “It wasn’t aggressive. It wasn’t super vague. It was just feeling each other out and it just didn’t work out.”
That’s because the Jets opted instead to sign journeyman quarterback Josh McCown to be their starter, canceling any potential visit by Cutler to New York.
“Yes, we had a couple of visits and then they got changed, but for numerous reasons,” Cutler said. “And then they were able to sign Josh, and that was kind of the end of that. So it worked out for myself and for Josh.”
McCown, who played with Cutler in Chicago from 2011-13, ended up becoming the starter for the Jets (0-2) — easily beating out youngsters Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty for the job.
Meanwhile, Cutler had to wait a while to get back on the field. After the brief flirtation with the Jets, the veteran QB had no enticing deal come his way. Instead, he decided to retire and join FOX Sports as a TV analyst.
But then Ryan Tannehill went down for the season during training camp, and the Dolphins (1-0) needed a quarterback. So, coach Adam Gase — Cutler’s offensive coordinator in 2015 — reached out to his former QB .
“I just asked him if he was interested, and he said, `Yes,’” Gase said. “Really, I think his biggest (thing was) kind of taking a step back at the time because everything happened so fast was just to make sure he felt like he could really come back without a spring and a training camp.”
So far, so good.
In the Dolphins’ season opener last week, Cutler was 24 of 34 for 230 yards and a touchdown to help Miami beat the Los Angeles Chargers 19-17 .
“He looks like he never left,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said. “He looks quick, he’s very accurate, very smart with the football and they do a good job.”
Here are some other things to know about the game Sunday at MetLife Stadium:
DIGGING IN: The Dolphins’ run defense was stout in the opener, a big change from last season, when they allowed an NFL-worst 4.8 yards per rush. The Chargers ran for 44 yards in 14 plays.
“They went away from it after we stopped them a few times,” middle linebacker Mike Hull said.
New York is sure to test Miami’s depleted linebacker group. Hull will be making his third career start, and undrafted rookie free agent Chase Allen will likely also see significant action.
RUNNING FREE: On the other side, the Jets’ run defense has been awful through two games.
New York has allowed a league-high 370 yards rushing and has to face Jay Ajayi this week. Ajayi ran for 122 yards in the Dolphins’ opener, snapping a streak of 17 games in which the Los Angles Chargers hadn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher. Ajayi has 1,277 yards rushing and six TDs in his past 12 games, including five 100-yard games and three of 200 yards or more rushing.
“We’ve got to stay in our gaps,” defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson said. “That’s for everybody. We’ve got to stay in our gaps and attack them.”
NOT BEING BLOCKED: The work of the Dolphins’ linebackers is made easier by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who is off to another strong start. Gase raved about Suh’s play against the Chargers.
“I saw a guy that was not going to be blocked,” Gase said. “When they were trying to run the ball, it didn’t matter if there was two guys on him or one guy, he was penetrating, creating negative plays, causing chaos. Basically the same thing I’ve seen every week since I’ve been here.”
DOLPHIN GROUNDED: Miami linebacker Lawrence Timmons was suspended indefinitely on Tuesday after he went AWOL last Saturday, the day before the team’s season opener.
Gase has left open the possibility of the veteran returning at some point, but the Dolphins also acquired his possible replacement by trading a fifth-round draft pick to New Orleans for Stephone Anthony.
Gase said Anthony will “possibly” be ready to play Sunday.
BACK IN BUSINESS: Jets tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins could give New York’s offense a boost in his return from a two-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy while with Tampa Bay last year.
Seferian-Jenkins sought help to treat his alcohol issues when he joined the Jets, and marked 243 days sober on Thursday. He dropped 33 pounds in the offseason and looked impressive during training camp and the preseason.
“I’m fortunate to be standing before y’all,” Seferian-Jenkins said, “being able to play football with a clear head and a clear mind, a good perspective and healthy.”
The Jets have five tight ends on their roster, but only two are healthy: Seferian-Jenkins and Will Tye.