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Patriots 2015 Opponents, Five First Impressions of the Dolphins

Steve Balestrieri
5 years ago at 6:12 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary

Patriots 2015 Opponents, Five First Impressions of the DolphinsDec 14, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich (50) sacks Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots won 41-13. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots make a quick turnaround from their tough 30-23 win over the Jets on Sunday to play a Thursday Night Football matchup with a second division rival against the Miami Dolphins.

The Patriots ran their record to 6-0 with their come-from-behind win over the Jets which opened up a two game lead in the division. Tom Brady accounted for all but one of the Patriots yards on offense, throwing for 355 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 15 more including a one-yard touchdown.

The Dolphins improved their record to 3-3 with a 44-26 blowout win over the Houston Texans that wasn’t nearly as close as the score would indicate. Miami raced out to a 41-0 halftime lead and was in cruise control the rest of the way. It was their second blowout win in a row under interim head coach Dan Campbell. They beat Tennessee 38-10 the week before.

The game is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. on Thursday and will be televised by the NFL Network and will have CBS’ top announcing crew of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms on the call.

Here are our five first impressions of the Dolphins:

Campbell Building a Tougher, Physical Team:  The time was right for former coach Joe Philbin to go after a disastrous 1-3 start that culminated with back-to-back blowout losses at the hands of the Buffalo Bills and by the New York Jets in London.

Dan Campbell was the Dolphins tight ends coach under Philbin, after an 11-year career playing the position and has brought that tough attitude with him as the Fins new coach. We read that he immediately began his tenure by putting the team thru Oklahoma drills, something that would probably be reserved for training camp, but he was erasing the bad memories of the low-key Philbin and so far it has worked.

Campbell is using a lot of a the two tight end sets and they’re trying to get back to being a balanced team on offense, by having QB Ryan Tannehill roll out more and cutting down on his reads which has simplified things for him.

Campbell has re-energized a team that was supposed to compete for a playoff spot after spending a ton of cash in the off-season and was under-achieving on a large scale under Philbin. Two big wins in a row, albeit against lesser competition has them looking up again. Now on a short week they have to travel to New England and then up to Buffalo where they’ll look to avenge an early season blowout.

Teams didn’t know how to prepare for a Dan Campbell team as he had never coached before, now there are at least two games of tape on his Dolphins so things should get a bit harder for him.

Simplified Defense Has Awakened Pass Rush: Through the first four weeks of the season, the Dolphins defense, specifically the defensive line slept walked through the games with little to show for the money spent there with only one sack.

But new Miami defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo has simplified things, and the Dolphins have gone back to being an attacking, aggressive defense, something the players were screaming for. After notching just a single sack in their first four games, Miami has gotten ten in the last two. Cameron Wake had four sacks a week ago against Tennessee and added two more against Houston. Ndamukong Suh got his first two sacks of the season last week and chipped in with six tackles.

Bill Belichick remarked in his Monday presser that the simplifying of things for the defense has helped the defense, specifically Suh. That has vaulted Miami’s defense from 30th at the time of the coaching change, all the way to 15th place now. They’ll be looking to tee off against Tom Brady on Thursday night against an offensive line that will still probably be missing two of its top three offensive tackles.

Running Game With Miller Has Exploded: Miami running back Lamar Miller wasn’t getting many touches under Philbin as the Dolphins were trying to throw the ball much more than they are now. Under Campbell, they are getting to be a more physical, running team and no one has responded better than Miller.

After carrying 19 times for 113 yards and a touchdown against the Titans, he carried it 14 times for 185 yards, including an 85-yard touchdown run against the Texans. His added touches have ignited both his game and the offense, as he also caught three passes out of the backfield last week for 61 yards including a 54-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill.

“I wasn’t getting the ball that much. So every time I got it I was trying to make a big play, and I wasn’t reading my keys,” Miller told the Miami Herald. “Now, I’m trusting my offensive line more. They’ve been getting a lot of movement. I’m being patient and decisive.”

Tannehill Completes 25 passes in a row: Talk about a hot hand, Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill finished off the Tennessee game completing his last seven passes. He started off against Houston hitting his first 18 in a row, setting a new NFL record in the process by hitting 25 passes in a row. He finished the game against the Texans going 18-19 for 282 yards, four touchdowns and a perfect passer rating of 158.3.

His only incompletion was a drop by tight end Dion Sims on his last throw of the day.

Tannehill is finally playing like the man that Miami rewarded with a big contract during the off-season. Like many of the players on the team, he started slowly but has taken off during the last two weeks. His four touchdown passes on Sunday included three of 50 yards or more which is a great sign for the offensive to put points on the board quickly.

If the offense and Tannehill can keep up this kind of production during their last ten games, the Dolphins with a rejuvenated defense can make some noise in the AFC.

Young, Explosive WRs A Big Test for NE Secondary: The Patriots will be facing a team that has some nice weapons for Tannehill to and stretch the field. They brought in Kenny Stills from the New Orleans Saints in the off-season, but he hasn’t clicked yet catching only 10 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown. He’s been slowed by a back injury. The team brought in veteran Greg Jennings and used their first round draft pick on DeVante Parker.

But it has been Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews who have been the biggest recipients of Tannehill’s passes thus far. Landry leads the team in receptions with 36 and also is a dangerous return threat either via punt returns or kickoffs. He scored on a 50-yard touchdown against Houston on Sunday when it seemed he weaved through the entire Texans’ team.

Matthews is emerging as the Dolphins deep threat this season. Matthews has caught 26 passes for 438 yards and four touchdowns. For a guy that was supposed to be the odd man out during training camp, the 6’0, 217 pound Texas alum has carved out a nice role for himself.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.


Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: Bill Belichick Cameron Wake Dan Campbell Devante Parker Greg Jennings Jarvis Landry Joe Philbin Lamar Miller Miami Dolphins Ndamukong Suh New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots opponents Rishard Matthews Ryan Tannehill Tom Brady

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