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Patriots WRs Will Have Interesting Matchups With Miami’s Corners

Steve Balestrieri
4 years ago at 8:57 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary

Patriots WRs Will Have Interesting Matchups With Miami’s CornersMark J. Rebilas - USA TODAY Sports

When the Patriots take on the Miami Dolphins on Sunday afternoon at Foxboro, they’ll be looking for their offense to build off of a good game against Arizona a week ago. This week, they’ll face a similar situation, in that they’ll be looking for a way to target an uncertain cornerback situation with Miami.

The Dolphins brought Byron Maxwell down to South Beach after a disastrous season in Philly. Misused in a system that didn’t play to his talents, the coaches are looking for him to provide a physical, top cornerback role this season after they jettisoned Brent Grimes this spring.

Xavien Howard is the Dolphins rookie starting corner and was the team’s 2nd round pick with the 38th overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft. He has good size at 6’0, 201-pounds and is physical with very good ball skills. In his first NFL start against Seattle, the Seahawks didn’t try to pick on the rookie as was generally thought and he tied for the team lead in tackles with six.

Bobby McCain was a 2015 draft selection for Miami and he started four games for the Dolphins a year ago. He’ll play in the slot. He’s an undersized (5’9),  feisty corner with good ball skills. The interesting thing was a week ago, with the game on the line, the Seahawks, targeted him rather than the rookie, Howard.

Reshad Jones is one of the better safeties in the league, and depending on Gronk’s availability, will determine how he’s used.

Patriots Weapons Match Up: The Patriots have plenty of weapons in the passing game, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola look healthy and were productive a week ago. Newcomers Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell both had their moments and should see their roles increase as the season wears on. Tight end Martellus Bennett, was used primarily as a blocker a week ago but can be moved around the formation depending on the matchups and RB James White is very effective coming out of the backfield.

The big question will be if Rob Gronkowski is able to play this week. If he can go, the mismatches he creates with the safeties and linebackers has a domino effect down the corners. Gronkowski, like Bennett, can line up inside, in the slot or split wide outside.

The matchups favor the Patriots offense here, but the Miami defensive line will definitely have an effect on whether Jimmy Garoppolo has the time to throw.

Miami DL the “X” Factor: The Miami DL sacked Russell Wilson three times and got a lot of pressure on the mobile QB so the Patriots know that they’ll have to bring their A-game on the offensive line. Mario Williams, Ndamukong Suh, Earl Mitchell, and Cameron Wake were all disruptive.

The plan was to use Wake this season as a situational pass rusher as the edge rusher was coming off of an Achilles injury, but with Mario Williams suffering a concussion last week and unlikely to play, he’ll be pressed into starting on Sunday.

Miami held the powerful Seahawks offense to just 12 points on Sunday, but at the end of each half gave up long scoring drives. The first half drive resulted in a field goal, the one at the end of the game was a game-winning touchdown drive with Wilson finding Doug Baldwin in the end zone.

It was interesting to note, that Wilson got effective thru the air on that final drive and it just so happened that both Williams and Wake were on the bench at the time.

How Will They Choose to Match? The decision on how the Patriots choose to mix and match their receivers will be an interesting choice to watch on Sunday. Will they opt to go smaller on the outside with the quicker Edelman and Amendola to counter the bigger corners of Miami, with the bigger Hogan in the slot? By giving up the size advantage, they gain the quickness outside and may opt to give the bigger Hogan an advantage of working on the smaller McCain inside.

Or Josh McDaniels can opt to use the bigger Hogan and rookie Malcolm Mitchell outside and slide Edelman into the slot where he’ll be a handful for McCain and gain the Patriots the edge that they like for those short, moving the chains passes and mix Amendola in liberally both inside and out.

I think we’ll see a mixture of both, they’ll be trying to find a weakness to exploit and will try out a variety of different looks to see what works. I think we’ll see Bennett, at least initially being utilized as mainly a blocker again.

Edelman is the key for both teams here, in the past four games against the Dolphins, Edelman has 33 catches for 403 yards and 4 touchdowns. That’s an average of 8 catches, 100+ yards and a touchdown per game. If Miami wants to turn the tables and upset the Patriots on Sunday, they’ll have to stop or slow him down.

The versatility of the Patriots offense will come into play here as they can use any of their WRs in a mix and match role so the Dolphins will have their hands full in the secondary.

Like so many other games with Tom Brady at QB, this one too will ultimately come down to time. The Dolphins will try to force Jimmy G. into holding the ball so that their pass rush will wreak havoc on the young QB. If Garoppolo finds the time to throw, then the vast array of weapons he has (especially if Gronkowski plays), will prove to be a mismatch for New England.

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

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Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2016 NFL Season 2016 Patriots season Bill Belichick Bobby McCain Byron Maxwell Cameron Wake Chris Hogan Danny Amendola Earl Mitchell James White Jimmy Garoppolo Julian Edelman Malcolm Mitchell Mario Williams Martellus Bennett Miami Dolphins Ndamukong Suh New England Patriots NFL Patriots Rob Gronkowski Tom Brady Xavien Howard

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