Every week I will focus on the opposition for the week by highlighting their personnel and some of their tendencies.
In Miami, it starts and ends with QB Tua Tagovailoa. The Phins finished at 10-6. It was the tale of two QBs. The starter was Ryan Fitzpatrick, brought in to keep the seat warm until Tua was ready to go. Tua was coming off a horrific dislocated hip and a broken socket injury suffered in college. Many don’t come back from this type of injury, never mind play QB. His offseason was rehab the injury as well as learn the playbook. He was also learning the Pro offense of Miami under less than ideal conditions with the COVID restrictions. Add to his learning woes was the fact the offense was structured around the passing abilities of Ryan Fitzpatrick.
What a strange season it was. Fitzmagic started 0-2 but finished .500 (3-3) after 6 games. That’s when Head Coach Brian Flores pulled the trigger and replaced Tua for Fitz. Immediately its had positive results and a 3 game win streak. Then week 11 in Denver! Tua was flat-out awful and eventually was replaced by Fitz. Game 12 had Fitz back at the helm for the win vs the Jets. Game 13 had Tua back in control for a brutal loss against the Chiefs. Tua beat NE but was replaced mid-game vs Las Vegas and Fitz brought the Dolphins back for a victory. Tua finished the season with a loss vs Buffalo. Each QB ended up 5-3.
This year it is Tagovailoa’s ship to captain. Some interesting stats came to light when Tua took over. Under Fitzmagic, the Dolphins threw out of 11 personnel package 63% of the time. They used 12 personnel to pass just 19%. However, with Tua they became more of a 12 personnel team, passing 37% while reducing the passing under 11 to 52%. This was probably done to protect the young passer. He has had a complete off-season including mini-camp, OTAs, and classroom work.
Miami has a good group of Wide Receivers starting with DaVante Parker. Don’t sleep on WR Will Fuller coming over from the Texans. Fortunately, Fuller is suspended for the Patriots game. They added rookie and former Alabama teammate Jaylen Waddle in the draft. Waddle has played 68% of his snaps at Alabama from the slot. This will be a tough matchup for Jonathan Jones. Preston Williams is a big receiver that had a down year last season. They also have Albert Wilson and Hakeem Grant.
The big question mark is the Phins Offensive Line. They chose not to keep C Ted Karras, their loss is our gain. They signed Greg Mancz as a Free Agent and he didn’t work out and was cut. They have a big hole here. Add to the Phins woes, starting Left Tackle Austin Jackson is currently out with COVID protocol. Will he be available for Sunday?
At running back Myles Gaskin is the leading candidate as the starting RB. Malcom Brown formerly of LA Rams is a big back and short-yardage specialist. UDFA Salvon Ahmed finished last season as their #1. None of these running backs scare me. Last year the Dolphins gashed us on the ground, however, I have confidence our front 7 will stop their run game.
The TE group is strong too! Mike Gesicki leads the group with Adam Sheehan a capable backup but could be out for Sunday under the COVID protocol. Durham Smythe will be the third TE and is an up-and-coming player. The Phins drafted Hunter Long (BC) from Exeter NH. They like to use the 12 personnel formation a lot and I can see that being the case again against the Pats.
On Defense, they have two outstanding CBs in Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. Three former Patriots make up the remainder of their secondary in Justin Colemen, the slot corner, Eric Rowe SS, and Jason McCourty the Free Safety.
The defensive line is strong with Raekwon Davis, Christian Wilkins, and Emmanuel Ogbah. Another former Patriot, Adam Butler is a backup.
At LB Andrew Van Ginkel is strong inside LB and another former Patriot, Elandon Roberts is a backup.
Head Coach Brian Flores has two former Patriots coaches, George Godsey (Offense) and Josh Boyer (Defense) as coordinators on his staff.
Injuries The injury bug seems to be hitting the Patriots hard. Nelson Agholor and Jalen Mills appear to be out for Sunday’s game. This will have an impact on the game. Either Shaun Wade or Joejuan Williams will start at CB opposite JC Jackson. Agholor eliminates the only deep threat the Patriots have. It also appears that TE Hunter Henry and rookie Edge Ronnie Perkins both have shoulder injuries. This may have an impact on who gets called up from the Practice Squad. One has to be QB Brian Hoyer.
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