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MORSE: Week 18 Preview – New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
1 year ago at 8:42 am ET
Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Season

MORSE: Week 18 Preview – New England Patriots at Miami DolphinsBob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

We have arrived at week 18, in uncharted waters of the expanded NFL season.  Does this game have any meaning for either team?  Not much, the Dolphins were eliminated last week by the Titans coupled with the Patriots, Raiders, and Chargers victories closed the book on any chance to make the playoffs.   All Miami has now is their own pride, intense hatred of the Patriots, and an opportunity to have a winning season.  As far as the Patriots go, they have a minuscule chance of getting the number one seed if all the suns and moons align.  Winning in Miami has proven to be a very difficult thing.  The number one reason is the weather.  The schedule makers did the Patriots no favors.  They had Miami travel to New England for the first game of the season.  It’s still hot in the 1st game, but Miami has been practicing in the hot and humid weather of South Florida.  Coming to New England for the 1st game is a welcome relief for Miami.  NE, a cold-weather team (the weather here may be in single digits next week) traveling to South Florida in January is cruel and unusual punishment.  The temps will be in the 80’s with high humidity.  Usually, the Patriots wilt in the 4th quarter.  One player may be welcoming the warm weather and that’s Mac Jones.  He is from the Jacksonville area and played in Alabama.  He has not proven he can be a cold-weather QB yet.  He needs time and game reps to get acclimated to the weather.  We sometimes forget that he is a rookie.

Miami Depth Chart

Offense

STARTER 2ND 3RD 4TH
QB Tua Tagovailoa Jacoby Brissett
RB Duke Johnson Myles Gaskin Phillip Lindsay Salvon Ahmed
WR Jaylen Waddle Isaiah Ford William Fuller V IR
WR DeVante Parker Mack Hollins Lynn Bowden Jr. IR
WR Albert Wilson Preston Williams Q Allen Hurns IR
TE Mike Gesicki Durham Smythe Adam Shaheen Cethan Carter
LT Liam Eichenberg Austin Jackson Greg Little IR Larnel Coleman IR
LG Austin Jackson Solomon Kindley Robert Jones
C Michael Deiter Greg Mancz
RG Robert Hunt Robert Jones
RT Jesse Davis Liam Eichenberg

QB – Tua Tagovailoa, the 2nd year player from Alabama has improved over his rookie year.  During the 7 game winning streak, Tua completed passes at a 74% clip.  In last week’s loss to Tennessee, he was at 47.4%.  The number of Interceptions has risen from 5 to 10 in his second year.  He has only been sacked 19 times in 12 games as he is very elusive and hard to contain.  He can get out of the pocket and extend plays or scramble and run to extend drives.  He was hurt early in game 2 versus Buffalo and missed the next three games, all losses.  If he hadn’t gotten hurt, Miami may have made the playoffs.  Old friend Jacoby Brissett is the backup.

The QB comparison:

  1. Jones 332 of 491, 67.6% completions, 3540 yards, 21 TDs to 12 INT, 26 sacks, and a 54.2 Rating in 16 games.

Tua has turned into an RPO or quick-release passer, forgoing the longer pass downfield.  He will occasionally throw deep to Waddle or Parker, but that is more to keep the Defense honest.

 

  1. Tagovailoa 248 of 366, 67.8% completions, 2544 yards, 15 TDs to 10 INT, 19 sacks, and a 48.8 Rating in 12 games

 

RB –  This position has been a mess for Miami this season.  Myles Gaskins was named the starter but failed to deliver.  He has rushed 172 times for 613 yards, 3.6 YPC, 3 TDs but has fumbled twice in 16 games.  Next up was Salvon Ahmed and he wasn’t any better.  His stats were 54 rushes 149 yards, 2.8 YPC, 0 TDs in 12 games.   The Dolphins signed Duke Johnson to their Practice Squad on October 26th.  He was called up for the Jets game on December 19th and ran for 108 yards (career-high).  He was signed to the 53 man roster the next day.  He has 46 carries for 213 yards, 4.6 YPC, 2 TDs.  He also is a prolific 3rd down back with 3 catches on 4 targets for 36 yards, 12.0 YPC.  He was a player I highlighted when the Pats were down to a couple of RBs.  Would have loved to see what he could do in this offense.   In the loss last week he ran for 49 yards on just 7 carries 7.0 YPC.  Miami trailing early, got away from the running game.  Johnson is a player to watch in this game.

 

WR – The Dolphins have a dangerous duo in Davante Parker and rookie Jaylen Waddle.  Parker has been hurt and missed 6 games which allowed Waddle to emerge as Tua’s go-to guy.  They played together at Alabama and Waddle was Mac Jone’s favorite target last season.  His numbers are 99 receptions on 133 targets for 988 yards, 10.0 YPC, 5 TDs.  Parker is 38 of 69 for 503 yards, 13.2 YPC, and 2 TDs.  Former Patriot Isaiah Ford, Mack Hollins, and Preston Williams round out the receivers.  Williams was a full participant in Thursday’s practice.  He is a big receiver with tremendous skills when healthy.   The Phins have Allen Hurns, Lynn Bowden, and William Fuller on IR.

 

TE – Mike Gesicki has developed into a top-flight TE in the NFL.  His numbers back that up, in 16 games he has amassed 71 catches on 109 targets, 758 yards, 10.7 YPC, and 2 TDs.  Durham Smythe has also emerged as a reliable TE.  He has caught 32 of 39 passes. 325 yards, 10.0 YPC in 16 games.  I also like Adam Sheehan a 2017 2nd round selection from D2 Ashland.  He was traded to the Phins for a 7th round pick.  Last season he signed a 2-year extension with Miami.

 

Offensive Line – The Dolphins have a solid emerging Offensive line.  They built the Oline through the draft,  investing several high draft choices in building this O line.  Four of the 5 players were 3rd round or higher.   LT Liam Eichenberg was a 2021 2nd round selection out of Notre Dame.  LG Austin Jackson was a 1st round pick, number 18 overall, out of USC in 2020.  He was picked to be the starting LT but moved inside when the Phins got Eichenberg.  Center Michael Deiter was a third-round pick out of Wisconsin in 2019.  They doubled up in 2020 taking Robert Hunt at RG in the 2nd round.  The only player not drafted is Jesse Davis, a 2015 UDFA that Miami picked up in 2016.  He made their Practice Squad and eventually started at RT.  At 30, the Idaho alum is currently the old man on the line with 66 starts under his belt.   Greg Little was a 2019 2nd rd pick of Carolina who was traded to Miami before the season started.  He is on IR.  They have capable backups in Soloman Kindley Greg Mancz and Robert Jones

 

Defense

Miami is surprisingly low on the Defensive team rankings.  They are 18th in points allowed per game, 18th in yards per game, and 10th in rush yards per game.  I would expect more out of a Brian Flores-coached team.  None of those stats mean much when the Phins see the red white and blue of the Patriots on Sunday.  Expect the Patriots to end up wearing their dark blue uniforms on Sunday because the dark color absorbs more heat.  Just another mind game the Dolphins play on the Pats down there.

STARTER 2ND 3RD 4TH
LDE Emmanuel Ogbah Adam Butler
NT Raekwon Davis John Jenkins
RDE Christian Wilkins Zach Sieler
WLB Andrew Van Ginkel Darius Hodge
LILB Elandon Roberts Vince Biegel
RILB Jerome Baker Duke Riley Sam Eguavoen Calvin Munson
SLB Jaelan Phillips Brennan Scarlett
LCB Xavien Howard Nik Needham Noah Igbinoghene O Jamal Perry IR
SS Eric Rowe Brandon Jones Clayton Fejedelem
FS Jevon Holland Sheldrick Redwine O Jason McCourty IR
RCB Byron Jones Justin Coleman Trill Williams Elijah Campbell IR

 

Defensive Line – The Thursday Injury report came out and nobody missed the practice for the Dolphins.  That’s means Emmanuel Ogbah, their best pass rusher, and key Defensive line backup John Jenkins will be available for Sunday.   Raekwon Davis and Christian Wilkins are the other starters.  Wilkins is 2nd on the team with 82 tackles.  Ogbah leads the team with 9 sacks, deflected 10 passes, and had 9 tackles for loss.  Those are extremely high numbers for a down lineman.  Former Patriot Adam Butler is also a backup.   The Dolphins pass rush is surprisingly good.  They rank 4th in the league with 46.  They are also a very blitz-heavy team, blitzing 39.8%, good for 2nd in the league.

 

Linebackers –   Jerome Baker, the RILB is the soul of the Dolphins defense and leads the team with 86 tackles.  He also chips in with5.5 sacks.  Jaelen Phillips is 2nd with 8.5 sacks from his SLB position.  Former Patriot Elandon Roberts mans the LILB slot and is 3rd on the team in tackles with 78.  Andrew Van Ginkel fills out the linebackers and he has 64 tackles on the season.  The four linebackers have only missed one game amongst them.

 

Secondary –    Xavier Howard is a lockdown corner and I would expect to see him shadowing Jakobi Meyers.  If Howard is on Meyers, then expect low numbers from Mac Jone’s favorite target.  Howard has 15 Pass Breakups (PBU) and 4 INTs this season.  His low tackle total of 47, reflects that teams aren’t throwing his way.  Former Patriot S Eric Rowe and S Brandon Jones each have 71 tackles.  S Javon Holland has 64 tackles, 10 PBUs, and 2 INTs.   Byron Jones is the LCB and he also has 10 PBUs.  Former Patriot Justin Coleman is a backup and special teamer.  The secondary has also been very healthy.  Of the top five players, only Brandon Jones has missed time (2 games).  Everyone is healthy for this game.

 

Special Teams

STARTER 2ND 3RD 4TH
PK Jason Sanders
P Michael Palardy
H Michael Palardy
PR Jaylen Waddle
KR Jaylen Waddle Noah Igbinoghene O
LS Blake Ferguson

 

Sanders is the 21st ranked kicker in the league.  He has converted 21 of 29 Field Goal attempts.  His long kick is 51 yards.  He is almost automatic on Extra Points making 31 of 31 attempts.  Palardy is ranked 24th in the league.  The Patriots will have a big advantage in the kicking game with Folk as the top placekicker and Jake bailey the 7th ranked punter.  Jaylen Waddle is a dangerous return man.  He will be handling both Kickoffs and Punt Returns.  Any time he touches the ball he can take it to the house.

 

Prediction – The Patriots have lost 4 of the last 6 in Miami.   The Dolphins are the healthiest team the Patriots have played since they played them in week one of the season.  I expect that Miami’s defense will try and take away the run and force Mac Jones to be one-dimensional and have to pass.  This is when they can start dialing up the blitzes and either get sacks or hurried throws.  They want to speed him up into bad decisions.  I can’t believe the Patriots are favored by 6.5 points in this game.  I expect the Dolphins to run some no-huddle offense to keep the Patriots defenders on the field and get them tired.  Crowd noise could be a big factor here.    I don’t have a good feeling about this game.  My hope is the Patriots run game can be dominant and keep the game close.


Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Season

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