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MORSE: Week 1 Preview: Patriots at Dolphins

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
1 year ago at 7:00 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots News

MORSE: Week 1 Preview: Patriots at DolphinsSam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

As we start the season I will produce weekly analysis of the opponent for that week.

Miami has been a house of horrors for the Patriots.  During Bill Belichick’s tenure as head coach, the Patriots have gone 9-13 in South Beach.  The weather has played a huge factor in these games.  This is not an excuse but a fact.  Even if the games were played in December, the heat and humidity in South Florida sapped the strength of Patriots players.  Bill Belichick took his team down to Florida 5 days ahead of the game to get assimilated to the weather.  The Patriots also practiced in Las Vega with 100-degree weather.   This summer in Foxboro has been exceptionally warm, so the team should be in good shape to handle the heat.

Let’s start with the Offense Depth Chart (via ESPN)

Offense – 3WR 1TE

QB Tua Tagovailoa Teddy Bridgewater Skylar Thompson
RB Chase Edmonds  Q Raheem Mostert Myles Gaskin  Q Salvon Ahmed  Q
WR Tyreek Hill Trent Sherfield
WR Jaylen Waddle  Q Erik Ezukanma
WR Cedrick Wilson
TE Mike Gesicki Durham Smythe Hunter Long Cethan Carter
FB Alec Ingold    Q John Lovett   IR
LT Terron  Armstead
LG Liam Eichenberg
C Connor Williams Michael Deiter
RG Robert Hunt Robert Jones
RT Austin Jackson Greg Little

The Shanahan system is coming to South Beach.  New Head Coach Mike McDaniel was Kyle Shanahan’s Offensive Coordinator in San Francisco and is well versed in the zone-blocking scheme this offense featured.  He is well equipped to be the teacher of this system.  From pre-season reports, the Dolphins have adopted this change very well.

According to Warren Sharp, NFL Analyst for FOX Sports, this season (switching from NBC) the Dolphins have had a difficult time with their Wide Receivers separating from coverage.  They were the worst in the league for the last two years.  Devante Parker was the worst in the league; 2021-127 of 127, 2020 -132 of 132, 2019 -123 of 125.  So the Dolphins got rid of Parker and replaced him with Tyreek Hill and Cedrick Wilson.  Yeah, that’s the same Parker the Patriots acquired.

The lack of separation forced young QB Tua Tagovailoa to force throws into tiny windows.  This “aggressiveness” led to more INTs and very little YAC.  Tagovailoa was tops in the league in the Aggressiveness category.  Parker is now on the Patriots and is Mac Jones’s problem.

These are the numbers from last year in regards to WR Separation:

Hill          14th

Wilson  20th

Waddle 35th

How does the switch to a San Fran style of offense look in regards to separation (2020 7th, 2021 10th)?

Miami invested heavily in the Offensive line, during Free Agency adding Terron Armstead from New Orleans at Left Tackle and Connor Williams at Center.  Armstead Entering his 10th year in the league is a 3 time Pro Bowl selection, twice second-team All-Pro.  He will lock down the left side.  Left Guard Liam Eichenberg from Notre Dame, was a 2nd round selection in 2021 and has started 16 of 17 games in his rookie year.  Center Connor Williams is the second upgrade via free agency.  The Former 2018 2nd round selection of the Dallas Cowboys has started 51 of 57 games in his career.  In 2019 he had a torn ACL but has come back from that injury.  Right Guard Robert Hunt was a 2nd round pick by Miami, in 2020, and had started 28 of 33 games.  Having failed as a Left Tackle, Austin Jackson, the former USC Trojan and 2020 1st round selection by the Phins is moving to Right Tackle.  That makes all 5 linemen taken in the 1st three rounds, with Armstead the lone 3rd rounder.  O-Line is their biggest question mark.  Can they learn the new system?  Armstead has been good, but he didn’t play a down in pre-season games.

Let’s take a look at the Tight End Group led by Mike Gesicki, a 2018 2nd round selection from Penn State.   He had a big jump in receptions last season with 73, 20 more than his previous high.  However, his yards per catch went down.  Rumors swirled that Gesicki was on the trading block this pre-season.  Durham Smythe is a reliable if unspectacular player.  His blocking is superior to Gesicki, who never lines up in a true TE, in-line position.

At Running back they had an overstock of capable players.  They cut Sony Michel, but he didn’t last long on the free agent market as he signed on with the LA Chargers to be their #2 back.  Chase Edmonds comes from Arizona after 4 seasons there.  He leads the RB room and will get 1st crack to lead this team.  Where did Edmonds play his college ball … if you said the Fordham Rams you would be correct.  He had over 5862 yards rushing in his career, 67 TDs rushing and another 7 receiving.  He ranks 5th all-time in FCS.  Edmonds will flourish in this type of offense, and he is only 26.  Raheem Mostert comes over from San Fran under Mike McDaniels and will easily be the 3rd down back.  They still have Salvon Ahmed and Myles Gaskins.   Solid group.

Teddy Bridgewater is the backup and rookie Skylar Thompson had a great Training camp and Pre-season.

Defense – Base 3-4

LDE Christian Wikins Zach Sieler
NT Raekwon Davis John Jenkins
RDE Emmanuel Ogbah
WLB Melvin Ingram Andrew Van Ginkel Darius Hodge IR
LILB Elandon Roberts Sam Eguavoen Calvin Munson IR
RILB  Jerome Baker Duke Riley
SLB Jaelan Phillips Trey Flowers
LCB Xavien Howard Keion Crossen Justin Bethel Kader Kohou
SS Brandon Jones Eric Rowe     Q Clayton Fejedelem IR
FS Jevon Holland Elijah Campbell
RCB Nik Needham Noah Igbinoghene Byron Jones O

Again Warren Sharp points out that Christian Wilkins was 2nd amongst Defensive Tackles in ESPN’s Run Stop Win Rate.  Wilkins also improved his pass rushing.  The Dolphins were able to retain Emanuel Ogbah their primary pass rusher.  They still have Elandon Roberts as their starting ILB.  Andrew Van Ginkel is usually on the field for passing downs and rushes the passer on 62% of those plays.    The secondary was ranked 7th in the league, but with Byron Jones out that will drop.  Jones was a former 1st round selection of the Cowboys.  Xavien Howard is a top cornerback but had a tough start to last season.  Jevon Holland is a star in the making and the 2nd year player will be counted on to make big plays.  The roster is still loaded with former Patriots players Trey Flowers, Justin Bethel, and Keion Crossen.

Special Teams

PK Jason Sanders
P Thomas Morestead
H Thomas Morestead
PR Tyreek Hill Jaylen Waddle Jevon Holland
KR Raheem Mostert Jaylen Waddle Chase Edmonds Noah Igbinoghene
LS Blake Ferguson


Michael McDaniel – 1st year Head Coach.  Former San Francisco 49ers Offensive coordinator under Kyle Shanahan.

McDaniel surrounded himself with experienced coaches including:

Eric Studesville RB – 25 years

Danny Crossman ST – 19 years

Josh Boyer Defensive Coordinator -16 years (Former Patriots DB coach)

Darrell Bevel QB – 21 years

John Embree Asst HC/ TE – 13 years

He also added former Miami players Sam Madison CB, former Patriots WR Wes Welker WRs, and Patrick Surtain Defensive Assistant

They also added three coaches that played in the NFL: Sam Gregory Safties, Lemuel Jeanpierre Asst Offensive line, and Ty McKenzie OLB.

Injury Report

Miami – Starting RB Chase Edmonds was listed as Questionable on Wednesday as were two of his backups Salvon Ahmed and Myles Gaskins.  Jaylen Waddle has been battling hamstring issues but shows up on the Injury Report with a quad injury.  This bears watching throughout the week leading up to game time.  Byron Jones being Out really hurt Miami.

New England – Isaiah Wynn is listed as Questionable with a back injury.  He was limited at practice.  Jakobi Meyers shows up as Questionable with a knee issue; Ty Montgomery is listed as Questionable with a knee injury and not an ankle.

How will Miami Defend the Patriots? – Look for Miami’s base defense to try and stop the run, until the Patriots’ O-line can prove otherwise.   The Dolphins’ secondary likes to press.  This will be especially effective against the Patriots WRs who have a difficult time separating from defenders.  Parker is the worst in the league and Meyers is not too far behind.  If Parker wasn’t so good at grabbing 50/50 balls, he would be out of the league.  As noted earlier, this forces the QB to throw into tight windows and the risk of tipped balls and interceptions.

What will the Patriots’ Offense do against Miami? –    Look for the Patriots to try and establish a running game from the 12 personnel group (1 Back, 2 TE, 2 WR).   I think they will abandon the zone blocking and go back to more of the Gap blocking they did before.  It doesn’t have to be great, but it is something that Miami needs to account for.  This will allow Mac Jones to use play-action passes and throw the ball downfield.  They need to stay out of 3rd and long situations.  The team that controls the Line of Scrimmage will control the ball and the time clock.  This is typical of Belichick going all the way back to his days with the Giants.  Dominate the time of possession and limit the opponents’ offensive chances, keeping your defense off the field.

What will the Miami Offense do against New England? – Use their speed!  The Patriots and in particular Jonathan Jones has fared pretty well against Tyreek Hill.  Jaylen Waddle vs Jalen Mills might just be a mismatch favoring the Phins.  I would expect NE to come out in some type of Nickel defensive package.  Miami will try to establish a running game, and if they do, it could be a long day for the Patriots.  How will the Phins O-line hold up?  Can the Patriots generate any pressure while trying to keep Tagovailoa in the pocket?

How will New England Defend against Miami?  – Keep it simple.  Zone passing Defense and keep everything in front of you.  Don’t get burned deep.  Make them march down the field on short gains in a bend, don’t break defense.  The longer the drive lasts, the more probable it is for a turnover.  Tua will give the ball away.  Use the SS as a linebacker or big Nickel.  Adrian Phillips and Kyle Dugger are the size of NFL linebackers today.  Disguise the linebacker blitz and dropback assignments.  Keep them guessing.  Look for Miami to use motion to identify zone or man coverage.  They will try to isolate the bigger ILBs on early downs.

Posted Under: Patriots News

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