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MORSE: Patriots Week 2 Opponent Preview – Miami Dolphins

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
4 days ago at 10:53 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots News

MORSE: Patriots Week 2 Opponent Preview – Miami DolphinsEric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots played well last week and nearly stole a win from the defending NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles.

After watching the Thursday night dismantling of the Minnesota Vikings by the Eagles, my thought is the Patriots Defense is a lot better than anyone thought.  The Pats defense held the Eagles to 154 yds passing and sacked Hurts 3 times.  That was one more than the vaunted Philly pass rushers got to Mac Jones.  Philly led the league in sacks last year.

Here is a look at Sunday’s opponent Miami Dolphins.  The Phins are coming off an impressive 36-34 win on the road against the LA Chargers.

Depth Chart from ESPN

Offense 3WR 1TE
QB Tua Tagovailoa Mike White Skylar Thompson
RB Raheem Mostert Salvon Ahmed De’Von Achane Chris Brooks
WR Tyreek Hill River Cracraft
WR Jaylen Waddle Erik Ezukanma
WR Braxton Berrios Cedrick Wilson
TE Durham Smythe Tyler Kroft Julian Hill Q
FB Alec Ingold
LT Terron Armstead Q Kendall Lamm
LG Isaiah Wynn Liam Eichenberg
C Connor Williams
RG Robert Hunt Lester Cotton Robert Jones IR
RT Austin Jackson Kion Smith


It all starts with QB Tua Tagovailoa.  He threw for 446 yards last week.  He had a very good season in 2022, quieting some of his critics.  However, Tagovailoa was only pressured on 28.7% of his throwing attempts.  That was the 5th lowest in the league.  This allowed him more time to hold onto the ball.  He will not be able to do that with the Patriots.

The Patriots sacked Hurts three times while rushing in a conservative envelope to contain the mobile Hurts.  This was against one of the best Offensive lines in the league.  Christian Barmore led the Defense with an 84.1 rating from PFF, good for #9.  Lawrence Guy was 21st .

He has two terrific wideouts in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.  Hill is a 4-time 1st team All-Pro, 2 times 2nd Team All-Pro, and 7 times Pro Bowl player in his 7 seasons in the league.  Hill went off for 215 yards receiving on 11 catches in 15 targets and 2 TDs.

The Patriots dedicate two players to covering him every game, Hill said this: “I’m still going to dominate that no matter what. I still got a job to do, and that’s to run my routes. You put two guys on me, one guy on me, or three guys on me I’m still going to run my route to get open.”  Keep on running, but the stats say the Patriots and Jon Jones shut you down.

Jones has a pretty good track record against Hill.  The 5-foot-10 cornerback has matched up with the 5-foot-10 receiver six times in his NFL career. In those games, Hill has seven catches on 16 targets for 88 yards against Jones.  Jones ended up on the Patriots injury list on Thursday and was listed as Questionable on Friday.

Waddle was a 2021 1st round pick (#6 overall).  He was a favorite target of Mac Jones in the Championship season of 2020.  Waddle played just 4 games during the regular season but racked up 28 catches for 591 yards (21.1 YPC) and 4 TDs in those games before breaking his ankle on the opening kickoff of game 5 vs Tennessee.

In 2021 Waddle picked up where he left off in college and set a new NFL record for most receptions by a rookie with 104.  Cedrick Wilson is a very capable receiver when they go three-wide and can fill in adequately if either top receiver goes down.  Former Patriots draft choice, Braxton Berrios is a back-up wideout for the Phins.  They plucked him away from the Jets, where his stats in 2021 were 46 receptions for 431 yards and 2 TDs.  He also had 2 TDs rushing that year.  His stats dropped off last season.

The Dolphins have a new Offensive Line coach in Butch Barry.  The Offensive line is a weakness on the Dolphins.  They acquired LT Terron Armstead to anchor their O line.  The 32-year-old, 10-year veteran made the Pro-Bowl for the 4th time in 2022 despite missing some time with a pectoral strain.  He is listed as questionable for Sunday with back/ankle and knee issues.  Patriots bust Isaiah Wynn is starting at Left Guard.

Former 2nd round pick Liam Eichenberg has been a bust at Left Guard and Wynn is slated to take his place Sunday.  If Armstead can’t go on Sunday, Wynn may even play Left Tackle.  Patriots D-linemen must be licking their chops to get after Tagovailoa with Wynn playing.  Connor Williams is at Center.  The former 2018 2nd round selection of the Cowboys moved from Guard to Center when he signed with the Dolphins in 2022.  In 2021 he led the league in penalties.

Robert Hunt is another high draft pick that plays Right Guard.  The 2020 2nd round pick (#39) has never lived up to being taken so high in the draft.  He has started 45 of the 50 games that he has played in the NFL, all for the Dolphins.  Austin Jackson is a 2020 1st round selection (#18) is out of USC.  That’s 2 former 1st round picks, and 2 former 2nd round picks on the line.

However, they just aren’t very good.  They were 24th in the league in pass protection.  When Armstead is in at LT he only allowed pressure on 3.4% of plays.  When someone else is at LT that rate jumps to a pathetic 13.7%.

Runningbacks are an afterthought in Miami.  Raheem Mostert is the probable starter and was a full participant in practice on Thursday.  Mostert had 10 carries for 37 yards vs the Chargers.  Jeff Wilson is on IR which leaves the backup position to Salvin Ahmed and rookie De’Von Achane.  The smallish 5’9” 185 lb. Texas A&M back has 4.32 speed and is a good receiver out of the backfield.  However, can he be effective picking up the blitz?

At Tight End they have mediocre talent in Durhan Smythe a 2018 4th rd selection (#123) out of Notre Dame.   His backup is journeyman Tyler Kroft, a 7-year pro who has played on 5 different teams in his career.    Smythe had just 15 catches last year playing behind Patriots Mike Gesicki.  He had 3 last week vs Chargers.


Defense Base 3-4 D
LDE Christian Wilkins
NT Raekwon Davis Brandon Pili
RDE Zach Sieler Emmanuel Ogbah
WLB Jaelan Phillips
LILB David Long Duke Riley Zeke Vandenburgh IR
RILB Jerome Baker Channing Tindall
SLB Bradley Chubb Andrew Van Ginkel
LCB Xavien Howard Eli Apple Kelvin Joseph Justin Bethel
SS DeShon Elliott Brandon Jones
FS Jevon Holland Verone McKinley III Elijah Campbell Q
RCB Kader Kohou Cam Smith Parry Nickerson Nik Needham O


The Dolphins have a new, much respected, Defensive Coordinator in Vic Fangio, he has brought in 4 new Defensive Assistants as well.  According to Warren Sharp, Mike McDaniel hired the best available Defensive Coach available in Fangio and “and told him to go make chaos on that side of the ball and focus only on making life hell for opposing QBs”.

Last season the Miami Defense played the 9th toughest schedule in the NFL last season and their opponent offense was the 3rd easiest to play against.  They dropped from #10 in efficiency in 2021 to #17 in 2022.

They played the #9 toughest schedule of offenses and the #12 toughest schedule of QBs.  They particularly struggled against the pass (#25).  However, they were quite good on early downs (#5). It was just that they were terrible in two critically high-leverage situations: third down (#24) and red zone (#24). Because they were so bad on third downs, they allowed 32% of opponent drives to reach the red zone (#6 highest rate).

On the line they are led by Christian Wilkins, he was a monster in 2022.  22.1% of his run defense snaps featured a tackle, easily the highest for a defensive lineman. His 20 run stuffs ranked fifth, and he was ninth in tackles that produced a positive play for the defense.  Emmanuel Ogbah has a high-pressure rate when he has been on the field.  The Chargers ran all over the Miami Defense to the tune of 233 yards and a 5.8 YPC.   Can the injury riddled Patriots O-line take advantage of this?

When Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips were on the field together, the Dolphins had a 41% pressure rate. That did come with a 31.8% blitz rate, but on four-man pass rushes with those two on the field, Miami still had a 40% pressure rate.  Andrew Van Ginkel is a valuable and versatile sub.  Getting David Long in Free Agency was a good move and they got him cheap because of his injury history.  Jerome Baker was often left on a island in pass coverage, yet he was ranked 29th for 2022.

Losing prize Free Agent signee Jalen Ramsey to injury is a big blow.  Xavier Howard will again have to shoulder the load in the secondary.  Kader Kohou was an Undrafted Free Agent the Dolphins signed last season.  He ended up playing in 15 games and had 72 tackles.  Last week he had 9 tackles, with 6 being solo tackles against the Chargers.  He might be someone to pick on.  His 72.6 rating by PFF ranked him 19th among cornerbacks.  Nik Needham has been ruled out.  Javon Holland is an excellent Safety that had an 86.4 rating for a #5 ranking by PFF.  Holland had 14 tackles and the Strong Safety DeShon Elliott chipped in with 13.


Special Teams
PK Jason Sanders
P Jake Bailey
H Jake Bailey
PR Braxton Berrios Cedrick Wilson River Cracraft Tyreek Hill
KR Braxton Berrios Raheem Mostert De’Von Achane Salvon Ahmed
LS Blake Ferguson


Miami had the worst Special Teams unit in the league last season.  They haven’t helped themselves by signing former Patriot Jake Bailey.  He was the worst punter in the league last season.  They did add Punt Returner Braxton Barrios in Free Agency.  Jason Sanders was middle of the road ( 15th ) in the league in kicking.

Comings and Goings

The Patriots added QB Ian Book and CB William Hooper to the Practice Squad.  Booker was drafted by New Orleans in the 4th rd. of the 2021 draft.  He also played for Philadelphia in 2022.  The former Notre Dame QB is only 6′ 206 lbs and offers nothing for the Patriots.  Hooper played for D2 Northwestern State and was signed by Green Bay as an UDFA this year.  He is 5’10”, 180 lb., DB that runs a 4.46 40-yard dash.  Can’t ever have enough development guys on the Practice Squad.

Posted Under: Patriots News

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