Tag Archives: Kiko Alonso

Miami’s Defense May Be Without Howard But the Focus Should Be on the Ground

Steve Balestrieri
December 6, 2018 at 7:56 am ET

With the news that Xavien Howard will be a game-time decision to play this week, the Miami Dolphins are possibly going to be missing their best defender on the defensive side of the ball.

Howard, the AFC Defensive Player of the Week has seven interceptions and is Miami’s lock-down corner. If he is able to play (and we feel he will), he’ll probably be locked up with Josh Gordon on the perimeter.

Adam Gase didn’t sound confident that he’ll be able to go this week for the Dolphins who at 6-6 are still very much in the Wildcard hunt.

“If you throw the ball at him and you’re inaccurate he’s not just going to knock it down,” Gase said. “He’s going to pick it off. And it’s an extreme value. He’s one of our best players, if not our best player on that side of the ball. It’s hard to say. But that’s what this game is. And that’s what the league is. We have to make some adjustments on defense. Be smart with that. And you know our guys have to step up. If he can’t go, you’re not going to replace him. But we’ve got to shuffle some things around.”

Torry McTyer would likely get the start if indeed Howard can’t go. McTyer, 6’0, 187 a 2nd-year UDFA from UNLV has started in two games this season (Chicago, Cincinnati) and has a confidence level matching Howard’s. However, the rest of Miami’s secondary has struggled in 2018.

When opposing quarterbacks have targeted any Dolphins defender not named Howard this year, they have completed 68.5 percent of their passes, averaging 8.1 yards per attempt, throwing 19 touchdowns, 12 interceptions for a passer rating of 96.9. Miami has given up the 3rd most explosive plays this year (that is considered to be a 15-yard run or more and a 20-yard pass play or more). The Dolphins have allowed 12 touchdown passes of 20 yards or more thus far in 2018.

But the issues with Miami’s defense rests within their run defense. Remember the Dolphins started the season 3-0 and came into New England riding high. They were blown out in that game 38-7 and have gone 3-6 since because of issues stopping the run.

Miami is currently 30th in the league in run defense, allowing 5.0 yards per carry and a whopping 144.7 yards per game on the ground. The New England game where they allowed the Patriots to run for 175 yards started a bad trend where they gave up 164 on the ground to the Bears, 248 against the Lions, 188 against the Houston Texans, 195 against the Packers and 198 last week against the Bills, although most of those were Josh Allen scrambles, which gashed them badly.

Miami’s 4-3 defense hasn’t gotten great tackle play inside, their consistency has been poor and their linebackers notably MLB Raekwon McMillan and Kiko Alonso haven’t been good against the run either.

The Miami run defense was leaky in 2017 as well and they had hoped to fix it going into the 2018 season. But their first couple of preseason games showed that perhaps that wasn’t the case as they were gashed but then things solidified somewhat. That 3-0 start masked what was still an issue and they’ve been battling this since then.

Unlike in other years when traveling to Miami (2013, 2015 come to mind) when the Patriots went into the games with a walking MASH unit, the Patriots are about as healthy as they’ve been all season.

They attacked a Minnesota defense that was a Top 5 unit against the run and garnered 160 yards on the ground. With Sony Michel back to full health and Rex Burkhead back from IR, look for New England to line up this week and try to pound the ball between the tackles. That should open up play-action passing for Tom Brady and the wide receivers.

This is essentially a playoff game for the Dolphins who have to finish strong for any chance to make the postseason. They face the Patriots this week, travel to Minnesota to take on the Vikings, return home against Jacksonville and close out the regular season on the road in Buffalo.

Last season, the Patriots were caught looking ahead to the Pittsburgh game and were thrashed in every phase of the game losing 27-20 to Miami in a game that wasn’t even close to what the score indicated. That will be a big, big teaching point by Bill Belichick this week.

Lo and behold, the Steelers are again on the slate next week. Don’t expect the Patriots to make that same blunder twice. Last year, the Pats could afford to lose the game and still secure home-field advantage for the playoffs with a win over Pittsburgh. The 2018 version of the Pats does not have that luxury. Miami is on the cusp of a playoff berth themselves.

There won’t be no overlooking them this time. Expect a much better game this week. And look for the Patriots to pound the ball in the running game. We’ll have much more in our keys to the game tomorrow.

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

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Patriots – Dolphins MNF Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge

Steve Balestrieri
December 8, 2017 at 12:10 pm ET

The Patriots go back out on the road for their fourth game in the last five as they take on the Miami Dolphins in South Florida on Monday Night Football. This is a hat and t-shirt game for the Patriots. With a win or a tie, the Patriots clinch the AFC East once again for the ninth straight time and the 17th since Robert Kraft took over the team in 1994.

This week’s game will be broadcast by ESPN on Monday, December 11 at 8:30 p.m. and can be seen on WCVB, Channel 5 in Boston. Sean McDonough will handle play-by-play duties with Jon Gruden as the color analyst. Lisa Salters will work from the sidelines.The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (10-2) are coming off a 23-3 blowout win over the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park. The running game ran for nearly 200 yards while the defense for the eighth game in a row allowed 17 points or less.The Patriots secondary held Buffalo to just 82 yards passing

The Dolphins (5-7) are coming off of a 35-9 blowout win over Denver. The team snapped a five-game losing streak and are looking to get some consistency.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2017 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Dolphins are meeting for the 105th time overall with Miami holding a 53-51 lead all-time in the teams’ rivalry. However, the Patriots have won 12 of the last 15 meetings including the lone from two weeks ago where the Patriots rolled 35-17 behind 196 yards on the ground.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Dolphins Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game has been steadily improving behind the tandem of Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis. Two weeks ago against Miami, Lewis ran for 112 yards on 15 carries. They controlled the clock, the tempo and the line of scrimmage./

Miami has issues with the run with DE Andre Branch and DT Jordan Phillips having problems in the running game. If the Patriots see these two on the same side, look for them to run right at them. While they may not roll up 200 yards on the ground again, they should still find plenty of room to be more than a complimentary piece.

Patriots WRs vs Dolphins Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game is averaging 292 yards per game, tops in the NFL. Tom Brady however, won’t have his top receiver, Rob Gronkowski in the game as he’ll be serving a one-game suspension. But…the team may get back Chris Hogan this week. He’s been at practice all week and if he’s able to go would signal a huge boost in the Patriots passing game outside the numbers.

Miami got after Brady with very good pressure from everyone across the defensive line in the first matchup. They’ll need an effort like that again because their best corner  Cordrea Tankersley could miss this week with ankle and knee woes. Without Gronkowski look for Brady to spread them out and try to use their quickness all over the field. They’ll try to get Brandin Cooks the ball in space and Hogan (if he plays) may get the chance to go deep on a few plays down the field. The backs will again be a major factor in both the running and passing games.

Next up the Dolphins offense:

Dolphins RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Dolphins running game hasn’t been the same since they traded the freelancing Jay Ajayi to the Eagles. The carries have been shared between Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams, but Williams is dealing with a shoulder issue and may not go.

The Patriots run defense has not been good and was gashed pretty well by the Bills last week although the return of Malcom Brown should help things. But will the Dolphins have the depth to force enough leverage there? The feeling here is no especially if they find themselves falling behind again.

Dolphins WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England

Miami will have Jay Cutler back under center this week. He’s a different player than Matt Moore, so we’ll probably see some more shots down the field. Jarvis Landry had eight catches for 70 yards in the first one and he, Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker with tight end Julius Thomas should be much more productive than they are.

The Patriots pass defense is playing tremendous right now. It is a possibility that we’ll see some of Eric Rowe on Landry this week as he has a bit of size, although Jonathan Jones matched up well with Landry in the first meeting.

Look for the Patriots to be much more aggressive against this beatable Miami offensive line again. They teed off in the second half and got six sacks. Cutler isn’t mobile and the Patriots may call down the dogs this week.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski is having an outstanding season. His kickoffs are pinning teams deep and the outstanding coverage units are smothering the opposition. The Dolphins have solid kickers but aren’t generating anything in the return game. The Patriots Special Teams has been scoring points, blocking kicks, and last time ran a fake punt for a big first down that set up a touchdown.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one is a divisional matchup on Monday Night so, as we’ve seen all season, anything can happen. But unless the Patriots implode, I can’t see the Dolphins beating New England this week. However, the Patriots have traditionally not played well in the heat of Miami. It does help that this one is at night so that shouldn’t be a big factor.

Having No Rob Gronkowski is a big blow for the Patriots offense but if Chris Hogan is able to come back and play this week it will be a nice boost to the outside passing game. Look for the running game to continue their solid play and Brady to spread the Dolphins defense out. Miami may run the ball effectively, but I don’t see Cutler having a good night against the secondary. New England heads to Pittsburgh 11-2 setting up a big game next week.  Patriots 30-13

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Film Review, Patriots Offense with Garoppolo Clicking Before Injury

Steve Balestrieri
September 19, 2016 at 1:51 pm ET

Bennett, Blount, and Amendola Have Big Games

Reviewing the game film from the Patriots win over the Dolphins there were several areas to focus on but because of the short week and the Texans arriving here on Thursday for the game, we can’t wait for the All-22 coaches film to be made available later on Tuesday.

And we’re going to focus just on the Patriots offense this week. The defense and the issues they had in the second half is an area that should be discussed and we’ll cover some of the problems that need fixing when we do our Houston breakdown of key matchups.

Prior to his injury, the Patriots offense under Jimmy Garoppolo was clicking on all cylinders. He was making all smart decisions with the football and knew where to go with the ball especially when Miami brought pressure.

We’ve highlighted a few of the key plays for the offense, and while the offense will no doubt be a limited one with rookie Jacoby Brissett under center, once either Tom Brady or Jimmy G. returns, the unit will be a tough one to stop given the available weapons at their disposal.

Amendola 12-Yard Touchdown: After the Patriots moved down the field with ease, they were in great shape at the 12-yard after Martellus Bennett took a screen pass down the right sideline.

At the snap, the receivers on the outside took the secondary into the end zone. The linebackers drop into the middle of the field at the hash marks. Miami rushed four and got good pressure on the edges but not up the middle. Garoppolo was able to sense the pressure, step up in the pocket and kept his eyes focused downfield.

Amendola lined up in the right slot and initially sat down in the space between the linebackers. But with both moving as the Garoppolo stepped up, Jelani Jenkins stepped to his left, right into the throwing lane. Amendola didn’t panic, just took two more steps to his left and was wide open as Jimmy G. delivered the ball.

The players in the secondary couldn’t react in time as he scampered into the end zone for an easy score.

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Bennett 20-Yard Touchdown: On the Patriots second drive of the afternoon they again moved well down the field. They were set up inside the red zone at the 20-yard line after Chris Hogan made a really nice catch to put them in position.

The Patriots were facing a third and nine from the 20 and once again, Garoppolo was spot on with his reads and where he wanted to go with the ball. Miami rushed four and got a push on the edge but Garoppolo was able to step up in the pocket to make the throw.

Miami was looking for Amendola on a crossing route at the sticks in the middle of the field. The free safety Abul-Quddus broke hard up into the passing lane. Bennett was lined up on the right and beat the jam of Kiko Alonso at the line. Alonso tried to sneak a peek back into the backfield and Bennett recognizing that the safety left a hole in the seam, held up his hand as a signal that he was open.

Garoppolo delivered a dime right on the money to Bennett as he crossed into the end zone for another easy score.

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Amendola 10-Yard Touchdown: The Patriots third scoring drive of the day found them on the Dolphins 10-yard line and facing a third down and four yards to go for a first down.

This time, the Dolphins bring pressure from everyone up the middle and from the left, Garoppolo’s blind (left), side. The wide receivers on the outside run straight up the seams clearing out the perimeter. Bennett runs an out pattern to the left taking the defender with him to the sideline.

Amendola is lined up in the right slot. Abdul-Quddus is in coverage and is shading him to the outside. The blitz vacated the middle of the field completely and Amendola, recognizing this runs a skinny post into the wide open middle.

Abdul-Quddus is in chase mode immediately and can’t do anything to stop the pass. Garoppolo is under heavy pressure but was able to deliver it to Amendola who was hit perfectly in stride for the third score of the day for New England. Coincidentally, it was the first time in his career that Danny Amendola has had multiple TDs in a game.

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Blount Hurdling Maxwell for a 26-Yard Gain: LeGarrette Blount had a fantastic game. He carried the ball 29 times for 123 yards and a touchdown and nearly single-handedly killed off five of the final six minutes when Miami KNEW the Patriots were going to run.

One of his absolute wow type plays of the game occurred in the fourth quarter after Miami had narrowed the Patriots lead to 31-17 and New England took over on their 18-yard line with a first and ten.

On what became kind of a signature play in the final quarter, the Patriots ran to the left behind LT Nate Solder and LG Joe Thuney who pulled and led the way for the big man to run a sweep. DE Andre Branch was coming hard down the line inside and was sealed by center David Andrews. Chris Hogan stopped Jenkins from flowing over from the OLB position. CB Byron Maxwell flew up and attempted to hit Blount low in an attempt to upend him at the first down marker. It was the correct move. Blount has 45 pounds on Maxwell and had a head of steam going. Any attempt to go high on him would have been an exercise in futility. He just couldn’t have guessed what was to come next by Blount.

In an incredibly athletic move, Blount, all 6’0, 250-pounds of him, hurdled Maxwell like someone 50 pounds lighter. He rumbled all the way down to the Patriots 44-yard line for a 26-yard gain.  The play was well designed and executed and would have been a first down. But the extra little show by Blount makes it one of the wilder, and wackier moments of the day.

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Patriots 2016 Opponents, 5 First Impressions of the Dolphins

Steve Balestrieri
September 13, 2016 at 11:50 am ET

Miami Finds the right guy to lead the team in Gase

The Patriots 2016 season returns to Foxboro for the first time in 2016 and they face their divisional rival Miami.

The Dolphins have been in turmoil for several years at the top despite being big spenders in free agency. No more. They seem to have finally found the right guy to lead the team in Adam Gase, we’ll have more on him below but they get high marks with his hiring.

The Dolphins lost a tough heartbreaker to the Seahawks on a Russell Wilson to Doug Baldwin pass with just 31 seconds left. The 12-10 loss stings because Miami felt and rightfully so, that they left some points on the board.

Miami has some talent on both sides of the ball, the question is, is it enough to compete for a playoff spot and how quickly will Gase turn things around.

Here are our Five First Impressions of the Dolphins:

Gase Was the Best Move Made in Offseason: When Miami landed Gase this offseason, it was perhaps the best move the franchise has made in many years and arguably one of the best that any team had done this spring.

The acquisition of the Nick Saban disciple in Gase, was a much needed and smart move by Miami who has had a coaching carousel for far too long. Gase worked well with Peyton Manning and now will try to turn the fortunes around for Ryan Tannehill who hasn’t had a stable coaching staff in his career.

Gase is going to a simpler offense that plays to the strengths of his QB and his talented skill players. Instead of the deep play offense that didn’t work, but more of a methodical approach that the Patriots employ.

The youngest coach (38) in the NFL got a ringing endorsement from Manning, who called him, “the smartest man I know.”

Tannehill Should Benefit from the Hiring: If there is a coach that can bring out the best in Ryan Tannehill it is Gase and while the Dolphins are paying him like a franchise QB, he’s yet to produce like one.

While his numbers were pedestrian against Seattle on Sunday, 16-29, 186 yards and no touchdowns, that isn’t exactly an uncommon result from teams that play in Seattle against the Seahawks defense. Tannehill did have a deep pass to Kenny Stills that should have went for a deep 71-yard touchdown but Stills dropped it while all alone behind the defense.

Tannehill didn’t dwell on it, determined to move on, “I don’t know what happened on his end, but that’s football. We just moved on from it and kept playing. We had other opportunities other than that to make plays,… I saw a lot of good things from our guys.”

Dolphins Defensive Line Strong, Disruptive in Opener: Miami spent a ton of money on the defensive line in recent years, and if the season opener is any judge on how the rest of the season is going to go, then they’re going to reap the benefits soon.

The Dolphins nearly pulled off a big upset on the road and the DL was a big reason why. Ndamukong Suh, Jordan Phillips, Jason Jones, Mario Williams and Cameron Wake were constantly beating their opponents off the ball and causing disruptions in the Seattle backfield. They forced Russell Wilson into a couple of mistakes and were at times dominant.

Suh had four tackles, including a 13-yard sack, and three quarterback hits. He batted down a pass on third down on Seattle’s final drive, but the Seahawks were able to convert on fourth down. Jordan Phillips was very impressive and blew up a play that caused a fumble in the Seahawks backfield.

This should be another stiff test for the Patriots offensive line this week. This group can stop the run and get after the passer. Miami’s defense goes thru this front.

Arian Foster Recovers from Injury, starts in Week 1: Miami signed the former Texans running back this summer and when asked about his comeback last week, Foster bristled, stating that he was “injured not dead.”

Showing he was all the way back from his Achilles injury, he got the starting nod of incumbent Jay Ajayi and looks like the Foster of old for the most part. He managed only 38 yards on 13 carries, but that isn’t unusual for teams playing Seattle, but he did produce 62 yards on three catches including a 50-yarder.

Foster has rushed for 1200 yards or more four times in his career and the Dolphins are hoping that he can recapture some of that magic this season.

Dolphins Linebackers Still Have Questions: Miami is banking on a return to health of Kiko Alonso in 2016, the talented but oft-injured middle linebacker is a player that roam from sideline to sideline and make plays. If he can stay on the field and healthy, a big if, he’s a big upgrade from Kelvin Sheppard from a year ago.

Jelani Jenkins is another talented player but his consistency has been beset by injuries as well. Koa Misi is an athletic player but has an annoying reputation of letting the play coming to him rather than being an aggressive down-hill type player.

The depth is an issue, with the team having STs maven Spencer Paysinger, Zac Vigil, and Mike Hull as backups. That may be the reason the team is bringing in former Packer and Bengal A.J. Hawk this week for a look.

Check back with us later in the week as we’ll break down the key matchups for the game right here on PatsFans.com.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.