The New England Patriots will take on the Miami Dolphins Sunday at 4:25 p.m. EST, as the Pats and Fins will both look to open their seasons strong with a win in Week 1, in Foxboro. Here is ten things to watch for:
Mac Jones vs. Dolphins Secondary:
Mac Jones will be making his debut against one of the best secondaries in the NFL, that has Xavien Howard (beat out JC Jackson for most interceptions last season), Byron Jones, and former Patriots Jason McCourty and Eric Rowe.
The pass rush is one of, if not the biggest strength of Miami. You might resort to the run a bit more than the pass, especially with an incredibly deep running back core.
Patriots Pass Rush vs. Dolphins O-Line:
The pass rush of the Patriots proved to be lethal all preseason, as they showed that they have elite potential after it was completely revamped it this offseason.
With new additions — Matt Judon, Kyle Van Noy (somewhat new), Davon Godchaux, Henry Anderson, Christian Barmore (draft), while Dont’a Hightower returns from opting out — it’s going to be a real challenge for an already weak Dolphins offensive line that is missing their left tackle, Austin Jackson.
Boston TE party:
We didn’t get to see Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith together very much this preseason, but you could very well see them together, a lot today.
The Dolphins have quite a weak linebacker core when comparing it to their secondary, and it will open opportunities to give Smith and Henry lots of playing time. You’ll likely see New England running plenty of 12 personnel (two TEs, one RB), and they can now dictate the flow of the game and what defense Miami runs now with a deep tight end core.
As pointed out by ESPN’s Mike Reiss, the Patriots used two tight ends just 3% of the time last season with a weak core. Now, with an elite duo, they can use two tight ends in both the blocking and passing game a hefty amount, as the Boston TE party begins.
Patriots Running Game:
With a running back core deeper than what feels like forever, and with a strong Dolphins secondary but not so strong front seven, it’ll make way for the six options in Damien Harris, James White, J.J. Taylor, Rhamondre Stevenson, Brandon Bolden, and Jakob Johnson.
After a breakout season from Harris and a strong preseason from both Taylor and Stevenson, while Bolden returns from opting out, New England will likely be running the ball a hefty amount today.
How Mac Jones Handles Cover 0:
The Dolphins might not have one of the better pass rushes, but it will be interesting to watch how Mac Jones handles the cover 0 blitz, something Brian Flores and the Miami defense like to run a lot.
In Collaboration With FLTeams.com, Here is Isaac Edelman’s Five Things to Watch For:
Miami’s Receiving Core vs. Patriots Secondary:
The Miami Dolphins signed Will Fuller this offseason to a one-year contract worth over $10 million per season. However, Fuller will be out Week 1 due to a suspension, even if he’s fully healthy. Luckily, Miami drafted Jaylen Waddle with the No. 5 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Waddle has the ability to burn New England’s secondary; his speed is compared to the likes of Tyreek Hill. In addition to Waddle, Miami will have DeVante Parker. Each year, Parker seems to feast against New England’s secondary.
New England’s Running Game:
The Patriots’ key strength on offense is the offensive line and deep group of running backs, all of whom are capable of making significant contributions in this game. Damien Harris, J.J. Taylor, James White and Rhamondre Stevenson make up New England’s running back core; and they should all see playing time against Miami.
The New Julian Edelman:
Julian Edelman recently retired after spending 12 seasons with the Patriots. Edelman’s clutch catches in the biggest games and overall toughness made him a fan favorite. With his absence, who can step up?
This offseason, New England signed Nelson Agholor, who is coming off his best year. While not a speedy and quick pass-catcher like Edelman, he can quickly become a fan favorite.
Special Teams for New England:
Patriots punter Jake Bailey is coming off a terrific season and is arguably the league’s best punter. New England also has All-Pro punt returner Gunner Olszewski and one of the best kick-covering hombres to ever do it, Matthew Slater. All three players are expected to provide a spark on special teams.
Dolphins Pass Rush:
It’s going to be a feeding frenzy in the pass rush for both teams. While the Patriots have an amazing offensive line, Miami’s D-Line is terrific and can get to Mac Jones (who is not mobile).
Raekwon Davis and Christian Wilkins are key pieces on the Miami Dolphins defensive line and their best football will likely come this year.
For New England, they should be able to get to Tua; Miami’s offensive line is nothing special.
(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)