Analysis and keys to a Dolphins week 1 victory

Analysis and keys to a Dolphins week 1 victory

  • austin jackson
  • brian flores
  • Byron Jones
  • emmanuel ogbah
  • jordan howard
  • Kyle Van Noy
  • Matt Breida
  • Miami Dolphins
  • New England Patriots
  • Noah Igbinoghene
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick
  • Shaw Lawson
  • Tua Tagovailoa
By David Gregg September 11, 2020 0 Comment
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2019 was a season of learning and improvement for head coach Brian Flores and the band of misfits that was the Miami Dolphins. It culminated in a Week 17 matchup in Foxboro vs the New England Patriots. The Dolphins’ massive upset sets the stage for week 1 of the 2020 season.

The Dolphins had not won in Foxboro since the infamous wildcat came in 2008. The Patriots were by far the superior team in terms of talent and were coming in with a 12-3 record. They had won 21 of their last 23 home games. They also had the 2nd seed in the AFC and a playoffs Week 1 bye on the line.

The Dolphins were 17.5-point underdogs. Despite all this, the Dolphins pulled off a massive upset. They stunned the Patriots, scoring the game-winning touchdown with just 0:24 left on the clock. Just how big was this upset? Well, it tied for the largest NFL upset in the last 30 years!

Dolphins new-look roster for week 1

Neither the Miami Dolphins nor the New England Patriots rosters look anything like they did in the Week 17 final. Miami has seen upgrades all over their offense and defense.

On offense, their biggest weaknesses were the offensive line and running backs. On defense, stopping the run game. While Miami has been busy bringing in talent the Patriots have been busy losing talent.

Notable Dolphins additions

The Dolphins totally revamped their offensive line bringing in rookie left tackle Austin Jackson, left guard Ereck Flowers, center Ted Karras and rookie right guard Solomon Kindley.

To address running backs Miami added Jordan Howard and Matt Breida. Keep in mind, the team’s leading rusher in 2019 was quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Yikes. Now the Dolphins have added a legitimate 1-2 punch, including the league’s third-leading rusher since 2016.

But the biggest addition to the Dolphins’ offense is, of course, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

On defense, defensive ends Emmanuel Ogbah & Shaq Lawson were signed in free agency. The Dolphins also drafted defensive tackle Raekwon Davis in the 2nd round. Pairing these three with defensive tackles Christian Wilkins & Davon Godchaux gives Miami a formidable defensive front.

Linebacker Kyle Van Noy is one of the best outside linebackers in the game and was a key piece of Flores’ SuperBowl winning defense in New England. Following him from New England, Elnadon Roberts is a solid all-around linebacker.

And finally, cornerbacks Byron Jones & rookie Noah Igbinoghene were brought in to round out one of the best secondaries in the NFL.

The Dolphins will also have the following key players available who were all on IR for the Week 17 game. Wide receivers Preston Williams & Jakeem Grant. Free safety Bobby McCain. And cornerback Xavien Howard.

Notable Patriots Departures:

The New England Patriots have seen an astounding number of players depart in 2020. The biggest name? quarterback Tom Brady of course. That loss alone is enough to derail their season before it even begins.

Fortunately for the rest of the AFC East, he was not the only major departure from New England. The offensive line lost right tackle Marcus Cannon (opt-out) and center Ted Karras to free agency.

A large number of offensive weapons also left. Tight ends Matt LaCosse & Ben Watson, running back Brandon Bolden, and wide receivers Mohamed Sanu & Phillip Dorsett are all out the door.

The Patriots defense took an even bigger hit losing multiple star players. Defensive tackle Danny Shelton left in free agency. Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, Jamie Collins & Dont’a Hightower (opt-out) wiped out the linebacking corps. Safeties Patrick Chung (opt-out) & Duron Harmon are gone as well.

That is a total of 15 players who were key components of the Patriots roster are no longer with the team. And they had very few offseason additions to help fill those voids. A pair of rookie linebackers, a pair of rookie tight ends, a  rookie safety and Cam Newton.

They will also have center David Andrews and cornerback Jason McCourty back in the lineup for week 1 vs the Dolphins. Meanwhile, Miami upgraded 18 positions. (Although Tua Tagovailoa is not expected to see the field on Sunday)

 Offensive gameplan

One might think the Dolphins’ best game plan for week 1 would be to attack the Patriots in the same manner as Week 17 of 2019. Ryan Fitzpatrick had 41 pass attempts with 11 of those targets going to Devante Parker who had a field day with 137 yards against cornerback Stephon Gilmore.

It would be nice but that kind of success is unlikely to repeat against the 2019 DPOY. The Patriots defensive backs rival Miami’s for the best group in the league so passing yards might be hard to come by.

Instead, on offense, Miami should look to establish a strong run game early on. With Danny Shelton, Jamie Collins, and Dont’a Hightower no longer a part of the Patriots defense, Jordan Howard should be able to pound the ball up the center with relative ease.

Matt Breida, who is the fastest ball carrier in the league, should have a fun time finding big yards outside the tackles with the absence of Jamie Collins & Kyle Van Noy. The latter was the 5th-best run defender on the edge in 2019.

Defensive gameplan

If the Patriots want to have success in moving the ball on Sunday they will need the exact same offensive game plan as the Dolphins.

Miami has one of the best secondaries in the NFL and the Patriots will likely have the weakest passing attack in the league. Cam Newton seems to be a shell of his 2015 MVP self. In his last eight starts, Newton has an 0-8 record with nine touchdowns, nine interceptions, and four fumbles. The Patriots’ best receivers are 34-year old Julian Edelman and running back James White, who is no Christian McCaffrey.

The Dolphins in 2019 were one of the worst in the league at stopping the run. They’ve struggled to contain mobile QBs stretching back several years. The plethora of defensive additions should alleviate this problem this year, and hopefully for years to come.

If Wilkins, Godchaux, and Davis can clog up the center of the field the Patriots will have a hard time moving the ball on Sunday.

A Dolphins week 1 win

As noted, there was a mass exodus of players since the last time these teams played. The Patriots lack big-name offensive stars and have a weakened front seven. However, this matchup will not be a “walk in the park” for Miami. Bill Belichick is still the head coach in New England.

Belichick always fields one of the most well-coached and disciplined teams. The Dolphins are looking for back-to-back wins in Foxboro for the first time in 20 years. The key to a week 1 victory is dominating the run game on both offense and defense.

If Miami proves they can run the ball well and defend the run efficiently this will be a fun week for Dolphins fans. It may even be a fun year.

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