Dolphins vs Patriots: Week 1 Preview

Dolphins ATB preview the key matchups, expectations and keys to success ahead of their NFL regular season opener against the New England Patriots.

Patriot Dolphins
Mandatory Credit: Gillette Stadium
  • Date: Sunday September 11
  • Time: 13:00 ET (18:00 UK Time)
  • Venue: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami FL
  • TV: CBS and Sky Sports NFL

The wait is over, the 2022 NFL regular season is upon us.  After a long offseason fueled by excitement and high expectations, the Mike McDaniel era in Miami has arrived. First up, a familiar foe in the New England Patriots — for the third straight year.  Dolphins ATB preview the key matchups, expectations and keys to success ahead of their NFL regular season opener against the Patriots.

Expectations for Week 1

Expectations are certainly high for the 2022 Miami Dolphins. However, having gone back to last year’s Week 1 preview article, the narrative is shockingly similar…

“After years of mediocrity Dolphins fans are somewhat bemused about what to expect, going into a season a strong favorite as a playoff contender. Gone are the days of Chan Gailey’s archaic play-calling, with the new era of George Godsey and Eric Studesville bringing excitement over the possibility of a modernized attack. Last season the Dolphins thrived when they played up-tempo. The additions the Dolphins made this offseason highlight how speed will be an integral part of the 2021 Dolphins offense.”

2021 Season Week 1 Game Preview: Dolphins @ Patriots

Everything said in the above quote can be said about the 2022 Dolphins. Whether you call it delusion or insanity, us fans fixate on what our destiny could be and with high expectations for what the season may bring. Despite years of being let down by the team, I have no choice but to fall back into the trap of thinking “this could be the year” or “things are different this year”.

As to the present, I do expect the Dolphins to have the edge this game. The Patriots’ offense appears to be a ship without a captain, with Matt Patricia and Joe Judge attempting to fill the play calling void left behind by Josh McDaniels. While I expect the Patriots’ pass rushers to cause the offensive line difficulties, I feel that Miami’s weapons will prove to be a matchup nightmare against New England’s secondary.

As to what I expect from the Dolphins, I expect a rather conservative game, trying to establish the run early and gain rhythm and consistency on the short and intermediate passes. Do not expect the long balls early, those will come with time. While this offense and Tua may feel they have a point to prove, they first have a game to win. Starting the season with a winning record is far more important than seeing a Tua-to-Tyreek 75-yard touchdown pass on the opening play.

Keys to Success

1. Establish the Run

The Dolphins have had mixed success in running the football against the Patriots in recent years, with a lot of Miami’s success in establishing the run coming later on in the season.

Over their past two regular season openers against the Patriots, the Dolphins have averaged 80 yards from 25 carries and 3.2 YPC.

In the second meeting between the two teams, the Dolphins have managed to average 222 yards from 42 carries, which equates to 5.3 YPC.

The Dolphins have struggled so far during camp, and the pre-season, to establish the run. Nevertheless, with a vastly improved backfield and renowned running game expert in Mike McDaniel calling the plays, the Dolphins will be hoping that the new zone running scheme will signal the end of Miami’s early season troubles in rushing the football.

2. Pressure Up Front

Play to your strengths. Miami has one of the strongest defensive lines in the league. However, with Byron Jones currently on the PUP list until Week 5, Miami’s “Amoeba” defense is likely to be hamstrung with out one of their lockdown corners.

It is therefore essential that Miami’s defensive line can keep sustained pressure on Mac Jones. Jones, a traditional pocket passer, achieved a 71.9 percent completion rate when he had a clean pocket in 2021. When under pressure, that completion percentage dropped drastically to 54.3 percent.

While New England’s receiving corps is nothing to write home about, if Jones is allowed time in the pocket, Miami’s depleted corners may struggle to lockdown the likes of Devante Parker, Nelson Agholor, and Jakobi Meyers. It will be interesting to see which receiver will line up opposite Xavien Howard.

The DL will also be key to containing the Patriots’ backfield that totaled 2,151 rushing yards and 24 TDs in 2021, behind a strong offensive line.

3. Discipline

Under Brian Flores, the Dolphins were one of the least penalized teams in the NFL. This early in the season, there is inevitably going to be some teething problems for all teams. A key to the Dolphins’ success will be keeping those mistakes to a minimum to prevent beating themselves.

A new look offensive line that has had limited play time together as a unit, may encounter some early difficulties as they seek to build chemistry as a group. Minimizing drive killing penalties will be key to any team wishing to start the season 1-0.

Key Matchup: Austin Jackson vs Matt Judon

With Terron Armstead solidifying the left side of the line, it is highly likely that Bill Belichick will seek to overpower Tua’s blindside and Austin Jackson.  Who better to do that than Matt Judon, who ranked 52nd on the NFL Top 100.

Judon’s acceleration and penetration make this a key matchup against Jackson, who has struggled in his early career to get his feet set — especially against speed rushers.

However, there is reason for optimism. Jackson, who has made the transition to right tackle after stints at left tackle and left guard, has impressed during camp.

“When Austin Jackson is playing right tackle, I’ve been very pleased”

Dolphins’ Head Coach Mike McDaniel

Jackson’s athleticism and intelligence gives him every chance to succeed in Miami’s new outside zone blocking scheme. However, the transition will not be an easy one, with Judon coming off a career high 12.5 sacks.

Injury Concerns

A number of Miami’s starters were limited in practice on Wednesday, however all 53 players on the roster practiced. Jaylen Waddle’s injury has officially been designated as a quad injury, with Nik Needham suffering a similar injury. Nevertheless, it is hoped that both will be fit for Sunday’s game.

As for the Patriots, Meyers (knee), OT Isaiah Wynn (back), and RB/WR Ty Montgomery (knee) were all limited during Wednesday’s practice.

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The Hidden Wrinkle in the Miami Dolphins Run Game

The Miami Dolphins significantly improved their offensive line, but it is their weaponry that could drastically improve their run game.

Photo Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins are preparing for their Week 1 matchup with the Patriots, and are doing so with some significant questions surrounding the team. However, none are bigger than the identity of their run game.

First year head coach Mike McDaniel’s run scheme, which he brings over from San Francisco, is lauded for both creativity and effectiveness. Whether it’s the variety of different looks, designed cutback lanes, or use of weapons such as Deebo Samuel, his ability to draw up successful run plays is a large part of what landed him the Miami job. Although, there is much work to do.

Miami’s offensive line had significant questions after finishing second-to-last in yards per carry in 2021, and even in adding high quality talent in Terron Armstead and Connor Williams, there remains cause for concern.

However, Mike McDaniel and Chris Grier have built this team in such a way where the offensive line isn’t the only advantage needed in the run game. It is the horizontal stretching, specifically by the deadly combo of Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill, that will keep defenses guessing.

Two High Safeties

Perhaps the most obvious effect of having two of the fastest receivers in the league is how defenses will play their safeties. Putting one high, which was really effective against both the run game and the short pass against the Miami Dolphins in 2021 won’t work this year. There are simply too many deep options that, even if teams don’t respect Tua Tagovailoa’s ability, he should be able to hit one every so often against one high safety.

Thus, teams will have to move back into two-high shells, which, in turn, takes one man out of the box. With a team that plans to run a lot of 11 personnel, it’s very possible we see a numbers advantage for the Miami Dolphins run game.

Not to mention, this also opens up the middle of the field, which is where Tua does his best work, as well as where Tyreek and Waddle have thrived.

Horizontal Stretching

Just as important as stretching out the defense vertically is what you can do from sideline-to-sideline. The Miami Dolphins are in a perfect situation to stretch defenses horizontally with their run game.

Not only will teams primarily have two high safeties on the field, they will have to protect the perimeter. This not only opens up the middle of the field, but also effectively takes those safeties out of a potential run play. Defenses will need to dedicate at least three defenders to the combination of Waddle and Hill (bracket one, put the best cornerback on the other). When combined with lighter boxes in scenarios where Miami trots out slot receiver Cedrick Wilson, it’s nearly impossible to stop all of the dynamic athletes.

For instance, picture this potential play in your head. Miami comes out in 20 personnel in the shotgun, with Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert to his left and right, Hill and Waddle on the perimeter, and Wilson in the slot. Teams already have to come out in a lighter package to account for the third receiver. However, if you send Edmonds on a bubble motion, that now draws out another defender from the box.

This now leaves an even lighter box for an offensive line that already creates numbers advantages through pulls, along with one of the fastest running backs in the league in Mostert with open gaps. Miami may not come out in gun often, but the point still stands. The opportunity to generate explosive plays in the run game should be there in this offense.

The Bottom Line on the Miami Dolphins Run Game

Miami’s offensive line, no matter the external factors, must succeed this season. Tua Tagovailoa has demonstrated severe drop-off when consistently pressured, and we already know how the run game is affected.

However, their job may be a little easier knowing defenses have to account for a litany of weapons, headlined by two of the fastest players in the NFL. It will certainly be interesting to see how Mike McDaniel employs his players and scheme in such a way that can stretch out defenses in Week 1 and beyond.

Miami Dolphins Rookies: Making the Most of Their Assets in 2022

The Miami Dolphins only had four picks in this past draft, but their rookies are impressive and ready to make an impact in 2022 and beyond.

Skylar Thompson - 2022 Dolphins rookie QB
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Miami, just like the rest of the NFL, has cut their rosters down to 53 players. Every team has surprises across the board, but perhaps none are as pleasant as the Miami Dolphins seeing several late round and undrafted rookies make the team in 2022.

As the roster stands, Miami has five rookies on their 2022 roster. Those include Channing Tindall, Erik Ezukanma, Skylar Thompson, Tanner Conner and Kader Kohou. As a team that only made four selections in the 2022 NFL draft and is looking to compete, it’s impressive that they view these five players, including two UDFAs, as guys who can contribute to winning football.

Each player presents an interesting case and path to production both, today and in the future. It’s only right to show how impressive they’ve been.

Miami Dolphins 2022 Rookie Class

Channing Tindall

The first of the Miami Dolphins rookies selected in 2022 came by way of Georgia, in the form of linebacker Channing Tindall. The third rounder was lauded for his speed, athleticism, and ability to make stops in the open field. Miami was in desperate need of another coverage linebacker, so there was a natural fit.

Channing Tindall has impressive speed.

Since arriving on the team, it’s been a quiet offseason for Tindall. We haven’t heard about many big plays in training camp, or seen them in preseason, but it seems like it’s only a matter of time. His athletic profile alone makes him potentially dangerous down the stretch, and as he gains more knowledge of the playbook and his responsibilities, he has the potential to make an impact.

Erik Ezukanma

After taking Tindall in the third, Miami went to the offensive side of the ball in the fourth, selecting Texas Tech wide receiver Erik Ezukanma. Miami had already spent significant draft capital at the position, signing Cedrick Wilson, and more notably, trading for Tyreek Hill. However, Ezukanma clearly brought a skill set the team lacked. His combination of excellent ball tracking in one-on-one situations and ability after the catch made him a perfect fit for Mike McDaniel’s offense, which thrives on getting players who strive in YAC scenarios.

Erik Ezukanma was impressive in training camp.

That fit has demonstrated itself time and time again throughout camp and the preseason, along with a veteran-like ability to sit down in the soft spot of zone coverage. Day after day in camp, “Eazy-E” was listed as one of the top performers, and even got some run with the starters. He has a skill set unique to not only this team, but most of the league. Thus, there is a clear path to playing time and overall contribution for Ezukanma.

Skylar Thompson

Up next is the most surprising — and impressive storyline — of them all. With one of Miami’s two picks in the seventh round, they decided to take a flier on a quarterback. While many disagreed with the pick, it has been Kansas State signal-caller Skylar Thompson who has shown, more than just about anyone else, why he deserves a spot on the roster.

Thompson had his flashes in camp, showing off his deep ball accuracy and ability to read the field. However, especially in the last game of the preseason, he truly showed that he fits the “gamer” label. Snap after snap, throw after throw, Thompson was getting through his progressions, showing above-average mobility, and, most impressively, showing top-notch deep ball accuracy.

Skylar Thompson has impressive deep ball accuracy.

When Mike McDaniel and general manager Chris Grier discuss Thompson, it’s clear that they feel like they struck gold. With his performances throughout the last month, it was clear that he would’ve been claimed of waivers. In making this roster, he has already exceeded that seventh round value.

Tanner Conner

Following the draft, Miami made it clear that they weren’t done, securing several top-end undrafted free agents. One of these was former Idaho State receiver Tanner Conner.

Conner is the most athletically gifted of the bunch, coming in at 6’3″ and running a 4.37 second 40-yard dash. However, as with any undrafted free agent, there were some questions with his game. In particular, if he could play receiver in the NFL. While physically imposing, he lacked refined route running skills and wasn’t proficient in attacking or high-pointing the football. However, Mike McDaniel had a plan for him, which involved a change of position.

Tanner Conner made the transition to a tight end and fullback role.

Tanner Conner has made the transition to tight end, also taking on the h-back role at times. This move, which perfectly embodied his potential as well as his current skill set, resulted in a newfound ceiling in his game.

Conner made several plays in training camp, and was a clear contributor in the preseason. Thus, Miami felt it was imperative that they keep him on the roster this upcoming season. Chris Grier even mentioned that other teams called to check on his status.

While this move is primarily for the future, Conner was able to come in, change positions, and make the roster all in a matter of months. An extremely impressive feat. If he continues to impress, there is a clear role for his skill set under this regime.

Kader Kohou

The last of the Miami Dolphins rookies from the 2022 class to make the roster might be the one with the biggest role. As a part of the aforementioned UDFA class, Miami signed Texas A&M-Commerce cornerback Kader Kohou.

In a group that featured Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Nik Needham, and high-end draft picks such as Noah Igbinohgene, Kohou was once thought of as an afterthought. However, with injuries to Jones, Needham, and Trill Williams, Miami’s cornerback room is at its thinnest. Luckily, Kohou has burst onto the scene and been a real contributor throughout this preseason.

Kader Kohou is sticky in man coverage.

His ability to stick in man coverage has been impressive, and perfectly fits a scheme that runs a high percentage of press-man and blitz looks. This will come in handy for Miami’s early games, while they eagerly await the return of Byron Jones.

However, Miami hit on yet another defensive back, and it will be exciting to see how Kohou performs, along with the rest of the Miami Dolphins rookies in 2022.

Miami Dolphins 53-Man Roster Prediction: Offense

With a new look offensive system, featuring plenty of new and exciting additions, which players will make the final 53 man roster? Dolphins ATB breakdown the key roster battles ahead of the final pre-season game.

Credit Miami Dolphins- Roster
Mandatory Credit: Miami Dolphins

In years gone by, Miami’s offense has been stagnant to say the least. While the likes of Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill, and Jaylen Waddle attract all of the headlines, a team is only as good as the depth it has on the roster. We break down which players will constitute the much anticipated Mike McDaniel offense in Miami, and who we think makes the Dolphins final 53-man roster.

Miami Dolphins 53-Man Roster Prediction: Offense

Quarterbacks

  • QB1- Tua Tagovailoa- Lock
  • QB2- Teddy Bridgewater- Lock
  • QB3- Skylar Thompson One to watch

It is somewhat surprising how little we have heard about Teddy Bridgewater during training camp, with Tua taking all of the headlines, both good and bad.

Rather, the biggest surprise has been the emergence of Skylar Thompson. The Dolphins’ 7th round draft pick has been both impressive and consistent throughout the Dolphins’ first two preseason games. During his first two outings in the aqua and orange, Thompson has gone 29/38 for 347 yards, 2 TDs and no picks.

“He looks like he belongs out there. He looks like if he got a call, he would be ready to go…The skill set we saw on tape is what we really liked. The makeup of the guy and the work ethic he has, has enabled him to do what he’s doing. The skill set is there…His feet speak to him and tell when the ball is supposed to be out and where it’s supposed to go. He’s really buying into the details.”

Dolphins’ QB Coach- Darrell Bevell was full of praise while talking about Skylar Thompson during this week’s media availability.

Thompson’s impressive performances have led many to question Bridgewater’s value on the Miami Dolphins 53-man roster, seeing the former Saints QB as a tradeable asset. For the time being at least, Bridgewater is expected to stay with Miami, leaving the Dolphins with the very difficult question of what to do with Thompson.

Available roster spots are few and far between. Miami has not carried three QBs on their final roster since the 2018 season with Ryan Tannehill, Brock Osweiler, and David Fales.

Thompson will not likely see the field during the 2022 season. However, if released, it is very likely that Thompson will not clear waivers, having shown enough to be picked up by another team.

In recent years, Miami has committed on average $6 million per year to their back-up QB. With cap space likely to be more of a concern from 2023 onwards with big deals for Hill and Armstead to account for, it may be that Thompson will be a cheaper alternative to acquiring a rental journeyman QB once more.

Running Back /Full Back

  • Chase Edmonds- Lock
  • Alec Ingold- Lock
  • Raheem Mostert- Likely Lock
  • Myles Gaskin/ Salvon Ahmed- Ones to Watch

Miami’s running back depth is perhaps one of the biggest questions heading into the final preseason game. The battle between Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed being the biggest unknown in relation to who makes the Miami Dolphins’ final 53-man roster. Gaskin was consistently the Dolphins’ best running back during the Brian Flores era; his productivity in an otherwise stagnant offense gives him the slight edge on Ahmed.

ZaQuandre White most likely will make it to the practice squad, and may feature during the season given Mostert’s injury history.

Wide Receiver

  • Tyreek Hill- Lock
  • Jaylen Waddle- Lock
  • Erik Ezukanma- Lock
  • Cedrick Wilson- Lock
  • Trent Sherfield- Ones to Watch
  • Lynn Bowden Jr- Ones to Watch

While the above players are locks to make the team for their contributions on offense, the remaining roster spots will most likely be influenced by a player’s contributions to special teams. Lynn Bowden’s all round versatility as a receiver, rusher, returner, and even in the passing game, ought to earn him a roster spot.

The Trent Sherfield/River Cracraft battle is likely to be fiercely contested. Let us not forget that Cracraft was an early recipient of the infamous orange jersey. However, Sherfield’s contributions during camp and overall explosiveness give him the edge.

Preston Williams is likely to be cut, with Braylon Sanders hopefully making his way to the practice squad following an impressive training camp.

Tight End

  • Mike Gesicki- Question Mark
  • Durham Smythe- Lock
  • Hunter Long- Lock

TE was one of Miami’s biggest strengths, now it is one of their biggest unknowns. One thing is for sure: Cethan Carter is almost an inevitability to be cut. Durham Smythe and Hunter Long have been quiet throughout camp. Undrafted free agent Tanner Conner has impressed, however his immediate future seems destined for the practice squad.

What Miami does with Mike Gesicki remains to be seen. It is likely that he will stay, however, one thing is clear: something is not right. Gesicki has been quiet all offseason and has featured long into preseason games, while other starters have been on limited snap counts. Check out fellow Dolphins ATB writer Tim Rodriguez’s article addressing the latest rumors surrounding the star tight end.

Offensive Line

  • Terron Armstead- Lock
  • Connor Williams- Lock
  • Robert Hunt- Lock
  • Liam Eichenberg- Lock
  • Austin Jackson- Lock
  • Michael Deiter- Lock
  • Robert Jones- Likely
  • Solomon Kindley- One to Watch

Here we go again… At least it can’t get any worse… yet! There is no disputing that the additions of Terron Armstead and Connor Williams have certainly bolstered an otherwise woeful offensive line.

With Williams repeatedly struggling with snapping consistency, Michael Deiter has to be a lock to make the final roster in the event that Williams needs to shift back over to LG. The biggest concern has to be at tackle in the event that Armstead goes down. The Dolphins have a lot of versatility on the interior offensive line — not so much at tackle. McDaniel and GM Chris Grier may elect for further depth at tackle in the form of Larnel Coleman rather than Solomon Kindley.

Miami Dolphins: The Mike Gesicki conundrum

Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki
Photo Credit: Willfredo Lee/AP Photo

The Miami Dolphins have a conundrum on their hands and his name is Mike Gesicki. Gesicki, now playing for his third head coach in five seasons, seems to be the odd man out in Miami these days. New head coach Mike McDaniel is bringing the only offense he has ever coached to the Dolphins: the Shanahan-inspired wide zone running scheme. His newly franchise tagged tight end may not exactly be a perfect fit.

With his most challenging training camp coming to a close soon, Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki finds himself in a precarious position.

The biggest hurdle

The biggest question mark around Mike Gesicki’s game has, and always will be, about his blocking ability. As a rookie, former head coach Adam Gase put him in far too many situations where he was blocking pass rushers one on one.

The next regime and their 43 different play callers were able to maximize his strengths. Putting the big body tight end either in the slot or out wide allowed him to flash his freakish athleticism as a pass catcher.

Whether it was Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jacoby Brissett, or Tua Tagovailoa throwing him the ball, Gesicki shined. 

New challenges

Mike Gesicki’s struggles as a blocker are now even more highlighted in this new offense. Miami’s second preseason game against the Las Vegas Raiders was an example of where Gesicki will struggle. He struggled for most of the night to block efficiently. Even his greatest strength failed him on a third down pass early in the game that bounced off his chest. 

Gesicki’s performance on Saturday has been the topic of discussion since the game ended. Tua Tagovailoa, Mike McDaniel, and tight ends coach Jon Embree were all asked about his struggles against the Raiders. Each expressed confidence in his ability to bounce back and continue to improve.

Gesicki bounced back in a big way in Tuesday’s practice, and saw more action than he typically has in camp. Wednesday’s joint practice with the Philadelphia Eagles saw Gesicki make an impressive grab in 11-on-11 periods. 

What does the future hold for Mike Gesicki?

Reports of Miami seeking to trade the tight end have been shot down by local beat writers. So what does Miami do with Mike Gesicki? If they plan to have him on the field, it is going to be in a more traditional tight end role. His price tag absolutely dictates him being on the field.

However, his blocking ability, or lack thereof, will always stop him from being a fit for this offense.  He can improve as a blocker, but will always be limited. He’s a tall and lanky player, with much more upper body strength than lower. Blocking will always be a mission.

This may be Gesicki’s last year with the Dolphins, but he at least appears to be in their immediate plans.