The Miami Dolphins don’t have Tom Brady but Tom Brady doesn’t have Mike Wallace and questions surround the availability of top TE Rob Gronkowski. Now word is filtering out of New England that Aaron Hernandez is in some hot water stemming from a close associates death and a shooting in Florida that Hernandez was involved with. While both TE’s are huge parts of the New England Patriots offense, it’s the Miami offense that may have experts scratching their heads over who will ultimately sit atop the AFC East version of “Game of Thrones“.
For years the Patriots have ruled supreme, a minor hiccup in Bill Parcells first year in Miami saw the Patriots drop to second place albeit by tie-breakers and no Tom Brady but they have since returned and lost in the Super Bowl since. The Patriots are the perennial favorites to win it all when it comes to the division and for the most part the entire AFC. The Dolphins are not there and it would not be a stretch to argue they are far from being there. No matter what a team does in the off-season, until they perform on the field, nothing really matters.
Still, you can compare two teams and call it what it is. An early comparison. The chips will lie where they fall once the season begins. Ryan Tannehill has not yet had the meteoric rise that Tom Brady had and it’s hard to imagine he will but the Dolphins have improved the team around him. Michael Wallace is a deep threat option which on paper should free Brian Hartline on the other side. Include Brandon Gibson and Dustin Keller into the equation and the Dolphins have a formidable offense. You can’t compare apples to apples here. The Dolphins offense will not play against the Patriots offense.
The Pat’s defense has been good but they haven’t been great and questions continue to linger especially in the secondary. The Patriots haven’t been able to lock down the positions as well as they hoped and while they have received great play from their LB’s they have not nearly enough from their front line and that front line will be asked to collapse the pocket on Tannehill and stop the Dolphins faster paced offense. The Dolphins have been unable for their part to stop the Patriots offense at all as well. Unfortunately, it may be for a lack of play makers on the Patriots than anything else if it happens this year.
With Wes Welker gone the Patriots are hoping that Danny Amendola will step into the number one target role. Amendola can handle the slot and the outside but he also can be brittle. Last season he missed considerable time twice with broken clavicles. Injury is a serious concern for the Patriots. Not his talent. From Amendola the Patriots are relying on six year journeyman WR Michael Jenkins and Lavelle Hawkins to go with a couple of freshman as they enter the last month before training camp begins.
With the injury problems to Gronkowski and possible legal problems for Hernandez the Patriots could become thinner very quickly. Where they do have talent is at the RB position and they may be forced to move towards a running attack that they were not planning for. While power back Legaratte Blount has not impressed in OTA’s, Stevan Ridley and Branden Bolden are returning after having solid years. The problem is the Patriots are a passing team and rely on high scoring affairs to mask their defensive inequities. It’s an opening that a good training camp could give the Dolphins an opportunity to expose.
Every year is a battle but the Patriots have found every year that the battle resides after the season has ended, this year, that battle may rage from start to finish. The Dolphins have gotten stronger…on paper. The Patriots not so much. On paper as well.