The New England Patriots have long been the bullies of the AFC East but there are some who believe the Miami Dolphins are on the brink of changing that statement. Here is a look at how both teams match up against each other.
This is the only position group that the Patriots have an obvious leg up on the Dolphins, but it is a very important position. Tom Brady is a better player than Ryan Tannehill. Tom Brady is a better player than just about anybody to ever put on a helmet and pads.
Tom Brady simply has figured it out. He knows how to manipulate each and every defense, allowing him to essentially do as he pleases when on the field. It is very difficult to completely stop Tom Brady. Ryan Tannehill may have better mobility, but Brady’s pocket presence paired with his football IQ make him an unbeatable talent.
Here is where the tables start to turn. Jay Ajayi (as many already know) exploded on to the scene in 2016 and proved to be one of the elite runners in this game. His ability to pound the ball up the middle along with his elusiveness makes him a very difficult back to bring down.
The talent goes beyond Jay Train. Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams are extremely talented runners who take turns spelling out Jay Ajayi. Drake has elite speed, as shown by his lone touchdown run of 2016, giving him the role of a third-down back. Williams has the goal line presence that many teams covet. It is near impossible stopping Damien Williams on consecutive goal line attempts.
Now on to the other side… New England has one of the more difficult backfields in the league to determine, but that does not mean it is a weakness for the team. Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis and James White are the players we’re talking about. Each player brings a unique style to their team.
None of the aforementioned backs are 3-down players, but with Bill Belichick running the team, you can bet that the running game will still figure out a way to become a strength for the team. Each of their players can be a difference-maker.
The Dolphins have the better all around back and equal abilities behind the starter, and therefore come down with the advantage.
Advantage: Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins have one of the stronger receiving corps in the league, so it would be hard to top them. Jarvis Landry is who he is, and we all know what he can do. Devante Parker has polarizing abilities and looks like a prototype “Number One” wide out. He can run with the ball; he can go up and get the ball; he can catch the ball from just about anywhere; he simply has everything you could ask for.
On to Kenny Stills, who led his team in touchdowns a season ago. Stills is one of the faster receivers in this league, consistently reeling in touchdowns of over 20 yards throughout the season. These three players provide Ryan Tannehill with an elite arsenal at his disposal.
The New England Patriots added Brandin Cooks to a room that already has Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan. They certainly have an effective group of pass-catchers, but Tom Brady multiplies their abilities and gets the best out of each receiver.
But we are only looking at the abilities and potential of the wide receivers by themselves. The Dolphins’ combination of youth and skill set give them another edge over the Patriots. Devante Parker has the best potential of anybody on this list and Juice Landry has already proven himself as one of the best in the game.
Any time Kenny Stills is your number three receiver, you know you’re doing something right. Although New England might have four productive receivers compared to three, the Dolphins ultimately come down with the edge in this one.
Advantage: Miami Dolphins
Rob Gronkowski is just a mountain of a man who can catch the ball well and run through nearly every defender. Pairing him with Dwayne Allen solidifies a very talented tight end group. Allen is very effective in the blocking game and provides a very strong set of hands that can be lethal in the endzone.
On the other hand, Julius Thomas is no weak link. Just a few years ago, Thomas was reeling in touchdown after touchdown in consecutive record-setting seasons. He has dropped off a bit, in large part due to his quarterback change from Peyton Manning to Blake Bortles. Nonetheless, the former basketball star is very talented at finding the crack in the defense and has tremendous athletic ability.
Beyond Thomas would be Anthony Fasano, the number ONE rated blocking tight end in all of football a season ago. That title can work wonders for a team. He made Demarco Murray look like an absolute stud. His mountain-moving presence on the end of a line brings a large advantage to the Miami offense.
All in all, you cannot take the crown from Gronk; he repeatedly is the best tight end in the game when healthy. Also, bringing in a talented Allen makes a near-perfect tight end duo.
Advantage: New England Patriots
Mike Pouncey is one of the best centers in the game and Laremy Tunsil is working his way into the same conversation at left tackle. Beyond these two is a group of average to above-average players to round out the offensive line. The Dolphins lack elite guard play and have for years. This line has improved each of the last few seasons in nearly every major statistic. With a talented back, look for this group to make the leap into elite play this season.
The Patriots simply just have five starters who are good players, but not great. None of these guys are going to start in the Pro Bowl, but none of these guys are going to lose a game for their team. They simply just do their job and don’t let mistakes get the best of them.
Tom Brady doesn’t need much around him to succeed, as he has proved throughout his entire career. His offensive line play, especially going into this next season, is just a good unit. With that said, the Dolphins have a few players on the line that might not even start the entire season. This gives the Patriots the final nod on offense.
Advantage: New England Patriots
Cameron Wake has been a Pro Bowl talent nearly every year he’s been in the league, and the same can be said for Ndamukong Suh. They have their side of the line locked down. Jordan Phillips has made improvements each year in the league and has great potential. Andre Branch and rookie Charles Harris look like a very talented group of guys that can man the spot opposite Wakezilla.
The addition of William Hayes brings an elite run-stopping presence on the edge of the line. With the ability to burst off the line like no other, Charles Harris could take over the starting spot opposite Cam Wake and make this group one of the best in the league.
The Patriots defensive line can be described similarly to their offensive line; good, not great. Once again, you’re not going to find any New England defensive linemen in the Pro Bowl, but there is plenty of talent along the line and adequate depth.
The addition of Kony Ealy does make this group look intriguing, but letting Jabaal Sheard walk certainly hurts them more than it helps them. They have some talented young defensive tackles to pair with Trey Flowers to round out the unit.
All in all, these two teams are fairly close. But it is tough for any team to match the duo of Wake and Suh and the depth along the line that Miami has. With that said, the Dolphins take this award from their division rival.
Advantage: Miami Dolphins
Kiko Alonso could jump right back into his rookie season and become an elite starting linebacker in this league. Raekwon McMillan is a great run-stuffing presence playing on the outside. Lawrence Timmons has been a very good linebackers his whole career, almost never missing a game. The talent is assuredly there with this team. The depth is very serviceable as well with Koa Misi being a long time starting linebacker with great position flexibility along the linebacker spots.
The problem is they must put it all together. It certainly looks like this position group will finally not be the worst on the team for the Miami Dolphins. They have a great nucleus of talent that can match nearly any team in this league. If this group clicks the way it could, look for this group to be elite.
The Patriots have one of the best middle linebackers in the game with Dont’a Hightower and a very talented veteran linebacker on the outside with Rob Ninkovich. Beyond these two it gets a little foggy with Kyle Van Noy and free agent acquisition Shea McClellin.
With the great talent at the top of the depth chart for the Patriots, it would be difficult to not give them the advantage. But Timmons and Alonso are elite players that very well could both have career years. Koa Misi and Raekwon McMillan also provide appropriate competition in a position that needs competition. With that said, it is difficult to sway one way or the other.
Advantage: Very close, but New England Patriots
The Miami Dolphins are quietly building one of the more elite secondaries in the league. They have an abundant amount of youth and skill that gives sky-high potential.
Xavien Howard and Tony Lippett are both looking like very strong young corners with Howard showing possible “Shut-down” features. Bobby McCain and Cordrea Tankersley provide the team with a very talented group of young backups who can step in at nearly any part of the season.
Byron Maxwell serves as the leader of the group, being that he is the oldest. The veteran cornerback certainly turned it on throughout the back half of the 2016 season. He will start the season as the number one CB with Howard not far behind and Lippett breathing down both of their necks.
The addition of T.J. McDonald certainly pushes this group over the edge. Although he will not play until possibly the 9th game of the upcoming season, the thought of him pairing with Reshad Jones provides a scary duo of safeties that both have hard-hitting ways about them. Both players are ball hawks with pro bowl potential.
The Patriots certainly make a statement with their top two corners: Stephon Gilmore and Malcolm Butler. Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty provide the team with some above-average starting safeties that can do some harm and put fear into opposing quarterback’s eyes.
Beyond the starters in the Patriots’ secondary, there is not much to deal with. With that said, the Dolphins certainly have better depth than their division rivals. The Dolphins have the better safeties and the Pats have the better corners.
The nod, then, is given to the Dolphins simply because they have better depth throughout the lineup.
Advantage: Close again, but Miami Dolphins
As you can see, the Dolphins and Patriots both have their advantages. Even though the Dolphins might have a few more advantages, it is obvious what has been the deciding factor for the last decade: Tom Brady. The man is a game changer.
Once Ryan Tannehill finally makes the leap into the elite category, his team might be able to put up some consistent competition for Tom Brady. Until then, the Patriots are going to reign supreme.
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