1. Protect Tua Tagovailoa
This will be key for the offense to flourish in New England. Like all quarterbacks, Tua Tagovailoa has historically performed better when not facing pressure. Tua has some high level pocket presence and has shown an impressive ability to maneuver away from pressure, but his accuracy still takes a hit when he’s moved off his spot or forced to throw earlier than he would like.
The interior offensive line shouldn’t have too much trouble on Sunday. Fans are familiar enough with Davon Godchaux to know he isn’t a dominant pass rusher. The same can be said for Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise Jr., and Henry Anderson who will likely all see snaps from the interior.
They are all solid players, but not game wreckers. Miami has also been more steady with their interior pass blocking. Michael Deiter looked good this preseason while Solomon Kindley and Robert Hunt have both been competent pass blockers thus far in their career. The only wild card here could be 2021 second round selection Christian Barmore.
Where the Miami Dolphins should be most concerned is with protecting their edge. The offensive tackles have struggled so far in preseason and the team is likely to be without their starting left tackle, Austin Jackson. That could mean either Liam Eichenberg making his first NFL start in New England or Greg Little stepping in.
This could be a problem because the Patriots have amassed a really underrated group of edge rushers. Josh Uche and Chase Winovich are young pass rushers on the rise. Free agent addition Mathew Judon is an established (if not totally dominant) player and our old friend Kyle Van Noy had his best season playing primarily off the edge for Bill Belichick. Throw in 2021 third round pick Ronnie Perkins, and Miami’s tackles could have their hands full.
Can New England cover Miami’s receivers?
My answer would have to be no. The Patriots will be without their star corner Stephon Gilmore this weekend and his replacement Jalen Mills was a non-participant in Thursday’s practice. Even with Jalen Mills on the field, the Dolphins have enough receiver depth to create some difficult matchups for the Patriots.
This is partly why it will be critical for the Dolphins to give Tua time to throw the ball. If the Patriots come into Sunday’s game without Gilmore or Jalen Mills, they won’t sit back and allow Tagovailoa to pick them apart. They’re going to be coming after him.