Week 2 is upon us and the Dolphins head to Foxborough to play the Patriots on Sunday night. Having lost Week 1 against Philadelphia, New England looks to bounce back with an important divisional win against Miami.
In their last matchup at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots eked out a 23-21 victory over the Dolphins. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was absent due to lingering concussions issues forcing the Dolphins to rely on tandem Teddy Bridgewater and Skylar Thompson.
Tua has posted an undefeated record against the Patriots. In the four games played against a Belichick led team, Tua has a modest combined stat-line of 726 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. That averages out to about 182 yards per game. If Tua wants to extend his win streak, he will need to make more of an impact this time around.
Tagovailoa faces a flourishing New England defense which limited quarterback Jalen Hurts to 170 yards and 1 touchdown on 22 completions. New England pressured Hurts a total of 14 times - this included 3 sacks, 9 hurries and 2 hits.
Aside from 5 pressures against the Chargers, Tua was relatively untouched from the pocket. Belichick will look to change this, utilizing key players such as linebackers Josh Uche and Matthew Judon who both registered sacks against the Eagles. Another player to watch out for is rookie Keion White who led team defense in quarterback hurries with 4.
In the offseason, the Patriots brought back Bill O’Brien to reset a somewhat stale offense. Despite the loss last Sunday, New England seem to have turned a corner. Mac Jones put up a respectable 316 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. His main target was Kendrick Bourne who on 11 targets caught the ball 6 times for 64 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Although Bourne was heavily targeted, it remains to be seen whether or not he is Mac’s true number 1 option. Aside from his two touchdowns, his numbers mirror most of the Patriots playmakers.
Kendrick Bourne: 6 receptions, 64 yards
Rhamondre Stevenson: 6 receptions, 64 yards
Ezekiel Elliott: 5 receptions, 14 yards
Hunter Henry: 5 receptions, 56 yards
Demario Douglas: 4 receptions, 40 yards
Juju Smith-Schuster: 4 receptions, 33 yards
Mike Gesicki: 3 receptions, 36 yards
Ty Montgomery: 2 receptions, 9 yards
With the majority hovering well below 100 yards on about 4-6 receptions, it is clear that the Patriots do not have a true playmaker who can stretch the field. Against the Chargers, DC Vic Fangio had to be very cautious about the deeper parts of the field which resulted in a sub-par run defense. This week, Fangio may not have to worry about the deep ball, allowing him to focus more on run support.
Rhamondre & YAC
One player Fangio may have to key in on is third year player Rhamondre Stevenson. Stevenson only ran the ball 12 times for 25 yards against the Eagles but that was partially because the Patriots were trailing early on and were forced to throw the ball.
He was more effective in the passing game, catching the ball 6 times for 64 yards. He had 69 yards of YAC (yards after catch) averaging 11.5 yards of YAC per reception. Averaging over 10 yards is dangerous for a Miami defense who had difficulty keeping someone like Austin Ekeler -a YAC favorite - under wraps. Fangio will need to emphasize sound tackling when covering the elusive Stephenson in passing situations.