Patriots-Dolphins: 5 Players to Watch

Usually, the first regular season game of the year is the most unpredictable. Despite what you watch in the preseason, there are still question marks surrounding the team and individual players. We’ve seen teams go undefeated in the preseason and look horrible in the regular season, and teams go winless in the preseason and find great success in the regular season. You just don’t know exactly what you’re getting from your starting unit, and the other team’s for that matter, until they actually suit up and play in the regular season.

Keeping with the question marks theme, there are five key players entering the game on Monday night with a level of uncertainty surrounding them. Here are the five players I’m looking to see hopefully answer some questions against the Dolphins:

1. RG Brian Waters. Waters joined the team after the conclusion of the preseason and he did not take part in any training camps. With injuries to Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell, Waters will likely be starting at right guard. Aside from the injuries, even being a little long in the tooth, Waters is still probably the most talented out of that trio of guards. Is he in game shape? Has he learned the offense fast enough to be effective?

2. LT/RT Nate Solder. Solder showed promise in the preseason coming in as the Patriots’ first round pick. Regular starting RT Sebastian Vollmer missed the last preseason game with a back injury and Solder started in his place. Solder held his own, albeit not against the Giants’ starters. With Vollmer not having practiced all week, Solder will likely be starting at right tackle. Is he ready for the big stage? Can he handle the Dolphins’ big-time pass rusher, Cameron Wake?

3. Safeties Not Named Patrick Chung. It’s unclear who will be starting at safety alongside Patrick Chung after former starter Brandon Meriweather was cut. Sergio Brown is the leading candidate, but Josh Barrett and James Ihedigbo could see time there as well. Will the Patriots rotate their safeties in and out? Can the new safety duo(s) play and communicate effectively?

4. DT Albert Haynesworth. So here we go. After a somewhat promising showing in the preseason finale, Haynesworth is listed as “Questionable” on the Patriots’ injury report with an “illness.” Will Haynesworth be healthy enough to play? If he does play, will he be effective? Can he return to his old dominating self from his later Tennessee Titan days?

5. WR Chad Ochocinco. Ochocinco admittedly struggled picking up the Patriots’ offense. His struggles were evident in the preseason games, as he dropped passes and was not on the same page as Tom Brady at all times. Has Ochocinco become more comfortable in the Patriots’ offense in the time following the final preseason game? Can he become a reliable target for Tom Brady? Will he hold the offense back?

Despite these question marks, I do expect the Patriots to win the game Monday night. Nobody said it is going to be easy though, and if these questions don’t get answered or are answered negatively, we could see a dolphins upset.

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Tags: Albert Haynesworth Brian Waters Chad Ochocinco James Ihedigbo Josh Barrett Miami Dolphins Monday Night Football Nate Solder New England Patriots NFL Patrick Chung Patriots Game Preview Sergio Brown Tom Brady

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