Aug 22, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) runs his route during the first quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
New England split the season series with the Dolphins last season, winning 27-17 in week 8 and losing 24-20 in week 15. In the first match-up New England came back from a 17-3 halftime deficit behind an opportunistic defense and taking advantage of a some sloppy play by Miami. In that game, the Dolphins kept the Patriots passing offense in neutral. A large part of that was through taking away leading receiver Julien Edelman who was held to 2 receptions for just 7 yards as Miami’s top cornerback Brent Grimes locked him up. Fellow slot receiver Danny Amendola fared no better as he was held to 3 receptions for 15 yards by strong coverage from Miami slot corner Jimmy Wilson.
In week 15 the Patriots were shorthanded at wide receiver with Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson out. In addition, tight end Rob Gronkowski was out with his ACL injury occurring the week prior versus Cleveland. The Patriots were forced to give current practice squad receiver Josh Boyce and free agent pickup Austin Collie considerable playing time that game. As such, the Patriots leaned heavily on Edelman and Amendola, as Brady targeted the duo for a combined 31 passes (per ProFootballFocus.com) during the game. The game is remembered as the one where Tom Brady seemingly lost all confidence in Amendola when he dropped the game-winning pass in the end zone with 27 seconds left in the game. Amendola had just 6 total receptions over the last 5 games of the season (including the playoffs).
In week one it will be interesting to see if the Dolphins go back to shadowing Edelman with Brent Grimes. The Dolphins brought in free agent cornerback Cortland Finnegan, a feisty cornerback who made a mark in Tennessee shutting down slot receivers. Finnegan may be called on to cover Edelman or Amendola when they are on the field and free up Grimes to cover another receiver. The individual matchups in the middle of the field are important to the Patriots’ offense and slowing down the diminutive slot receivers is a big part of keeping the Dolphins’ defense off the field.