New England Passing Offense vs Miami Passing Defense
Jimmy Garoppolo had a great first game as a starter in New England last week. He completed 24 of 33 passes for 264 yards and a touchdown. Of course, the coaches have been getting him ready for Arizona since May. This time, he has only a week to get ready for a Miami defense which all but shutdown Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks last week.
The Dolphins’ defense held Russell Wilson to 258 yards passing sacking him three times and causing two turnovers (one interception and one fumble). The Seahawks punted six times and with two turnovers and a failed fourth down conversion it is clear that the Dolphins defense did enough to win.
The Patriots passing attack will have to work the match-ups against the Dolphins secondary. Byron Maxwell was traded for to replace Brent Grimes as the top cornerback and second round draft pick Xavien Howard stepped into the starting lineup as the number two cornerback after a strong summer and preseason. Howard is dinged-up after week one and no one in Miami wants to see the long, lanky Maxwell trying to keep up with the smaller and shiftier receivers in New England such as Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman.
If Howard is out it is a big hit to the Miami secondary as he would likely be assigned to cover Edelman while nickel cornerback Bobby McCain would take Amendola. Maxwell should have Chris Hogan or Malcolm Mitchell outside the numbers where he plays best. Tony Lippett and Jordan Lucas are the depth cornerbacks and contribute primarily on special teams. If either is on the field with the defense expect Garoppolo to target them immediately.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski is expected to miss his second straight game putting more pressure on Martellus Bennett as the top cornerback. Miami has linebacker Jelani Jenkins healthy and he and free safeties Isa Abdul-Quddus and Reshad Jones will have coverage responsibilities for Bennett, A.J. Derby, Clay Harbor, James Develin, D.J. Foster, or James White (depending on who is out on the field for New England).
Miami was able to get after Russell Wilson with just four rushers much of the game last week with Ndamukong Suh, Jordan Phillips, Mario Williams and Cameron Wake providing much of the pressure. Williams is in the concussion protocols, Phillips is questionable with an ankle injury, and long-time thorn in New England’s side Earl Mitchell is on injured reserve. That should help take some pressure off the New England offensive line which has Nate Solder (hamstring), Shaq Mason (hand), and Marcus Cannon (knee) on the injury report as questionable.
Expect the Patriots to continue to attack defenses with the 3X1 look (three wide receivers and one tight end) until Gronkowski returns. Edelman will remain the primary receiver working underneath and letting Garoppolo get the ball out quickly. Per ESPN.com, Garoppolo was 10 of 11 for 126 yards with five first downs and a touchdown when throwing to Edelman and Hogan. Expect that game plan to continue until someone can stop it.