While the Dolphins are by no means and easy opponent, they’re very much beatable even with rookie Mac Jones making his first career NFL start for the Patriots.
You don’t think head coach Bill Belichick has been planning for this? It’s all he’s been doing for the past two months.
Though the Pats took down Miami to open the 2020 season, the Dolphins took it to them later in the year, gashing them on the ground for over 250 yards and controlling the clock throughout. It felt like New England never stood a chance in the 22-12 loss, which had us worried this might set the tone in regard to the direction these two teams were heading.
But a lot has changed since then. Did the Dolphins actually get better? That’s up for debate. On the other hand, the Patriots have made sweeping changes and likely learned from countless shortcomings in 2020 with an undesirable roster due to all the unfavorable circumstances.
Now that the Pats have valuable film from last year to work with, they can make this a stress-free victory if they follow the right blueprint.
The Patriots need to exploit these three matchups against the Dolphins in Week 1.
3. Patriots Pass Rush vs Tua Tagovailoa
Did Tua Tagovailoa get enough run his rookie season to prepare for 2021? That’s certainly up for debate after head coach Brian Flores made puzzling executive decisions to switch back to Ryan Fitzpatrick and only start Tagovailoa for nine games.
We’ll see if that hindered the former Alabama quarterback’s development, but one thing we do know is that he struggles when pressured. Now that he’ll be entering the 2021 season under a new offensive system, we could see struggles in that same department when the first snap is taken.
According to Pro Football Focus, when under pressure in 2020, Tagovailoa made just one big-time throw and added seven turnover-worthy plays. Isn’t the Patriots’ trademark on defense getting after the quarterback and forcing turnovers?
Now, with Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy back in the fold as well as the additions of Matthew Judon, Davon Godchaux and Henry Anderson, the Patriots’ front seven won’t be anything close to what Miami saw twice in 2020. Not to mention, Josh Uche, Chase Winovich, Ronnie Perkins and Christian Barmore want their reps, too. This defense is deep, and it can get after the quarterback.
Tagovailoa will be under a LOT more pressure than he was in Week 15 of last year. Let the turnovers flow!