New England Patriots

  • Patriots football is back, which means so is our weekly key matchups post. Each week during the season, we’ll take a look at three head-to-head battles (sometimes they’ll be one-on-one, sometimes more out-of-the-box) that project to have a significant outcome on that week’s game.

    Both the Patriots and Dolphins come into the season with a similar outlook as teams expected to make a playoff push while facing significant overarching questions. For the Patriots, those questions revolve around a new offensive philosophy and coaching staff, as well as a rebuilt secondary. Meanwhile, the Dolphins begin their first season under first-time head coach Mike McDaniel, as quarterback Tua Tagovailoa enters a crucial third season – with a new top receiver in Tyreek Hill.

    How will these new elements impact the game on Sunday? Let’s take a look…

  • When New England has the ball: Patriots offensive line vs. Dolphins defensive line

    Dec 6, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) and New England Patriots center David Andrews (60) point to the Los Angeles Chargers defense during the second quarter at SoFi Stadium. Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

    Dec 6, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) and New England Patriots center David Andrews (60) point to the Los Angeles Chargers defense during the second quarter at SoFi Stadium. Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

    As the Patriots have tried to implement this new zone blocking scheme throughout the summer, the biggest roadblock on the field has been the offensive line. The running game has been stagnant, and pass protection inconsistent.

    In the two games against the Dolphins last season, the Patriots ran the ball well, averaging 4.54 yards per carry on 57 carries. However, Mac Jones was pressured on 31.1 percent of his drop backs.

    When the teams meet for the first time in 2022, four of the Patriots’ five offensive line positions will have different starters than the games last year. Center David Andrews is the only returner, while tackles Trent Brown and Isaiah Wynn have switched sides, and Michael Onwenu is now at right guard after starting last year’s opener at left guard (he didn’t start in the second meeting in 2021).

    The new starting five still looked like work in progress last time we saw them in game action, which was in the preseason finale against the Raiders. How much progress has been made since then? That question will likely be answered quickly on Sunday.

  • Sports Hub Patriots Season Preview w/ Alex Barth and Matt Dolloff


    (Click here to subscribe to Patriots Audio on 98.5 The Sports Hub.)

  • When Miami has the ball: Tyreek Hill vs. Jonathan Jones

    Dec 8, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) can't get to a pass in front of New England Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones (31) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    Dec 8, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) can’t get to a pass in front of New England Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones (31) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    The Patriots’ slot-heavy cornerback room will be a storyline throughout the season, but it could actually be a benefit in Week 1. With Hill and Jaylen Waddle as the Dolphins’ top receivers, the more fast and shifty cornerbacks a team has, the better.

    That being said, a stylistic fit doesn’t necessarily mean an even matchup. However, that has been the case when it comes to Jonathan Jones. As NFL Network’s Taylor Kyles pointed out earlier this week, since the 2018 AFC Championship Game Jonathan Jones has had the bulk of the coverage responsibilities against Hill without the help of double coverage when the Patriots played the Chiefs. Hill hasn’t had more than 64 receiving yards in any of those games.

    “I would say Jon Jones doesn’t get a lot of credit on our team over the last few years,” Devin McCourty told reporters on Thursday. “I think his ability physically to run with Tyreek Hill – as much as anybody can run with him – and go out there and compete against him, I think you pair that together with the game-plans that we’ve had, it’s been pretty good.”

    That game-plan may have worked in the past, but that was against Hill in his role in the Kansas City offense. Will it be the same against whatever way the Dolphins’ deploy Hill? Asked about the unknown that is Hill’s role in Miami, Bill Belichick said on Wednesday, “I think that’s the big thing. We’ll see how they play him, how they use him. Might be different than Kansas City, might not, we’ll see.”

  • Bonus: Bill Belichick vs. Mike McDaniel

    MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - JULY 27: Head coach Mike McDaniel of the Miami Dolphins looks on during training camp at Baptist Health Training Complex on July 27, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA – JULY 27: Head coach Mike McDaniel of the Miami Dolphins looks on during training camp at Baptist Health Training Complex on July 27, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    In previous years, the coaching matchup in this game had been a focus with Belichick facing off against his long-time assistant, Brian Flores. The Patriots come into this game with just one win against the Dolphins in their last five games, all of which saw Flores on the opposing sideline. Whether Flores’ internal familiarity with the Patriots had an impact or not, he certainly gave them trouble. It will be interesting to see how Miami’s approach changes (or doesn’t change) with McDaniel at the helm.

    There have only been a handful of coaching matchups in NFL history more lopsided in terms of resumes. Belichick has 321 career wins while McDaniel, who is beginning his first season as a head coach after being hired by Miami back in February, is coaching his first career game. There have only been seven other games with such a disparity, all involving Don Shula late in his career.

    At the same time, the two coaches have had polar opposite offseasons. McDaniel has received nearly universal praise as a rising star in the coaching field as he takes over in Miami. Meanwhile, Belichick has faced intense scrutiny mainly for the way he has constructed his coaching staff.

    “It would be a bigger deal, I think, if Coach Belichick and I were on the field maybe doing like an Oklahoma drill,” McDaniel joked about the matchup this week. “But I don’t foresee that happening. I don’t think the fans would really pay for that.” McDaniel also called Belichick “arguably the best coach of all time.”

    “I haven’t had a lot of cross over with Coach McDaniel. Talked to him at the owners’ meetings and saw him down there, but that’s really about the extent of it,” Belichick said of McDaniel when asked earlier this week. “Obviously have a lot of respect for Kyle [Shanahan] and his staff and what they’ve done with the 49ers, and I know Mike’s a big part of that.”

  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.