The last time the New England Patriots defense had to go up against the Miami Dolphins, the unit failed to consistently shut down the opposing offense en route to a last second defeat that is now known as the “Miami Miracle.” A lot has changed over the nine months since that game, however — from head coach Adam Gase getting fired to numerous offense, including quarterback Ryan Tannehill, leaving the club.
The new-look Dolphins offense, meanwhile, struggled mightily last week against the Baltimore Ravens: it put up just 200 yards of offense, converted only one in three third downs, and most importantly was able to score a mere 10 points compared to Baltimore’s 59. All in all, the unit now coordinated by former Patriots wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea will have to go up against a defense that surrendered just three points in Week 1.
New England shut down the Pittsburgh Steelers, and will be clearly favored against O’Shea and his offense — in large parts because of the quarterback: while Ryan Fitzpatrick is one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the NFL, he does not exactly inspire confidence coming off a game in which he completed just 14 of 29 pass attempts for a mere 185 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
However, the Dolphins under head coach and fellow ex-Patriots assistant Brian Flores still feel like Fitzpatrick is their best option at this point in time. Why is that the case, especially considering that former 10th overall draft pick Josh Rosen is sitting on the bench behind him? According to Kevin Nogle, managing editor of our sister site The Phinsider, Fitzpatrick’s experience still gives him the edge over the developmental option that is Rosen a little more than four months into his tenure with the Dolphins.
“I think it is the fact that he is the veteran and should be the steady hand in a very young offense,” said Kevin when speaking with Pats Pulpit earlier this week. “I felt like they were about equal in the preseason, so I thought the team would start Rosen, letting them get a season-long look at him. They chose Fitzpatrick, so I think calm, experience, and understanding of the offense may have been the key factors.”
“It could also be a thought that Miami’s offensive line still needs to find their chemistry, so why risk a potential quarterback of the future when the two players are about even? I still think Rosen starts at some point this year, but for now, we are all hoping the coaches know some Fitzmagic is coming,” added Kevin. Against the Patriots, that magic has been on display rather inconsistently in the past as Fitzpatrick has led his teams to just two victories in 11 career games.
The keys to an unlikely Miami victory against the Patriots lie therefore not only with the quarterback, but his supporting cast as well. And according to Kevin, a handful of players need to step up in order for the Dolphins to maximize their small chances. That being said, he does not think that there is a clear-cut number one option that New England’s defense needs to focus on and try to take away during the game.
“I guess that is going to be DeVante Parker? I would have said Kenny Stills until he was traded, but now, I do not really know,” he said. “We did not see anything from Kenyan Drake or Kalen Ballage last week, but that was probably because it was 752-0 about 36 seconds into the game. Mike Gesicki could be a player to take away, as he seems to be becoming a bigger part of the offense, but right now, Parker is probably the best answer.”
“Unless you want to just crash the offensive line every single time and get to Fitzpatrick,” added Kevin. So would could the Dolphins do in order to avoid a similar fate as last week’s? Kevin sees the the team’s two running backs as possible X-factors to jumpstart the offensive attack: “Ballage/Drake getting started and being effective as runners and pass-catchers would help the offense immensely.”
Last week, neither back was able to get much going — and now they will have to go up against a Patriots defense that stifled the Steelers’ ground game during the 33-3 victory on opening day. A repeat performance from the world champions could have dramatic results for Miami: trusting Fitzpatrick to win with his arm against arguably the best secondary in football is bold. But, who knows, maybe Josh Rosen will see some action after all later today...