The New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins are no strangers to each other. Having played one another twice a year ever since 1967, the teams have a rich and familiar history that spans generations of football. Naturally, the familiarity leads to a lot of roster maneuvering between the two squads. This past offseason was no different; the Patriots and Dolphins traded six players between their active rosters since their second meeting in 2020, a 22-12 Dolphins victory down in Miami Gardens. They didn’t just trade talent, either, as both teams had busy offseason building up their rosters from one year ago.
Let’s look at those changes on each team’s 53-man roster since their matchup in Week 15 of last season.
The following 25 players from the last meeting on Dec. 20, 2020 are still with the team:
G Michael Onwenu, G Shaq Mason, T Justin Herron, WR Jakobi Meyers, C David Andrews, TE Devin Asiasi, RB James White, FB Jakob Johnson, RB J.J. Taylor, WR Gunner Olszewski. S Devin McCourty, CB J.C. Jackson, CB Jonathan Jones, DL Lawrence Guy, S Adrian Phillips, S Kyle Dugger, DL Deatrich Wise Jr., LB Josh Uche, LB Chase Winovich, LB Ja’Whaun Bentley, ST Justin Bethel, ST Matthew Slater, ST Cody Davis, P Jake Bailey, and LS Joe Cardona
Offense: The big change here is obviously at quarterback, as rookie Mac Jones has taken the reins from last season’s starter, Cam Newton. The rest of the offense underwent a major overhaul as well. Newton’s group of “weapons” from 2020 is now barely represented with Damiere Byrd in Chicago and N’Keal Harry and Dalton Keene both on IR. They are replaced by some big-money free agent signings in Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor, Hunter Henry, and Jonnu Smith. The offensive line also saw a major departure in Joe Thuney while seeing the return of Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown. Sony Michel, who is now a member of the Los Angeles Rams, held down the running back room during Damien Harris’ absence towards the end of last season as well.
Defense: After being gashed by the Dolphins on the ground last season, the Patriots’ run defense will look a lot different this time around. Davon Godchaux, Matt Judon, Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower will replace the likes of Akeem Spence, Tashawn Bower, Terez Hall and Anfernee Jennings to avenge last season’s ugly performance against the run. The secondary will mostly look the same, save for an absent Stephon Gilmore, who is on the Reserve/PUP list.
Special teams: The lone group that will resemble anything like their counterpart from last year is the special teams unit. Jake Bailey, Matthew Slater, Joe Cardona and the boys are all back with the lone change coming at kicker, where undrafted rookie Quinn Nordin beat out Nick Folk for the job. Folk, however, could still kick on Sunday, as the NFL’s practice squad elevation rules would allow for that.
Coaching staff: The coaching staff underwent a few changes this offseason. Co-offensive line coach Cole Popovich departed before the start of training camp, while quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch left immediately after last year’s Dolphins game to become the head coach at the University of Arizona. Additions include former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia returning as a special assistant to Bill Belichick, and Bo Hardegree being added as a quarterbacks coach. Troy Brown and Vinnie Sunseri made switches from running backs to wide receivers and defense to running backs, respectively.
The following 26 players from the last meeting are still with the team:
WR Mack Hollins, TE Durham Smythe, S Clayton Fejedelem, S Brandon Jones, S Eric Rowe, RB Salvon Ahmed, QB Tua Tagovailoa, LS Blake Ferguson, LB Andrew Van Ginkel, LB Elanden Roberts, LB Samuel Eguavoen, LB Jerome Baker, K Jason Sanders, OL Robert Hunt, OL Jesse Davis, OL Solomon Kindley, DT Christian Wilkins, DT Zach Sieler, DT Raekwon Davis, DE Emmanuel Ogbah, CB Jamal Perry, CB Noah Igbinoghene, CB Byron Jones, CB Xavien Howard, CB Nik Needham, OL Michael Dieter
Offense: Tua Tagovailoa will return as the starting quarterback for Miami, while the majority of the offense around him will have changed. The Dolphins made presumed upgrades at just about every offensive position in an effort to help their young quarterback. It is likely that Tagovailoa, Robert Hunt, Jesse Davis, Solomon Kindley and Michael Dieter are their only returning starters from last year’s drubbing of the Patriots.
Defense: Pretty much the entire Dolphins secondary is returning, this time with the addition of former Patriot Jason McCourty. Their linebacking corps lost Kyle Van Noy back to New England but added rookie Jaelan Phillips to the mix on the outside. Their defensive line saw another addition of a former Patriot, this time in the form of Adam Butler.
Special teams: The Dolphins replaced punter Matt Haack with Matt Palardy during the offseason. The rest of their unit remained unchanged.
Coaching staff: Brian Flores will head up the Dolphins for his third season, with former Patriots secondary coach Josh Boyer leading their defense. Former Dolphins offensive coordinator Chan Gailey resigned this past offseason, leading to the promotions of George Godsey and Eric Studesville to co-offensive coordinators. The rest of the coaching staff shuffled around, but no other coaches were hired from the outside.