Dolphins' To-Do List Against The Patriots

Posted Dec 12, 2013

Breaking down the Dolphins’ biggest priorities this weekend.

Clearly, anytime you face the New England Patriots, the No. 1 priority on defense is finding a way to somehow slow down Tom Brady. In that vein, the Dolphins did a tremendous job in the teams’ first meeting this season as they held him to only 118 yards passing. The Dolphins did a good job of applying pressure, getting to Brady for three sacks and cornerback Dimitri Patterson also picked him off in the first quarter. For this second meeting, the Dolphins won’t have to deal with tight end Rob Gronkowski, whose season ended last Sunday when he sustained a knee injury against Cleveland. But they will have to contend with running back Shane Vereen, who was on the IR-designated to return list back on Oct. 27. Vereen has averaged 10 catches in his four games since his return, including a season-high 12 catches for 153 yards against Cleveland. Linebacker Philip Wheeler figures to draw the assignment of covering Vereen out of the backfield more often than not, and he’ll need to come ready to play. The Dolphins also need to keep an eye on wide receiver Julian Edelman, who had back-to-back 100-yard receiving games against Denver and Houston.

A FAVORABLE MATCHUP FOR THE DEFENSE: When the Dolphins faced the Patriots at Gillette Stadium on Oct. 27, New England lost starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer to a leg injury that landed him on injured reserve. His place in the starting lineup has been taken by third-year player Marcus Cannon, who will be faced with the task of blocking two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Patriots double-team Wake or at least provide Cannon help, but then that could open things up on the other side for Olivier Vernon, who has been on a tear lately.

THE BIG PRIORITY ON OFFENSE: After losing their best defensive lineman (Vince Wilfork) and their best linebacker (Jerod Mayo) to season-ending injuries, the Patriots have been scrambling on defense to get the job done, but they’ve allowed four of their last seven opponents to score 30 points or more. The Dolphins had their way in the first half at Gillette Stadium, but New England started blitzing almost on every down in the second half and eventually sacked quarterback Ryan Tannehill six times. One of those caused a fumble that set up the touchdown that tied the game at 17-17. Clearly, the Dolphins have to do a better job of handling the New England blitz in this game.

A FAVORABLE MATCHUP FOR THE OFFENSE: The Dolphins had a lot of success running the ball in the first meeting, gaining 158 yards on the ground and averaging 5 yards per attempt. Keeping in mind that the Patriots haven’t allowed less than 4.3 yards per carry in their last six games, the opportunity should be there for the Dolphins to control the ball with their running game.

THE BIG PRIORITY ON SPECIAL TEAMS: While the defense got New England back in the game in the first meeting this season, it was the special teams that clinched the victory, more specifically Chandler Jones’ block of a field goal attempt by Caleb Sturgis. It goes without saying that the Dolphins need to tighten up the field goal blocking and make sure there’s no repeat on Sunday.

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