The first Sunday of NFL action is finally here. Few days in the year are as refreshing as today. But something is still missing.
As special as starting out the year on Monday Night Football truly is, especially against rival New England, this opening Sunday is a little watered down with no Dolphins’ football.
But fear not, I thought I would wait to post my three keys to victory for today in order to satisfy your Dolphins’ fix.
Pressure, pressure, pressure
There has been one key to slowing down Tom Brady and the Patriots over the past decade.
If you can get consistent pressure on Brady you’ll stand a chance. If not, well, you’re probably going to get run out of the building.
The Jets beat the Pats twice last year with pressure and the true blueprint was laid by the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. The Dolphins’ defense is primed for similar success with one of the game’s best pass rushers in Cameron Wake facing off against rookie Nate Solder thanks to Sebastian Vollmer likely being out of the lineup.
But Wake can’t do it all by himself. He’s going to need Jason Taylor to flash glimpses of his old self and maybe Koa Misi showing improvement in the pass rush department to truly fluster the game’s top signal caller.
I also expect Mike Nolan to dial up some of those exotic blitz packages he’s famous for. With that said, Belichick will likely counter with plenty of quick reads for Brady and a heavy dose of the screen game.
If there is a measuring stick for a defense poised to take the next step and emerge as an elite unit, it’s against Tom Brady and the Patriots. It’s time to put up or shut up for the Dolphins’ defense.
Oh Captain My Captain
The Dolphins named their captains for this year’s 2011 season today.
Jake Long (probably best player on the team) was nominated as a captain. Long is the leader of the offensive line and should obviously be a staple and leader on this team for this year and many years to come. Long is already arguably the best left tackle in the game.
Chad Henne: For the first time in Chad’s career, in college or in the pro’s, he has been named a team captain. Chad has taken on more of a leadership role this offseason and his nomination as captain is well deserved.
Two Michigan men as captains
Karlos Dansby: The heart of the defense, ILB Karlos Dansby has already made an impression here in Miami and is a wise choice for defensive captain.
Yeremiah Bell: The Pro Bowl safety is ready to roll this year.
Special-teams captains will be named week to week according to Coach Sparano.no comments
It’s pivotal for the Dolphins to get off to a good start this season, but that is easier said than done. They aint playing no “slouches” in the words of Darrelle Revis. On Monday the Dolphins have the honor of playing the best team in the AFC- the rival Patriots.
In order to beat Tom Brady and Bill Belicheck you have to bring your A game.
Can the Dolphins beat the Patriots? Yes! They have in the past and they can do it again. That being said, it won’t be an easy task and they will need their best from a couple of key contributors.
Here are the 5 players that I think will need to have a huge impact Monday night in order for the Dolphins to come away with the W.
This one is kind of obvious; it goes without saying that Miami will need a decent game from Chad to win. While I don’t think they need a 300 yard performance from Henne, I think it is more important that Chad doesn't commit any turnovers. If Henne can walk away from Monday night’s game without any INT’s or fumbles it would be a huge step in the right direction.
Last night we finally got back to football. The Packers and Saints put on a show in a game that could eventually go down as one of the most exciting of the year.
But around here, we won’t officially get back to football until the Dolphins take the field for some meaningful action. And few games this season will be as meaningful as next Monday night’s showdown with the New England Patriots.
While a loss wouldn’t necessarily spell doom for the Dolphins, as the Patriots project to be one of the top teams in the league again this season, a win would instantly return nation-wide respectability back to this franchise and catapult this team into the playoff discussion.
It certainly won’t be easy and few talking heads will give the Dolphins much of chance. But we’ve heard that story before.
Miami has been the underdog against New England for every game the past decade it seems. But history has shown us, even in dire times for this franchise, never to count out the underdog.
The Patriots have won four out of the past five matchups and outscored the Dolphins by a whopping 62 points in their two contests last year.
But Miami has been a thorn in the Patriots’ side on several occasions in the Bill Belichick era. Let’s get pumped up for Monday night’s opener by revisiting a couple games against New England nobody gave the Dolphins a chance to win.
December 20th 2004: Dolphins 29 Patriots 28
Less than a week after receiving his pink slip when final cuts were made, Larry Johnson was back on the practice field for the Dolphins today.
Johnson was presumably brought back because Daniel Thomas reportedly tweaked his hamstring. Another theory is the Charles Clay injury, also a hamstring, is forcing Lex Hilliard to spend more time at fullback, thus opening a need for a third running back.
At any rate, Johnson’s performance in the fourth preseason game, highlighted by a 22-yard touchdown, was likely what the Dolphins needed to see to bring him back in a scenario like this.
It's time once again for one of my favorite segments during the season. Please welcome in Ricky Keeler from Foxboro Blog- Bloguin's one-stop coverage for New England Patriots' coverage- to shed some light on the Dolphins' rival.
I answered some questions for Ricky as well regarding the Dolphins. Be sure to check them out here, as they should be posted within the next couple days.
Phins Phocus: The Patriots made some headlines by bringing in Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth in free agency. What sort of impact have they had thus far and what do you expect from them this season?
FB: So far, the two main acquisitions of the offseason for the Patriots have not had the impact that the fans would like. Haynesworth just started practicing last week and although he played well against the Giants in the final preseason game, he was not facing the Giants’ starters on the offensive line. I do expect him and former Jet Shaun Ellis to have a solid impact this season for this team.
As for Chad Ochocinco, I thought he would have about a 800-900 yard season for NE, but I am having my doubts. He has been average and the Randy Moss rumors show you possibly that Chad is not doing as well as Belichick would like. He dropped a lot of balls in the preseason and him and Brady are still not on par with each other. It can change and I think eventually #12 and #85 will be on the same page.
Phins Phocus: Explain the reasoning behind the Patriots getting rid of Brandon Meriweather? Who's in line to replace him?
FB: The cutting of Brandon Meriweather was that he was not living up to the hype that he had when the Patriots drafted him in 2006. His tackles and interceptions went down last year and he only started in 13 games.
His cutting tells me two things. One, he was not living up to the Patriot way and his lack of discipline on the field caught up to him (i.e hit on Todd Heap last year). Second, the Pats must love the way Pat Chung has progressed this offseason and as you guys saw last year in Miami, he can make an impact.
As far as the depth behind Chung, they do have Sergio Brown who is young, but knows the system from playing in 11 games last year. Also, they signed James Ihedigbo from the Jets who despite his tackling inefficiencies shown in the preseason, he learned under a great defensive coach in Rex Ryan and played a key role in the Jets’ upset of the Pats last season. True, the depth is not great, but we know Belichick can just plug guys in and make them play that role in the defense and succeed.
There is really no better way to open the season than on Monday Night Football against the New England Patriots. It will be a difficult challenge for the Dolphins to say the least, but with a great challenge comes a great opportunity.
Nobody is taking the Dolphins seriously this season. I’ve seen power rankings listing them at 29th, predictions suggesting they’ll only win three games, and overall just a very bleak picture being painted by the media.
That would change in a hurry if the Dolphins are able to knock off the Pats on primetime TV in front of the whole nation. What better way to start the year?
Here’s how I see the Dolphins matching up against Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the Patriots:
Dolphins’ pass defense vs. Patriots’ passing attack
Going up against the best quarterback in football, maybe the best quarterback of all time is certainly no easy task to kick off the year. Vontae Davis’ claims that he makes up the league’s top cornerback tandem with Sean Smith will certainly be put the test. But that should be the least of the Dolphins’ concerns.
Containing the likes of Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and Danny Woodhead should be priority number one in my opinion. That responsibility will fall in the hands of Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett, and Benny Sapp.
The Dolphins are much more capable of handling that challenge with the Burnett upgrade over Channing Crowder, but few defenses in football actually slow Brady down.
One thing is for sure, though, they won’t stand a chance if they aren’t able to get pressure on him. That’s been their Achilles heel in the Brady-Belichick era. We saw the Jets get the best of them twice last year by doing so and most recently the Lions getting after Brady this preseason.
The Dolphins will stay in the game and maybe even pull off the upset if they can get consistent pressure on Brady throughout the game. Cameron Wake needs to be his unblockable self, while any assistance from Jason Taylor, Koa Misi, and Mike Nolan’s exotic blitz packages will go a long way.