That time of the season has rolled around once again, where the Patriots have to travel to their well known cryptonite in Hard Rock Stadium to face off against the Dolphins. Since taking over the starting job in 2001, Tom Brady is a career 7-9 when he plays the Dolphins on the road. Brady averages over 50 less yards and has a 7% decrease in his completion percentage when comparing his stats at home against away. It’s tough to forget the nightmare performance by the Pats from last years week 14 matchup, a game that resulted in a 27-20 win for the Dolphins. A game that was plagued by turnovers, bad execution, and a suspended Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots are going to have to play much better this time around. Let’s dive into the makeup of the 2018 Dolphins roster:
Coming off another ACL tear that caused him to miss all of the 2017 season, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill was off to a hot start to his standards throughout the first 5 weeks of the season. He had 8 touchdowns and 5 interceptions to go along with 1,072 yards. Unfortunately for Tannehill he missed the next 6 weeks as he dealt with a shoulder injury. His past 2 games since returning from injury have been extremely solid, as his 5 touchdowns and one interceptions along with 341 yards can get the job done against lots of teams in the NFL. The combination of Tannehill’s above average decision making and his sneaky speed can create agony for an opposing defense.
Headlining the back field for the Miami Dolphins is the up-and-coming running back Kenyan Drake and ageless wonder Frank Gore. Kenyan Drake is Miami’s featured back but has been anything but impressive this season compared to the flashes of stardom he showed in 2017. So far this season he only has 439 yards and 4 touchdowns, which isn’t a bad statline but not one that the Dolphins were hoping for. In the week 11 matchup last season, Drake showed his ability to carve up a defense when he had 193 yards of total offense in Miami’s dominate win against New England.
The Dolphins added veteran Frank Gore this past offseason by signing him to a one year, $1,105,000 contract. The future hall of famer adds great depth and a veteran presence to Miami’s locker room. Gore has 616 yards on 139 carries so far this season and has been an extremely effective back given his age. Last season the 35-year-old rushed for 961 yards and 3 touchdowns with the Colts, so it is no secret that the ageless wonder still has game. Gore’s status for Sunday’s game is in question after he missed practice all week for “non-injury related” reasons.
Lead by the 4-time pro bowler Josh Sitton, the Dolphins offensive line is a young, but promising group. The Dolphins were able to add Sitton this past offseason after the team striked a 2 year, $13.5 million contract with him. However, Sitton tore his rotator cuff in week 1 which landed him on injured reserve. Fellow veteran Ted Larson filled in for Sitton’s absence. He has been a solid player since getting the starting role earlier in the season. Larson has 81 starts in 124 games played including eight last year in Miami, so his durability and experience was never in question when came into the lineup.
tAnother familiar face on the offensive line for the Dolphins is Tackle Laremy Tunsil. Tunsil is known by many for the wrong reasons as on the day of the 2016 NFL Draft his Instagram account got hacked. Their were videos posted of him doing drugs which allowed the top offensive lineman in the draft to fall to pick #13, where the Dolphins chose him. In his 3rd season as a pro, Tunsil looks to take the next step forward in becoming a star offensive lineman.
The tight end position is the weakest spot on Miami’s offense. Rookie Mike Gesicki hasn’t panned out the way the Dolphins had hoped for. The Penn State product had 57 receptions for 563 yards and 9 touchdowns in his senior year, which was 5th out of all the tight ends in the Big Ten in receptions. In his first season in the NFL he has underwhelmed many fans with 18 receptions for 156 yards. Some blame for his lack of production can be put on the quarterback situation the Dolphins have dealt with throughout the course of the season, but it’s safe to say that Gesicki isn’t having the season many envisioned.
At wide receiver, the Dolphins took a big hit when they lost Pro Bowler Jarvis Landry to the Browns this past offseason. Landry was the go-to guy in Miami, as he averaged 100 receptions per year during his 4 years in Miami. Attempting to fill his shoes is wideout Devante Parker. The speedster only has 21 receptions for 278 yards this season but he was sidelined with a broken finger for majority of september. Parker finished 2017 with 57 receptions for 670 yards and one touchdown, which are great numbers for a number two receiver.
Opposite of Parker on the field is wide receiver Kenny Stills. Stills has been a great number 2 receiver throughout his 5 year career. Like Parker, Stills has significant play making ability as his speed allows him to burn through opposing defenses. Stills has 24 receptions for 369 yards and 5 touchdowns this season, which isn’t too shabby but certainly not an improvement from last season. Both Parker and Stills compliment each other substantially, but both guys need to make the jump and increase their production to become a number one wide receiver.
The Dolphins added former Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola this offseason after a memorable 5 year career in New England. Amendola, who signed a 2-year, $12 million contract with Miami is prominent for his heroic plays in the playoffs. Amendola’s worth to a team is well known, as he brings leadership and a winning background to a young and talented Miami locker room.
Miami’s secondary is led by Safety Reshad Jones. The two-time pro bowler can fly all over the field and make plays that change the outcome of games. Last year, Jones had 94 tackles and assisted on another 28. He also had 2 interceptions last year. Jones hasn’t been as productive this season compared to years prior as his only 2 interceptions this season came in week 1. He is still an athletic, playmaking safety that can cause trouble for opposing offenses even if the stats don’t fully portray it.
Rookie Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick has impressed throughout his first 12 games of his NFL career. The 11th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft has a 33 combined tackles so far this season to go along with an interception. The young playmaker is improving game by game, so he is a name to watch for once Sunday rolls around.
At corner, the Dolphins have Bobby McCain and Xavien Howard. McCain is entering his fourth year as a member of the Dolphins and has had an underwhelming 2018. He had 5 pass breakups through the first 5 games, but hasn’t recorded once since. McCain is a scrappy corner who tends to get in the face of opposing wideouts. Howard is slowly transforming into a star. He currently leads the league in interceptions with 7 as well has having 12 pass breakups. Howard has been ruled out for Sunday with a knee injury, so the Patriots’ passing attack dodges a heavy bullet with him inactive.
The defensive line for the Dolphins is a scary group, as they are lead by stars Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn. Wake is entering his 10th season as Dolphin and has produced in every year he has played. The defensive end had over 10 sacks in each of the last two years and played in every game in that time span. Wake has 93 career sacks, which ranks 3rd in the NFL out of all active players. The 5-time pro bowler and 2012 first team all-pro is still playing in the prime years of his career and can single handedly wreck a game for an opposing defense. Through the 10 games he has played he has totaled 4.5 sacks and 27 combined tackles, which are great numbers for a 36 year-old.
The Dolphins were able to acquire defensive end Robert Quinn this past offseason to via trade. The Rams got Miami’s 2018 fourth-round pick and sixth-round pick, and they sent their sixth-rounder to the Dolphins with Quinn. Over the years, Quinn has solidified himself as one of the best pass rushers in the league. However after multiple injuries, inconsistent play, and being on a contract worth $66.5 million the Rams decided it was time to move on from Quinn. He has been solid in his first season with Miami as he has 3.5 sacks, 30 combined tackles, and 2 forced fumbles.
The Dolphins deploy Akeem Spence and Jordan Phillips at defensive tackle. Spence and Phillips are big body players that can make running through the trenches a challenge all game long.
The starting line backing core for Miami includes Kiko Alonso, Raekwon McMillan, and Jerome Baker. Alonso is entering his 6th year in the league and 3rd with the Dolphins. In his first two years in Miami, Alonso totaled a combined 115 tackles in each season. He is continuing to impress this year as well with 68 tackles and assisting on another 38. Alonso’s experience and high caliber play makes him the leader of the linebackers.
Raekwon McMillan has been an impressive player throughout his first season actually playing. In 2017 second round pick suffered a season-ending knee injury last preseason. He has 52 total tackles along with 21 assisted tackles and 2 forced fumbles. Him and Alonso make for an effective duo in the middle of the defense.
Jerome Baker enters his first year in Miami after being selected in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Baker has had stable rookie tenure with 39 tackles, 15 assisted tackles, and an interception.
Sunday’s matchup will be quite intriguing, as the 6-6 Dolphins are still alive in the playoff race despite having lost 6 of their last 9 games. The Patriots should look to get the ground game going earlier, as this seemed to be the key in their week 4 matchup against the Dolphins. In the game, running backs James White and Sony Michel accounted for 224 of the teams total 449 yards, which is 49% of the yardage. It’s no secret how effective the Patriots backfield can be once they get going, so expect the Patriots to come out and establish the run game early and often. Hopefully the Patriots can change their trending misfortune of playing away in Miami, but only sunday will provide the true answer.
-Adam Pasquale, Jr. is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @adampasqualejr