The New England Patriots entered the 2019 season coming off their third Super Bowl victory in the past five NFL seasons. With four trips to the Super Bowl in the last five years, ten consecutive AFC East championships and eight consecutive trips to the AFC Championship Game, the Patriots continue to cement their legacy as the greatest dynasty in the 100 years of NFL history.
Of course, none of that past success matters one bit in 2019. There was significant turnover in the offseason once again on offense. New England lost their starting left tackle for the second consecutive year. Trent Brown took his Super Bowl ring to Oakland signing the richest contract for a tackle one season after Nate Solder went to New York signing with the Giants for what was then the richest contract ever for a tackle.
The Patriots also lost tight end future Hall-of-Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski to retirement. In addition, wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson and wide receiver Chris Hogan were not retained. Tight end Dwayne Allen departed in free agency as well.
New England has last year’s first round draft pick (tackle Isaiah Wynn) who stepped in and helped pick up the slack on the offensive line. Already, the offensive line lost starting center David Andrews. Blood clots in his lungs led Andrews to injured reserve and will not play this season. Back-up Ted Karras filled-in at center against the Steelers’ strong interior defensive line.
The Patriots had wide receiver Josh Gordon reinstated by the Commissioner’s office and the Patriots scooped up five-time All Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown after his release from Oakland. They added other free agents at tight end (Matt LaCosse and Ben Watson) and undrafted free agents (Gunner Olszewski and Jakobi Meyers). Tight end Watson (four games) is suspended to start the season.
The Patriots crushed their AFC rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers 33-3 on Sunday night.
The game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV channel 4 in the greater Boston area and WPRI channel 12 in the greater Providence area. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Fouts as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work from the sidelines.
On the radio, Sunday’s game will be broadcast on 98.5 The Sports Hub is the flagship station for the Patriots Radio Network and all of the network’s 38 stations carry the game live. Play-by-play broadcaster Bob Socci is back to call the action along with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who provides his own unique color analysis.
Each week the game comes down to the match-ups. These are the top match-ups on offense that will determine if the Patriots are the team which emerges victorious.
The Patriots’ offense comes into week two ranked fifth in points scored after dropping 33 on the Steelers. They are seventh in yards (465) and sixth in first downs after converting 24 last week (all statistics from Pro-Football-Reference.com unless otherwise noted).
The balanced offensive attack showed in the final stats. The offense piled up 366 yards through the air. On the ground, the Patriots consistently ran the ball and ground out 99 yards on 29 carries.
How does New England’s offense stay on the right track in 2019 against the Miami defense?
Patriots’ Offensive Line vs Dolphins’ Defensive Line:
With right tackle Marcus Cannon unlikely to play with a shoulder injury the Patriots will have to find another tackle on the edge opposite Isaiah Wynn (making his first career road start). Will it be Korey Cunningham? Newly acquired Marshall Newhouse? Does left guard Joe Thuney end up at right tackle?
With question marks on the offensive line, Miami lacks the pass rushers to exploit it without high-end stars like Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh as they had in the past. Charles Harris is banged up and the former first round draft pick has three career sacks now in his third season. Sam Eguavoen and former Patriots edge rusher Trent Harris will need to make an impact after being shut down by Baltimore’s offensive line last week.
Patriots’ Running Backs vs Dolphins’ Linebackers:
Scuttlebutt around New England is that the Patriots will not have versatile back James White in Miami as his wife is expected to be having a child this weekend. Brandon Bolden is on the injury report with a hamstring leaving the depth at running back thin. Sony Michel needs a bounce-back game and Rex Burkhead could have a larger role. Third round draft pick Damien Harris also may get a chance to play for the first time.
Having traded Kiko Alonso before the season, Miami’s linebacker group leans heavily on youth. Jerome Baker was a surprise last season as the third round draft pick opened eyes and has more responsibility on defense. Raekwon McMillan is a former 2017 second round draft pick and has speed to burn. These two inside linebackers need to tackle better and give their defense a chance to get into third downs.
New England Pass Catchers vs Dolphins’ Secondary:
All eyes in New England are on Antonio Brown but Josh Gordon may be the key piece on exploiting the Dolphins secondary. Miami may not have the luxury of matching up their best cornerback on Julian Edelman and strong safety Minkah Fitzpatrick looked overwhelmed against the Ravens trying to play the “Patrick Chung” role of the defense. New England will look to attach him and whoever is at the nickel cornerback role.
The Ravens had a record-setting day against the Dolphins in week one but never looked at cornerback Xavien Howard who continued his shut-down ways. It was Bobby McCain, Eric Rowe, Jomal Witz and Johnson Bademosi (three of the four are former Patriots) getting lit up. Miami did not communicate, tackle well, and a clearly hobbled Reshad Jones was vulnerable. Communication and tackling should improve this week at home with their pride on the line.
The New England offense must integrate the newcomers to the line-up in the offensive line and slow a creative pass rush designed by Miami head coach Brian Flores. In addition, the running game must extend drives and the running backs must contribute to the passing game (especially if James White is inactive due to his wife having a child this weekend) to disrupt the Dolphins’ defense.
-Hal Bent is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @halbent01