The Miami Dolphins start out the 2020 season with an AFC East divisional matchup against the New England Patriots in Foxborough on Sunday at 1 p.m. eastern. 

One key matchup on the field a lot of people will have their eyes on is the battle between Dolphins’ wide receiver DeVante Parker and Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore.

Gilmore: A Top CB in the NFL, but Parker Got to Him

Gilmore is arguably the best cornerback in the NFL. His ability to shadow the league’s best receivers is unmatched by many. He is one of just five players to be rated a 99 overall in EA Sports’ Madden 2021 and only the second defender next to defensive tackle Aaron Donald to be given the maximum rating this year.

However, Parker exposed Gilmore for his weaknesses in the Dolphins and Patriots’ last meeting.

Parker caught eight passes (11 targets) against Gilmore for 137 yards, his second highest yardage total of the season (vs Philadelphia, 159). 

Can he do it again?

Buffalo Product Shining in New England

Gilmore was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the 2012 NFL Draft with the 10th overall pick and was eventually selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2016, the season before he left for New England.

In 2017 Gilmore and the Patriots agreed to a five-year, $60 million dollar contract. He will be entering the fourth year of that contract and making just $10.5 million dollars, a bargain when compared to the $21 million dollars per year the Los Angeles Rams just paid CB Jalen Ramsey.

Since putting on a Patriots uniform, Gilmore has made the First Team All-Pro and been selected to the Pro Bowl twice. He led the league with six interceptions in 2019, has played 45 out of 48 regular season games, played in two Super Bowls, winning one, and was the AP Defensive Player-of-the-Year in 2019.

“He’s a former teammate of mine and Defensive Player-of-the-Year,” Miami quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “(He’s) a guy that’s had a ton of success in this league and is definitely one of the top guys defensively around the league. They’re very talented on defense, very talented and experienced in the back end.”

Parker: Slow Start to Career, but Picking Up the Pace

Parker has been with Miami since the beginning of his career. Selected with the 14th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Parker has made steady improvements as his career has progressed.

During a breakout season in 2019, Parker notched his first 1,000-yard season and played a full 16 games for the first time in his five-year career. To top it all off, Parker finished tied for third in the league for receiving touchdowns (nine) and fifth in the league for receiving yards (1,202).

Additionally, Parker’s nine TDs last season matched how many scores he had in his first four seasons combined. His explosive year also earned him a two-year contract extension with the Dolphins.

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Parker, Miami WRs Could be Limited Sunday

Parker has been dealing with a hamstring injury but will still be active in week one. The question is how many snaps will he be taking? With the removal of preseason games everyone will need some time to get back to game-speed and Parker dealing with a hamstring needs to be all the more careful when exploding off the line.

Furthermore, he’s not the only wide receiver that could be less than 100-percent for the season opener. WR Preston Williams is recovering from November ACL surgery, but is reported to be active. The healthiest receiver in Foxborough on Sunday will likely be No. 3 breakout-hopeful Isaiah Ford. With the banged up WR corps, the Dolphins could shift their focus to the run game or use tight ends Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe more heavily.

“It’s hard to think somebody can jump out there and play 60, 70, 80 snaps (when injured). There will be a handful of guys who we will expect to go the whole way, but for the most part, we are thinking along the lines of somebody is probably going to need a blow here,” Miami head coach Brian Flores said. “I think every team has that same thought process. Guys are dealing with nicks and bruises. We are going to try to take care of our players as much as we can.”

Which Parker, Gilmore Show Up Sunday?

The matchup between Gilmore and Parker will no doubt be an interesting one for more reasons than just star power. When they match up on the field it will be a tough task for one to outperform the other. 

In their two matchups last season Gilmore managed to get an interception and return it for a TD while helping limit Parker to just seven targets and no receptions. This was a key factor in the Patriots’ week two 43-0 shutout.

In the second matchup Miami got the better of the Patriots in a close 27-24 game. The Dolphins were a revamped team who was able to use a lot of their new pieces who grew together through the entire season to win in New England for the first time since 2009. 

This is when Parker put a hurting on Gilmore and the Patriots with his eight balls for 137 yards. Parker’s dancing around Gilmore was a huge factor in Miami knocking New England out of the No. 2 seed in the AFC East and forcing it to play on Wild Card Weekend to begin the NFL playoffs.

Dolphins: Slight All-Time Edge

The Dolphins hold a 56-53 all-time record advantage and since 2017 both regular season games have been split between the two teams.

With the Dolphins taking a major step forward during this offseason they have the opportunity to take down a rival and start a new season with a big win.

– Garrison Pulley is a Sports Contributor for Full Press Coverage Miami Dolphins. Like and follow on and Facebook.

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