By Alessandro Senatore and Kayla Morton
The Miami Dolphins will kick off their NFL 2021 season in Foxborough, Massachusetts today, looking for a season-opening win against their division-rival, the New England Patriots, on opening weekend for the second season in a row.
Despite starting a rookie quarterback, New England is favored in this game, according to ESPN’s final money line, by 3 points and a 59.9-percent chance to win. With a lot of changes in New England in the last year, and very little to the Dolphins, it’s experience for Miami that could prove beneficial in the NFL’s opening weekend for the club.
“Really, all of the things we talked about through training camp – alignment, assignment, good communication, good fundamentals, good technique, follow your rules, read your keys and play ball. I try not to steer too far from that. I think if they do those things, the results will take care of themselves,” Dolphins head coach Brian Flores said.
New England Debuts New QB, Former Teammate of Tua Tagovailoa
The biggest change in New England is that of quarterback Mac Jones. Jones was expected to compete with veteran Cam Newton for playing time, and learn from him for a good part of this season. However, head coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots made the statement of preseason, cutting Newton ahead of the 53-man roster deadline.
Jones, a former teammate and backup, to Miami starting QB Tua Tagovailoa, will face off against his former teammate on Sunday.
“Whatever the plan is, just execute it as best as possible. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing a rookie quarterback or a 10-year vet,” defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said. “You’ve just definitely got to execute your plan and it all starts with preparation throughout the week.”
Tagovailoa is beginning his first full year as the Dolphins’ starter now that Ryan Fitzpatrick is gone to the nation’s capital.
Key Players Out for Both Clubs, But Players on Field Favor Miami
Some key players however that will not be on both sides for either team include New England’s cornerback Stephon Gilmore (injured reserve, quads), wide receiver N’Keal Harry (shoulder), and former Dolphin, inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan (IR, ACL).
For Miami, it’s tight end Adam Shaheen (COVID-19) and tackle Larnel Coleman (IR). Tackle Austin Jackson, who was only moved off of the reserve/COVID-19 list Saturday, no longer carries an injury designation into the opener.
“Obviously we’re preparing with Austin (Jackson) being (out). We’ve gotten a few guys ready at that position and I would say it’s not just one position. It’s how that player affects the next player and the next player and the next player,” Flores said. “So like I’ve said many times, we’ll play the best five guys. We have a pretty good idea of what that is right now and we’ll practice it that way.”
Additionally, New England has some new depth faces, an area it lacked in 2020. The most familiar face? Versatile offensive player Malcolm Perry, who was cut by the Dolphins ahead of the final roster cuts in late August. Although out for the season opener, will he give Belichick even more secrets to his former assistant and his fast-growing team?
The loss of Gilmore and Harry will hurt New England since they are two key players on offense and defense. Their loss will help make Tagovailoa’s day easier, but Miami still shouldn’t take the matchup lightly.
The Patriots defense will still be stacked and it is getting players back who originally opted out for COVID-19 last season. The Dolphins could be in a quick test this season going toe-to-toe with a stacked defense.
Miami Deploys Top Defense Again in 2021
On defense it should be defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah and linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel giving Jones the most pressure. In the secondary, outside LB Jerome Baker and cornerback Xavien Howard will wreak havoc, giving Jones and a regrowing New England a tough hill to climb.
Ep 113: The Patriots And The AFC East
by Full Press Coverage on March 17, 2023 at 2:14 pm
Patriots’ starting No. 1 wide receiver Jakobi Meyers doesn’t have a touchdown in his career, and New England will be looking to see how newly-acquired veteran tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith mesh into the offense.
While the Patriots will put their best players on the field, so will Miami and its defense who finished in top-ranked categories, shocking the NFL, last season.
“Something that I’ve been really impressed with since I’ve gotten here, and gotten to see how (defensive coordinator) Josh (Boyer) and ‘Flo’ (Brian Flores) go about their business in installing defenses. They really do a great job of having a large attention to detail,” LB Brennan Scarlett said. “There is very minimal gray area, which as a player, we all appreciate. When it’s given to you that way, it’s much easier to go out there and play fast with all of the different looks. I’ve been really impressed and excited to go out there on Sunday and get to it.”
Jones Sees Toughest Matchup of All Rookie QB Debuts Sunday
There are a lot of rookie QBs making debuts on Sunday. Jones arguably faces the toughest defense as Jacksonville Jaguars’ Trevor Lawrence will see a Houston Texans secondary and New York Jets’ Zach Wilson will see the Carolina Panthers.
If Jones didn’t have enough time to work with the first team, understand the playbook to match NFL-game speed or doesn’t have enough chemistry with receivers, it will show.
Kickoff is set for 4:25 p.m. eastern Sunday.
– Alessandro Senatore is a Sports Contributor for Full Press Coverage Miami Dolphins who specializes in the NFL Draft and fantasy sports. Like and follow on Follow @AM_Senatore Follow @FPC_Dolphins and Facebook.
– Kayla Morton is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Miami Dolphins. She is also competing in the national #SFB11 — if you’d like to make a donation with her please reach out to her via Twitter. Like and follow on Follow @northdakayla74 Follow @FPC_Dolphins and Facebook.
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