Although the Miami Dolphins were unable to hold off the Seattle Seahawks in their 12-10 week-1 loss at CenturyLink Field — a game in which the Dolphins, a 10.5 underdog, lost on a final 14-play, 75-yard drive, orchestrated by the injured Russell Wilson — there are still a lot of positives to take away from the start of the “Gase Era” in Miami.
Unfortunately for Adam Gase & Co, who face one of the most harsh schedules in the NFL — week-2 of the 2016 season won’t get any easier. Once more the Dolphins find themselves deep within enemy territory, facing division rivals, the New England Patriots (1-0, 1st AFC East) in Foxborough, Massachusetts — a place in which the Miami Dolphins’ have not won since Sept. 21, 2008.
On offense, fifth year QB Ryan Tannehill will need to lead a patient and consistent offense, limiting turnovers — while establishing the run game early, if the Dolphins look to walk out of Foxborough with a 1-1 on the season. For the defense, the key will be to put constant pressure on back-up QB Jimmy Garoppolo — who continues to serve as the Patriots starting quarterback until the suspended Tom Brady returns.
With questions still remaining on whether Rob Gronkowski and Nate Solder will be available to play on Sunday, the Miami Dolphins’ seem to have an actual chance of upsetting the Patriots at home, and claiming the top spot of the war torn AFC East.
Players to Watch:
After failing to reel in a 73-yard catch for a would-be touchdown and finishing in Seattle with only 1 catch for a mere 16 yards, it’s easy to not expect much from the 4th year Oklahoma standout in week 2…But have no fear, because the drop was a fluke!
Stills, who has become one of Ryan Tannehill’s favorite targets, could once again see increased snaps as the Dolphins’ might still be without WR DeVante Parker. According to Pro Football Focus, on targets inside 20 yards, Stills pulled in an incredible 29 of 35 targets (83 percent) during his rookie season in New Orleans. Against the Patriots defense, look for Kenny Stills to go back to his bread-n-butter.
Jay Ajayi being left in Miami in week 1 was due to a “coach’s choice”. The second year back, according to rumor, sulked and became upset after veteran RB Arian Foster was named starter. Hence the reason for him being left behind.
While Ajayi showed little throughout preseason to prove he’s deserving of bulk carries — that doesn’t mean he’s not capable. With Foster (Hamstring) limited in practice this week, I can promise you the former Boise State standout will have more yards against the Patriots, than he did against the Seahawks.
Jarvis Landry has never scored against the Patriots… I’m serious.
Aside from being Jarvis Landry, he’s averaged at least six catches in his last three match-ups against the New England secondary. While I hate putting Landry in the “breakout” category, look for the man they call “juice” to break the streak of not scoring against our divisional rivals.
Breakout player of week 2: Andre Branch
Defensive end Mario Williams started and ended his first game as a Dolphin’ with a bang — recording a sack, before leaving the game due to concussion protocol. With Earl Mitchell(calf) on injured reserve, and no timeline on Williams return, week 2 could mean extended snap counts for the former Jacksonville Jaguar DE Andre Branch. At 6-foot-5, 265-pounds, Branch is strong against the run, and has the ability, speed, and finesse off the line to pressure Jimmy Garoppolo.
Why I picked Andre Branch
The Patriots, who could be without starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, starting left tackle Nate Solder, and guard Jonathan Cooper, will have their hands full trying to contain Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake — leaving Andre Branch in multiple 1-on-1 match-ups with backup tackles. Branch excels when the quarterback breaks outside of the pocket, and with 5 career forced fumbles, look for Branch to stuff the stat sheet this weekend.