With the Dolphins floundering what should have been an easy win against Buffalo, they are set to take on the jewel of the AFC East, the New England Patriots. True as it may be that Tom Brady and his offense have not been the epitome of prolific, the team is still winning. Keep an eye after the break, for a complete breakdown of this AFC East battle, taking place in Foxborough.
This appears to be the year that Tom Brady’s magic is taking a turn, depending on who you ask. Others will say he is suffering without any weapons. Personally, both have validity. While Tom Brady has never been very accurate under pressure, he always made up for it with big plays and efficient decisions underneath. This year however, his accuracy percentage has dropped drastically to only 67% (28th in the NFL); note that accuracy percentage considers a dropped pass as an accurate throw. Im sure some of that is due to miscommunication with his intended targets but he also has dropped in accuracy with the deep pass, showing signs of potential age. At the end of it all though, Brady is still a legend and still to be feared. Any other QB with that team and they could be looking at a very different record.
Rob Gronkowski. Need I say more? Hes an absolute force on the football field and Brady is completely comfortable with him. So comfortable in fact that in his first week back from inury, Brady targeted Gronk 17 times, or more than double his next most targeted weapon. Rashad Jones, Phillip Wheeler and Dannel Ellerbe have a rough game ahead.
Quite the story in the NFL, the Patriots receiving corp is. Were talking about a group that has Danny Ammendola, who s far as we can tell is made of some sort of glass, but talented for sure. Will he play against the Dolphins? He was listed as questionable after his recent concussion and passed his tests on Friday. Granted, concussions are tough and he could fail Saturdays or even Sundays test. At any rate, Danny has not been able to stay on the field long enough to exactly be productive. Julian Edelman, is also listed on the “questionable” list. Edelman has already put up a decent season by his standards, accumulating 2 TD’s and 455 yards. Kenbrell Thompkins is the true story however. An undrafted rookie this year, partly due to off field concerns, is certainly having a nice rookie season. 7 weeks in, and Thompkins has 4 TD’s, including 1 on the long ball. Thompkins does a bit of a drop issue, but it is by no means like Mike Wallace’s this year so far. He is also not incredibly efficient in his route running, demonstrated by his lack of yards per route run, currently listed as the 37th best WR in this category. At the end of it all, Dolphins CB’s Grimes, Patterson, Carrol, will have to respect them due to Brady being Brady.
Stevan Ridley started the season very slow (much to my chagrin in fantasy football), but in recent weeks has come back to life. In his past 3 consecutive games Ridley has posted at least an 4.5 YPC average. On the year, Ridley is averaging 4.1 YPC and has 3 rushing TD’s. Can the Dolphins D-line suppress the run game and make the Patriots one dimensional? Lets take a look at the blocking.
The Patriots offense as a unit has done an OK job blocking for the run, currently ranked 16th in run blocking by PFF. Looking into though, shows a line that is holding its own. Lets start from the left, shall we? Nate Solder (left tackle) has been an absolute beast while run blocking. He is the 2nd highest ranked OT in that category. Left guard Logan Mankins has also been a solid peice coming in at 11th among OG’s. Center Ryan Wendell has been serviceable while blocking for the run, coming in at 18th among starting centers, albeit he does have a slight negative cumulative grade in run block. The right side of center is a hole the Dolphins will want to attack. RG Dan Connolly has been pretty poor overall in run block, coming in with a heavy negative grade and ranking 46th in run block among OG. Sebastian Volmer (RT) has also suffered in the run block category, coming in at 27th. Hes not a liability like the Dolphins OT’s have been against the run, but the pairing of him and Connolly should be a target for Dolphins against the run. The Patriots will likely look to exploit Vernon, Jordan, and Misi by rushing to their edge.
Miami’s stout defensive line looks to have a battle against the Pats on passing snaps. Currently ranked 12th in Pass Blocking Efficiency (PBE), the O-line is making sure Brady isnt under pressure too much. As a unit, they have allowed 15 sacks, 8 hits, and 85 hurries. Essentially their oline allows pressure a very respectable 27.6% of the time.
Nate Solder does a respectable job protecting Brady’s blindside. Though he has allowed 4 sacks, his total pressure count of 14 on 300 pass block snaps is good enough to land him the 9th best PBE among offensive tackles. On the other side of the line, Sebastian Volmer is also having a solid year. Volmer has allowed 2 sacks with 15 total pressures on 289 pass snaps, giving him the 13th best PBE among tackles.
Among the guards, things look a little more favorable for the Dolphins interior linemen. RG Danny Connolly is currently the 50th OG in PBE, allowing 20 pressures (including 2 sacks) on 263 snaps. I expect Soliai/Starks to have a monster day going against Connolly. Odrick/Starks will have a harder time getting by LG Logan Mankins, as he is the 17th best OG in PBE; allowing 12 pressures (2 sacks) on 307 snaps.
Soliai, Starks, and Odrick will likely all have some snaps going against Ryan Wendell, and I expect them to win this matchup. Wendell is currently the 28th best C in PBE allowing 4 sacks and 16 additional pressures on 307 snaps.
The Patriots defensive line may be missing Vince Wilfork, but this line can still stop the run; at least when healthy. With Vince Wilfork out for the year and defensive tackle Tommy Kelly out for this game, the starting defensive tackles will be Joe Vellano and Chris Jones. Vellano has been a nice surprise for the Patriots when Wilfork went down, coming in with the 11th best run stop percentage. Chris Jones on the other hand is not so productive as the 41st DT.
On the perimeter, Jonathan Martin (if moved back to RT) will have to face Rob Ninkovich. Martin, already the 58th ranked OT in run blocking will have a tough time going against Ninkovich who is currently the 8th best 4-3 DE against the run, with 16 tackles for less than 3 yards. On the other side, if Bryant McKinney starts he will have a tough time against the run facing off against Chandler Jones, who is the 11th best 4-3 DE against the run. In the end, If Philbin and Sherman refuse to see that their OT’s are both poor against the run and both DE’s are good, and therefor run a majority of run plays to the edge (exact situation as Baltimore, with poor results) then it will be yet another coaching call that is easily scrutinized. RUN IT UP THE GUT.
Bryant McKinney will help in the pass protection aspect (as long as hes ready) and Martin will be better than Clabo has been, but they will certainly be tested. Ninkovich and Jones are both in the top 20 of PRP (pass rush productivity). Jones is the 10th best in PRP with 8 sacks, 8 hits, 17 hurries on 277 pass rush snaps. Ninkovich is not as productive but still solid, producing 2 sacks, 5 hits, 20 hurries on 244 snaps; this places him in the 18th among his peers.
With Tommy Kelley out, the Patriots lose their best interior pass rush without a blitz. Chris Jones may be a bit of a liability when being run at, but he certainly can get to the QB. He has accumulated 4 sacks in only 101 pass rush snaps. Joe Vellano however is not as opportunistic and has garnered 1 sack in 135 snaps. Watch for more stunts between these 2 DT’s to get Jones against Jerry instead of Incognito.
Any deficiency Jones has against the run, ILB Brandon Spikes should be able to handle it. He is currently rated the 3rd best ILB against the run and has 30 tackles of which 26 constitute a stop. Spikes may do well against the run, but hes not a worry on the blitz. He barely rushes the passer and even when he does, he does not produce pressure. Spikes is no one trick pony though, he is phenomenal in coverage. The Best ILB in fact. Hes allowing a league best 27.1 passer rating into his coverage and is only allowing a reception once in every 28 snaps, also league leading.
Among the OLB’s the phins may have lucked out with Mayo being put on IR. He was the 9t best pass rushing 4-3 OLB though his replacement Jamie Collins is a bit of a Wildcard. Lets hope Martin doesn’t make him look awesome. Donta Hightower, however is still healthy and he is the 10th best 4-3 OLB. Hightower can also cover, having the 10th lowest passer rating into his coverage and allowing a reception the 8th least amount ( he allows 1 reception once every 8 coverage snaps).
Alfonzo Denard is a solid coverage corner, only allowing a 70 passer rating into his coverage with 1 TD allowed, 6 passes defensed and 1 interception brought down. Aquib Talib has been fantastic in coverage allowing 1 TD, but already having 4 interceptions and 5 additional passes defensed. Slot CB Kyle Arrington seems to be the chink in this strong CB corp. He is allowing a 85 passer rating and has 2 TD’s to his 1 INT.
Safties Steve Gregory and Devin McCourty are both suffering in coverage this year. They are allowing a 98 and 99 passer rating respectively.
Dolphins 20, Patriots 17.
Yes, I think we can win. Our defense is a very simular scheme to the one that limited the Pats to 6 points (albeit without Gronk). The Dolphins need to not abandon the run, and not make running it to the edge the mainstay of our play calls. We need to Target the middle of the field as seemingly all the poor guys in coverage (except the ILB) are there. I predict that if Clay is going to be a influence on this game it will be because he is running deep against the safeties. If Talib plays, I may be eating my words. Go Phins!