by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff
The Patriots have had their bye week along with a little extra rest during blowouts against the Titans and Buccaneers. But if you don’t think they could have problems with the Dolphins, you’ve gone mad.
No AFC East team has beaten New England as consistently as Miami over the past few years, as the Dolphins split with the Pats in 2004 (ouch), 2005, 2006 and 2008. No matter what their respective records, the Patriots seem to have trouble with this team every year.
Thus, you see, comes the worry. Other reasons for concern…
Green Achers: Defensive lineman Jarvis Green had knee surgery, while Ty Warren tweaked his ankle against Tampa (Warren had limited participation in practice Thursday). This puts pressure on the likes of Mike Wright and Myron Pryor to contain the vaunted Dolphin Wildcat (an odd mammal, for sure). Can they deliver? And will humongous rookie Ron Brace finally get onto the active roster?
Outside Looking In: Linebacker Junior Seau, aka Methuselah, is supposed to give the Patriots flexibility in their 3-4 defensive looks. When he started playing, Jerod Mayo and Gary Guyton were in short pants and he was in stonewashed jeans. Not sure what’s more nerve-wracking: the thought of a 40-year-old taking on the pounding of an NFL game, or that that he actually will help the defense.
We Real Kool-Aid: Miami brings the sixth-best run defense in the league to Foxboro. This continues the endless debate on running back Laurence “Kool Aid” Maroney, who’s seen some success recently but has yet to win over his detractors. Will he dance for the Dolphins, or will he maintain his 4.3 yards per carry average?
Tate Or Tot: Can Brandon Tate help the team, or is it too early? The rookie receiver made some plays in college and seemed comfy in his NFL debut overseas. Still, we’re talking about a reception-less rookie making his first appearance in a home game. Can we assume that he’ll start on Sunday? If so, it seems a lot to ask him to learn an offense in three weeks when veteran Joey Galloway failed to master it after several months.
Pressure Pact: The Dolphins may not have the most dynamic QB in Chad Henne, but if his o-line gives him enough time to read the defense like a Victorian novel, that means a long day for New England. Who on the Patriots can bring pressure? Derrick Burgess was brought in specifically to rush the quarterback. Half of his two-sack total came against Tampa’s Josh Freeman, who looked about as comfortable in the pocket as a claustrophobic hamster. Tully Banta-Cain has been a pleasant surprise with three sacks, but vs. Miami’s hulking front, New England needs to turn up the heat.
Heat? In Foxboro, not a problem. In Miami? Well, that’s a future worry.
Email Chris Warner at firstname.lastname@example.org