On the Beat: 5 questions about the Dolphins

The Patriots haven’t seen the Dolphins since last season, and Miami has undergone an overhaul with the coaching staff since that time. So the Patriots will be seeing new schemes Sunday. We brought in beat writer Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post to shed some light on the new Dolphins:1. How confident are you that the Dolphins, especially Ryan Tannehill, can limit the turnovers to keep this one close?

“Not very. The Dolphins have eight turnovers in their last three games, and it’s not like they’ve been facing the Steel Curtain D — they came against Tennessee, Buffalo and Seattle. Six of the turnovers have been Tannehill interceptions, and he should’ve had a seventh but it was wiped out by a roughing the passer penalty on Seahawks safety Earl Thomas. And unlike early in the season, when most of his interceptions came on tipped passes, he’s been making some really bad decisions of late and forcing throws when he doesn’t have to. The Dolphins have been sloppy with the ball all year, and I don’t expect that to change against the Pats.”


2. Who is the one Dolphins player most Patriots fans don’t know right now, but will by the end of the game on Sunday?

“Safety Reshad Jones has quietly put together a solid season as the Dolphins’ do-it-all safety. Jones, in his third NFL season but first as a starter after replacing the departed Yeremiah Bell, never lines up in the same spot twice. On one play he’ll play deep center field, the next he’ll be blitzing the “A” gap and the next he’ll line up over the tight end in the slot. He is third on the Dolphins with 63 tackles (including 14 two weeks ago), and tied for the team lead with two forced fumbles and two interceptions.”

3. What’s the biggest weakness on the Dolphins’ offense you expect the Patriots to try to exploit?

“The Dolphins’ lack of a physical and/or field-stretching receiver has really hurt them over the last five weeks. They did little to replace Brandon Marshall after trading him to Chicago in May, and Brian Hartline, Davone Bess, and Anthony Fasano are all nice No. 2-3 options, but don’t scare opposing defenses. Teams have been defending the Dolphins with eight in the box and press man-to-man coverage on the outside. The Dolphins’ receivers have struggled to get separation in that 1-on-1 coverage to keep the defense honest, and the running game hasn’t been able to overcome the extra defender in the box (the second half of last week’s win over Seattle aside).”


4. What’s the biggest weakness on the Dolphins’ defense you expect the Patriots to try to exploit?

“The Dolphins’ cornerbacks are young, inexperienced and have allowed six 300-yard passers this year — and it’s not exactly a list of Pro Bowlers (Mark Sanchez, Carson Palmer, Sam Bradford, Kevin Kolb). Last week, Russell Wilson completed over 77 percent of his passes. Sean Smith (fourth year) is the veteran of the group, and though he has played well at times this year, he is prone to mental mistakes. Seven-year veteran CB Richard Marshall was signed this offseason to cover the slot, but he’s been lost for the year to a back injury, leaving Nolan Carroll (third year), R.J. Stanford (third year) and Jimmy Wilson (second year) to play opposite Smith. I expect Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd to both have big games.”

5. Finally, Dolphins win on Sunday if …

The Mayans were right. But seriously, the Dolphins will have to play a flawless game on both sides of the ball — no turnovers, no missed assignments, perfect execution all the way around. And there’s no reason to think that the Dolphins will be able to A) grind the clock and keep the ball for 35-40 minutes, or B) keep up in a track meet with New England. I’m expecting another blowout win for the Pats.

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