New England @ Miami
Power rankings: New England 14, Miami 17
When New England has the ball:
One would think there would never be a question surrounding the coaching staff on a Bill Belichick led team, but these are crazy times we're living in. Belichick was recently reminded of a 2009 interview where he was quoted saying, "I won't be like Marv Levy and coach in my 70s. You don't have to worry about that." Belichick turned 70 in April, and not only is he still coaching, he's voluntarily doing it without an offensive or defensive coordinator. It's as if current Bill Belichick is trying to show up past Bill Belichick. He's not only still coaching into his 70s, he's doing it with far more responsibility than any coach in the league. Take that, past Bill! Did I mention I'm still the general manager too?
The offensive side of the coaching staff has been an enigma this offseason, with Matt Patricia and Joe Judge coming in to lead an offense left vacated after Josh McDaniels took a head coaching gig in Las Vegas. Both are coming off of head coaching gigs that were utter failures, and neither has much experiencing coaching the offensive side of the ball. One would assume that's a recipe for disaster when trying to develop a 2nd year quarterback, but Belichick is thought of as one of the greatest coaches of all time for a reason, even as he enters his Marv Levy coaching years.
Mac Jones finished last season 12th in PFF grades (78.9), given him the distinction of the only rookie QB who looked like he belonged in the league. He struggled down the stretch, which is common for a rookie who isn't used to the grind that is the NFL season, but still put together a solid season, featuring pin point accuracy and wise decision making, even if he doesn't have the arm and leg talent as some others in the 2021 class. He'll be playing behind a solid offensive line that returned 3/5 starters, with two new guards in place. Michael Onwenu, who both started and worked as a swing tackle once Trent Brown came back from injury, slides in to play RG. Owenu was a 6th round draft pick in 2021 and has routinely performed at a high level at both the guard and tackle positions. The LG position will be taken over by Cole Strange, the 29th overall selection out of Chattanooga from this years draft. Strange was seen as a a -- uhh -- strange pick by many, widely considered to be a reach. He's a freak athlete who's technical skills likely need to be fine tuned. Even if Strange is a weakness, having 4/5 solid starters usually means the offensive line won't be an issue, especially when you have a QB who likes to get rid of the ball quickly. DeVante Parker comes over from Miami (revenge game) to lead a group of receivers that is a collection of "good but not great," including Jakobi Meyers (questionable, knee), TE Hunter Henry, Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, and TE Jonnu Smith. Damien Harris and Rhondre Stevenson will both see plenty of time in the run game, as both have proven themselves to be effective backs in the league. On defense, the Dolphins do have a solid line, the strength of which is the interior -- featuring Christian Willkins and Zach Sieler. They brought in Melvin Ingram for pass rushing reinforcement, who is still a productive player at 33 years of age. Ingram will team up with Jaelan Phillips and Emmanuel Ogbha -- the combination should bring consistent pressure given their blitz heavy scheme. The linebacking core of Elandon Roberts and Jerome Baker is the weakness of the defense, but there's hope in Miami that rookie Channing Tindall can eventually work his way into the lineup and be productive. The secondary is a true strength, featuring Xavien Howard and Byron Jones at corner and Jevon Holland at safety. Holland was a 2021 2nd round pick out of Oregon who would have competed for defensive rookie of the year if A) Micah Parsons didn't exist and B) people paid attention to safeties.
When Miami has the ball:
Dolphins fans can finally see what they have in a quarterback. Since taking Tua Tagovailoa 5th overall in 2020, he's battled notorious sex haver/Harvard goer Ryan Fitzpatrick for playing time, played behind a bad offensive line, and has had inconsistent weapons. The offensive line is still a work in progress -- they've invested heavily in the draft at the position and are hoping some high draft picks can develop, including Liam Eichenberg (42nd overall, 2021), Robert Hunt (39th overall, 2020), and Austin Jackson (18th overall, 2020). None have truly worked out so far and all three are still starters, but the Dolphins did bring in Terron Armstead and Connor Williams for stability -- Armstead in particular is routinely one of the best tackles in football. Jaylen Waddle showed play-making ability in his rookie year, and he's paired with new additions Tyreek Hill and Cedrick Wilson, as well as TE Mike Gesciki. Together they make up one of the better receiving cores in football. At running back, Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert, and Myles Gaskin should all see work. On defense, the Patriots have shaky pass rush outside of Matthew Judon and DT Christian Barmore -- they need 2020 2nd rounder Josh Uche to take a big step forward in his 3rd year. Barmore was a rookie last season who showed immense talent as an interior pass rusher. The linebacking core is led by Ja'Whaun Bentley, a downhill run stopper. They lost Kyle Van Noy, who was their best coverage linebacker, but did bring in Mack Wilson and are hoping a now healthy Raekwon McMillan can contribute after missing all of 2021. The secondary is severely lacking after JC Jackson signed with the Chargers in the offseason, leaving Jalen Mills and his 67.5 PFF grade as their best corner. They have used speedy corner Jon Jones on Tyreek Hill in the past with relative success, which is a situation to monitor in game. The safety group is the star of the defense, led by Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips, and Kyle Dugger.