Dolphins Blueprints for Beating the Patriots: Enemy Week

Nate Solder Blocks Cameron Wake

Blocking Cameron Wake is going to be key for the Patriots.

Guest Editor: Eric Galko (

The Patriots played the Dolphins in Week One last season, and boy did it get ugly to watch for the Dolphins. It was a banner day for Tom Brady and the Patriots offense, and a tough to watch start to the Miami Dolphins.

But by around mid-season, the Dolphins team seemed to turn it up a notch with Matt Moore at the helm. The team played with more consistency, balance, and aggression. If the Dolphins can match that defensive ability with an improved offense, the Patriots could be in store for another hard fought game as it was back in Week 16.

Spread the Field Offensively

New head coach Joe Philbin and new offensive coordinator Mike Sherman are looking to not only spread the field more effectively this season, but also utilize their offensive weapons within the offense to add a much needed level of versatility. With Reggie Bush and Lamar Miller having receiving and open field ability at running back, and Charles Clay and Michael Egnew having some split tight end ability, the Dolphins could actually have more variation offensively than the well-respected versatility of the Patriots offensive approach.

The Patriots secondary is far from proven, and despite adding much talent in recent years through the draft, they are still susceptible to deeper breaking routes, something the Dolphins attacked last season well with Brandon Marshall and Brian Hartline.

While the passing offense centered around Brandon Marshall last year (who is gone) and in their Week 16 battle, Moore went 16-32 (not a good percentage), two reasons for optimism that the passing offense may improve against the Patriots: More creativity to take advantage of a less-than-stellar secondary , and utilizing Davone Bess, Reggie Bush, and Lamar Miller against linebackers and safeties that likely can’t consistently hang with the playmaking ability all game long.

Getting Cameron Wake in More Pass Rush Opportunities

Going to a more 4-3 front this year, the Dolphins lack an impact pass rusher outside of Cameron Wake (no question their biggest need to fill in next year’s off-season). Therefore, the Dolphins need to utilize his ability as much as possible, especially against a quarterback as outstanding as Tom Brady.

While it’s unclear exactly how Wake will be utilized in the 4-3 defense, the best way against the Patriots offensive line is likely through stunts in which Wake attacks the B gap and a defensive tackle (either Randy Starks or Jared Odrick sliding over), gets inside of Sebastian Vollmer and/or Nate Solder. Wake’s quickness, ability to get low and drive won’t be much use on the outside except to contain the run, but that ability could be highlighted if he can get an extra step and get an offensive guard off balance.

While it’s no lock the Dolphins will use this approach to get Wake free, they’ll need to find someway to generate pressure (especially on the inside) to slow down Brady, and Wake could be the key to that attack.

Contain the Vertical Passing Game

In that battle of a Week 16 game, the Dolphins held Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, and Deion Branch at least 2 yards per catch each under their season averages last year, and only gave up 3 passes over 20 yards. All three of the Patriots touchdowns were from the 1 yard line. The Dolphins contained the deep pass through much of the game last year in that game.

The addition of Richard Marshall for the Dolphins and further development of their young secondary means this team could improve even further from last year’s great run at the end of last season (they were a Top 8 NFL defense the last 9 games of 2011 in most categories).

Rob Gronkowski won’t be easy to stop. Wes Welker is going to get his 8+ catches against his former team. That’s “allowable” for the Dolphins. But it’s about keeping the game close, not getting beat vertically, and force the Patriots into field goals.

Get a Little Lucky in the Turnover Game

Tom Brady is not one to turn the ball over often. That’s a fact. The Dolphins’s Matt Moore had his problems with turnovers (both fumbles and interceptions) last season. The Patriots top two returning running backs had just one combined fumble last season in 164 carries. The tilt in the turnover battle starts with New England, but the Dolphins need a little luck to win this game, no doubt about that.

The Dolphins aren’t going to be favored in the matchups of the 2012 season. But Week 13 at Miami could be much more interesting than currently thought of, especially if the defense can click the way it did to end last season and the offense can get some consistency. And Week 17 could be a possible “resting the starters” win for the Dolphins as they play a likely playoff and potential first round bye team in the Patriots.

Spreading the field, attack with Cameron Wake, hold the Patriots to field goals and on 3rd down, and the end all, be all in many games, win the turnover battle. It’s not an easy task for the Dolphins to beat the Patriots this year, but I hope the Patriots fans are ready for two tougher-than-expected battles this season.

Check out more of Eric’s work at, where he specializes in scouting players from the FBS all the way down to the NAIA.

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6 Responses to “Dolphins Blueprints for Beating the Patriots: Enemy Week”

  1. Jim R says:

    Good belly laugh, Hey good luck with that

  2. BBD says:

    Seems like more than one team thinks the Patriots DB’s v. a spread style offense could be a big time matchup issue. Good work!

    • td says:

      What else is new?

      This has been going on for 2-3 years now. By the time the Bills & ‘Fins figure it out, we will have the guns on Defense, maybe this year.

      Are you guys at MDD & BBD ready to go on record that your respective QB’s can go toe to toe w/Brady and the Pat’s offense?

      The only fear Miami’s QB’s instill is in their own fans.

      • BBD says:

        What else is new? Well the Pats massive deficiency at DB is new. The pass defense was atrocious last year, Buffalo has already exposed that once before itself.

        The thought that Brady v. Fitzpatrick/Tannehill is a bit ridiculous since nobody is making that comparison. Also without knowing how OT Solder will look on a full time basis to protect Brady its stretching to assume that he will just handle two of the best pass rushers in the league in Wake and Williams.

        The idea though is that the Pats (for once) have a very clear and easy to expose weakness. They did not do a good job this offseason in addressing that and its something we expect teams both in and out of our division to attack with a consistency.

        The large advantage the Bills and Dolphins have over many others who will try and exploit this is that their systems are based on the spread. They don’t have to go out of their comfort level to stretch your defense. That alone should be a rather large concern.

        Forget the individual players on the field for just a second, speaking strictly schematically your defense does not stack up well v. two of your three divisional foes. You individually may not be worried about it or notice it but you can sure bet BB is aware and trying to figure out how to address it.

        • td says:

          Actually, we’ve had a DB deficiency since about ’08 after Samuel walked and we were left with Hobbs.

          We have had holes here and there; OLine injuries, DLine injuries, but in the past 5 years Brady and the offense have carried this team deep into the postseason and a few missed plays away from 2 more superbowl wins.

          So, from our vantage we have been hearing ramblings from Sexy Rex the last 4 years and now 2 more countries hear from. In the end, regardless of whether we still have a 31st ranked defense, it will always come down to execution, mostly from our offense.

        • Tim Q says:

          I would never worry about the pats o-line. Especially the Tackle they took with the 17th overall pick in 2011. According to pro football focus, on 880 snaps last year, Nate Solder allowed 3 sacks, and 4 QB pressures. He’s 6’8-6’9 and weighs 320 pounds. Not to mention he is being coached up by Dante Scharneccia, one of the best o-line coaches in the league. Oh, and when Solder went up against Wake last season, in his first ever regular season NFL game, he allowed one sack. He could turn out to be a better tackle than Light was, and Light was very good. At RT we havel a pro-bowl caliber guy in sebastian Vollmer, and Marcus Cannon is good depth at either tackle spot. As for the pats DB’s, Dennard was a steal, Mccourty could come back and be decent, Dowling is damn good when he plays, and Wilson, while not a great FS, was decent at CB.The only positipn that I am worried about is FS. They can patch that next year with kenny vaccaro or robert lester in the draft. Also consider this, the pats 2 backup QB’s are probably better than most starting QB’s in the AFC East. The bills are the only other good team in the East. I am happy they got better, as it will make the pats stronger in the playoffs, and the AFC East will stop being a weak division.

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