Sunday, September 19, 2021

Behind Enemy Lines Week 1: Patriots

 Welcome to the first of a brand new series here at Aqua13, Behind Enemy Lines: New England Patriots Edition. 

Each week I will be talking with fans from the teams lining up against the Dolphins that week. We love our Dolphins, but at times can view match ups through Aqua tinted spectacles. This series will go behind enemy lines and get the view point of the opposition fan bases, see how they view the same match up situations and provide some alternative perspective. 

So when talking of Enemies, where better to start than the New England Patriots? I have been talking with Gary Beeson, who can be found on Twitter @UK_Patriots with nearly 3500 followers to get his perspective on the Patriots, the Dolphins and the match between the two. 

BEHIND ENEMY LINES WITH PATS FAN GARY BEESON

Thanks for talking with me Gary, appreciate your time. It’s great being part of the NFL family over here isn’t it? It’s a whole community, between our own teams and then the league overall too. So give us some context about you, who you are and how you became a fan of the Patriots. 

Hi, I’m Gary Beeson from London, and @UK_Patriots on Twitter. I have been a fan of the Pats since practically birth, as I inherited the team from my Dad, who started watching the Pats in the early 80s. My earliest memory is throwing on my Dads Tony Eason jersey (note the mild similarity in surname, that’s the very reason I am a Pats fan, as that’s why my dad chose the Pats), and watching the Rams vs Pats Superbowl – the franchises first! I have progressed to become full on obsessed with the Pats, watching every game of course, and travelling to Boston on a number of occasions to see them play! 

Wow Ok, so you’re in deep then yeah? Family affair, trips to Boston etc. You’re an advert for UK fans being much more than casuals. So as a real fan, how do you rate your chances this season? 

Optimistic. I have always said, the Patriots have earned my optimism over the years. I love the offense with have built, with a versatile running back group, solid receivers and a good O line. Mac Jones had a great pre-season and has earned that starter role ahead of Cam. I love our defence too, the return of Hightower and Van Noy, combined with the addition of Matt Judon has our fron 7 looking powerful. That combined with a steady head in Devin McCourty and break out CB JC Jackson, I believe this Patriots defence has the potential to return to the strength of its SuperBowl 53 winning side. 

Oooosh, that is optimism, and that is some defence to live up to. Personally I feel the division is going to be more competitive than it has been in a long time. Obviously I am excited about the prospects the Dolphins have and the team that’s being built, the Bills look formidable too. So where is this confidence coming from other than past success? Has pre-season gone particularly well? 

I have really enjoyed pre-season. I tend not to look too much at the record – but the approach to each game has been impressive. I am a big Mac Jones fan, who seemed to step in and do very well, outplaying the vets around him. The small glimpses of Jakobi Meyers has shown he the potential to kick on after a great year last year, and although we have not seen much of them, the pairing of Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith has me excited about our passing attack. 

No major surprises, I suppose I am just glad that Mac has adapted so quickly to a very complex playbook. Rhamondre Stevenson has looked great too – the entire Running Back group could be set up for a strong year. 

Let’s not get into Running Back groups eh? Always sparks controversy within the Dolphins fan base over what we should have done in the draft and if we should have taken one. Christ, some people still putting an “s” on the end of Gaskin! So lets talk about a different positional group. How are you feeling about Mac Jones as your QB of the future, and were you surprised to see him replace Cam Newton so quickly, especially with Cam being cut rather than staying around to mentor the new man? 

I am very excited. He played great in pre-season and looks like he is building a nice rapport with his receiving corps. I would be interested to see how is ball security is over the course of the season – one thing that was noted last year was how careless some giveaways were with Cam, Stidham and Hoyer at QB. I think Mac will lean heavily on his running backs, and short yardage throws with his WRs racking up the YAC. 

I understand Cam did not want to be a back up, he was a great presence in that locker room and any team would be lucky to have him. I do feel he has the potential to be starter in this league. Cam is a natural leader, and if this is going to be Mac Jones’ team, he needed to be the leader. It was a low risk contract, and Cam pushed Mac in camp and pre season. 

Different approach to how we approached the Tua situation last year. There could be something in the idea that taking Cam away allows Jones room to lead the team. As brilliant as Ryan Fitzpatrick was for our franchise as a person, player and presence, he was constantly a shadow in and around Tua. While it’s a different situation with Tua not being ready to start the season a year ago, removing Cam prevents anything similar happening for Mac. 

But while we’re comparing, you actually have a number of ex-Dolphins on your roster this year, even with just claiming Malcolm Perry just last week. How are those guys getting on? Are any of them expected to play a big role this year? 

I imagine Kyle Van Noy will try to slip into a similar role he had a few years back. Him and Dont’a Hightower work very well together. I am really happy that Ted Karras is back. He was a solid O lineman in previous years, and often provide a ‘utility’ option by being able to play in many positions along the line. O Line depth is so key, as Kansas City found out last year, and good teams have players like Karras to stay strong. 

Yeah, two players who are interesting. While we feel quite confident in Andrew Van Ginkel helping to fill Van Noy’s snaps after breaking out somewhat last year, arguably the LB group is not really much stronger. Similar could be said about Centre. After signing Skura and trading for Benardrick McKinney this off season to help cover for these two, both those solutions are no longer rostered in Miami. So it will be interesting to see how that plays out. 

But rivalry aside, what’s the Patriot point of view on how the Dolphins are positioned? How are we looking for the season, through Patriot tinted glasses? 

I really like what the Dolphins are building. Obviously there is a rivalry there, but I like seeing a team rebuild with success, as it shows the rags to riches stories that are possible in the NFL. You have an absolute diamond in Brian Flores, a great head coach who has a very bright future in the league. 

I have some doubts about Tua, as I am sure many Dolphins fans do, but your defence is set up to be fun, with the likes of Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. 

You also still have DaVante Parker who is incredibly underrated in this league. 

Mate, Parker is underrated within our own fanbase, I don’t understand it. His injury history is so often put forward as an argument and there are people around who would have us trade him away without much thought. So under valued, I agree. I do understand that he isn’t clear top dog now, with Will Fuller, Jaylon Waddle and even Albert Wilson looking strong in camp.

But hopefully that means there’s people there to lighten the load on Parker, and take defensive attention away from him a bit. This could give him more freedom. Let’s hope for the Dolphins sake we’re both right eh? 

But who is the equivalent for you guys? Who is the world NOT talking about, but that your fanbase is feeling good about and who we should be more worried about? Who could surprise us with a big impact on game day? 

I feel I always have the same answer to this, as I am a massive fan boy, but I absolutely love James White. In fact, the entire Patriots running back corps is looking great this year. With Mac Jones being a rookie, I can see the likes of White being a frequent target out the backfield, and can see Stevenson, Harris and Taylor splitting a lot of carries. 

On the defence, I feel Josh Uche is set for a double digit sack season – Judon and Winovich tend to grab the headlines, but Uche is explosive and looks to kick on after a relatively quiet rookie season. 

James White, yeah, he’s been knocking around there for a while hasn’t he. Always there without ever being THE guy. So I know you have mentioned a couple of names, but if you think about your wider fan base, who are you guys most concerned about from our roster? 

DaVante Parker and Xavien Howard. As we have talked about, Parker is so underrated. He has that great mix of great route running, and terrific hands and solid ability to contest every catch. He can stretch the field, and also punish you on short catches with some RAC potential. His only concern is staying healthy, which should not be a problem week 1. 

Not much more needs to be said about Howard, a top 5 CB with explosive play tendencies and amazing play recognition. I am gutted he looks to be sticking around in the division! I have no doubts he will kick on after a great season last year. 

You must be gutted we managed to work out the contract issue with Howard then? With all parties publicly agreeing to further negotiate after this season, Howard could be sticking around in Miami for a long time to come now that the contract situation seems to be a lot more mutually appreciated between player and front office. 

But I can’t let you go without asking about the most talked about guy on our roster… What is the Patriot view on QB1, Tua Tagovailoa, both for this season and in the long term. And be careful, we’re a sensitive bunch where Tua is concerned haha. 

Tua, Tua, Tua. If I am honest, I was panicking when he was picked in the draft, but last year was a little… underwhelming? He looked to struggle with pressure, and was sometimes slow getting the ball out. His physical presence is there, and I do think he is a good player… but I am not sure he can be great – yet.

Its never a good look to the rest of the league when it seems every time a QB is rumoured to be available, the trade rumours involves the Dolphins. Watson, Rodgers and even the talk of drafting a new QB before you traded out of the third pick, it doesn’t project confidence in your guy to the rest of us. 

That said, and as expected, Flores has said all the right things to keep Tua’s head on straight, and like I said, he is clearly a good player, he just has to prove he can be more than that. 

Now that I have said that, Tua will go OFF in Week 1, won’t he? 5 TDs and 400 yards… 

Haha!!! I bloody hope so. I just drafted him as one of my two QBs in fantasy too, so I really hope you have jinxed yourself and Tua kicks off a hall of fame career at the weekend. 

Finally though, and seriously this time, what is your prediction for week 1? How do you see this match playing out? 

I honestly see the Pats edging it, but it will be a close one, probably quite low scoring. Both teams are currently stronger on the defensive side of the ball so I could see the majority of points being on either short fields or defensive scores. 

Let’s say 19-13 Patriots. 

Well, that’s my least favourite answer from you and I hope you end up being entirely wrong. For me, I do agree about the defensive strengths. With Mac coming into his first NFL game, against a secondary of Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Eric Rowe and Rookie Jaevon Holland, I think that could be a battle for him.

From our side, you alluded to that front seven, Judon, Hightower and I’m sure Van Noy will be aggressively up for this game. Those guys could prove problematic for our young and inconsistent Offensive Line. I think it will be won with a kick, and I think Jason Sanders delivers that kick. 

I’m going 16-14 in favour of the Dolphins. 

So there you have it, some insight from the Patriots fan base. Interesting that they still see Parker as such a major threat, maybe that dominant performance a couple of seasons ago, still lives long in their memory. However, I do view their pass rush as a problem. Gary rightly mentions Judon’s addition, Uche’s development and Van Noy’s return with a chip on his shoulder after his surprise cutting.

Our OLine has come in for a lot of criticism recently, and this first game will put them to the test. They could put out a statement of intent, or they could compound our fears, either way I sense the way they handle the Patriots front 7 being a huge topic of conversation post match. 

But with the rest of the league seemingly viewing the Patriots as a weaker version of the team that was so dominant in the Brady era, and with Miami fans finally believing that there is a roster being built for purpose and with talent and potential after years of mediocrity, both fanbases have themselves as favourites. It will be close, and it will be a battle. 

Let’s just hope we come out proven correct. 

Fins Up! 

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