Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Dolphins 2020 opponents detailed look – Part 1

With the Dolphins 2020 opponents officially in the book, we can begin to piece together how the season will look. But there have been a lot of changes on NFL rosters this offseason, so just what have the Dolphins opposition been up to?

We’ll begin our trip through the weeks with a run-down of our 2020 opponents with a look at our usual enemies.

2020 Opponents Week 1 & Week 15 : New England Patriots

Notable losses: Tom Brady (QB), Rob Gronkowski (TE), Kyle Van Noy (LB), Jamie Collins (LB)
Notable gains: Brian Hoyer (QB), Brandon Copeland (LB)

It’s been a rough offseason in Foxboro, as the Patriots lost longterm starter and 6-time Super Bowl winning QB Tom Brady. Bill Belichick will have been disappointed, but the move was very much expected.

2020 opponents the Patriots will need Belichick to be at his best © Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
2020 opponents the Patriots will need Belichick to be at his best © Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Further losses from the defence (Von Noy and Collins) have further depleted the Patriots roster. While Belichick is a firm believer in his culture and system being more important than the individual parts, the Pats have lost some top end talent from a roster that only made it to the Wild Card last season.

The loss of Brady leaves a huge hole in an offence that consistently failed to stretch the field last season. The addition of Brian Hoyer to compete with second-year former Auburn Tiger Jarrett Stidham won’t scare many defences.

Even with Brady the Pats offence could only rank 8th in passing, 18th in rushing, and 7th in points scored. Hoyer has a career record of 16 wins and 22 losses, including losing his last 7 NFL starts.

I did like Jarrett Stidham as a developmental prospect coming out in 2018, but I’m not sure how much he will have improved under Brady last season. His biggest issues were his lack of poise, and his poor footwork and not stepping into his throws.

Stidham could be the longterm heir-apparent in New England, but it seems too early for him this season. If Stidham does start expect a lot of blitzing to test whether he has improved on that biggest weakness of not handling pressure well.

It’s hard to see the Pats competing at the pointy end of the NFL season, and the Dolphins will not be scared of their arch-rivals. But make no mistake Belichick will still be no easy win, and these games will help define the Dolphins progress this season, and just how far the Patriots have fallen.

The Dolphins will fancy their chances of winning at least one of these matchups, having bested the Patriots in week 17 last season. The week 15 game in Miami will be the Dolphins’ last home game of the season.

2020 Opponents Week 2 & Week 16: Buffalo Bills

Notable losses: Shaq Lawson(DE), Jordan Phillips (DT)
Notable gains
: Mario Addison (DE), Josh Norman (CB), Stefon Diggs (WR)

The Bills are the early favourites to take the AFC East crown and rightly so. With major questions hanging over the Patriots QB spot, the East’s only other playoff team should fill that top-spot this season.

Josh Allen, now entering his third-year, will need to improve his accuracy this season if the Bills are to continue making progress. While the running first option is a solid approach backed by Allen’s cannon, if he can’t consistently find his downfield targets the Bills will begin to struggle.

The more Josh Allen has to bale out his woeful accuracy with his legs, the more likely he is to get injured again. The addition of Stefon Diggs will finally give Allen a high-end, and reliable, receiving option.

It should be noted that CBS has called the Diggs acquisition the 9th worst move of the offseason. But I think Diggs gives them something they were otherwise lacking. Whether Allen can consistently find him, and the Bills can keep him happy is another question.

2020 Opponents Buffalo are counting on Josh Allen to improve his performances © Getty
2020 Opponents Buffalo are counting on Josh Allen to improve his performances © Getty

The problems Buffalo have though are a lack of production from Josh Allen, and that’s why the whole season hinges on him. The Bills ranked 23rd on points scored, averaging just 19.1 pts/g (just 0.5 ppg more than the Dolphins). For a team that things they have their franchise QB that is a concern.

It made the drafting of Jake Fromm, a completely different type of quarterback to Josh Allen all the more intriguing. The Bills also drafted AJ Epenesa in the second round to add good talent to their edge rushers.

The lack of offensive potency was covered last season with the leagues second best defence in terms of ppg at just 16.2 per game. It won’t take much of a slide in performance to see the Bills back into the middle of the pack role.

All that said, I suspect the Dolphins will be happy if they can split this series. A win in Miami in week 2 would help get the season off on the right track, and put a little more pressure on the Bills season.

2020 Opponents Week 10 & Week 12: New York Jets

Notable losses: Robby Anderson (WR), Brandon Copeland (WR)
Notable gains: Connor McGovern (C), George Fant (T), Breshad Perriman (WR)

The Jets closed out the 2019 season going 6-2 in the second half. While really annoying, the level of competition faced in that spell was at best mediocre with the Jets beating the Giants, Redskins, Raiders, Dolphins, Steelers, and Bills in that stretch.

Of all the Dolphins 2020 opponents, Adam Gase is possibly the most hated, and he continues to destroy his own CV with another horrifically awful offense in New York. His refusal to stretch the field, and attempt nearly all passes within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage is now holding back the Jets offense just like it held back Miami’s.

Averaging a league second-worst 17.3 points per game, the Jets ranked 29th in passing offense, and 31st in rush offense. That happened despite the fact the Jets added Leveon Bell, arguably one of the best running backs in the league in free-agency.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Adam Gase can make the Jets a consistent threat unless he is willing to open his offense. If they continue to play the game underneath, they will have massive issues and could potentially stunt the growth of third-year QB Sam Darnold.

The Jets have invested heavily in the offensive line over the spring, Paying center Connor McGovern $27m/3 years and tackle George Fant $30m/3 years. They also added Mekhi Becton in the draft.

Once promising HC is running out of chances in NY
Once promising HC is running out of chances in NY

The Jets are far from the powerhouse in the division and are really in rebuild mode like the Dolphins are, but with worse coaching. At minimum Miami will look to split the series.

With the games sandwiching the bye week, it’s an odd set of circumstances where both teams will have two weeks to prepare for the rematch. With the first game in Miami, and the Dolphins having the better staff I see a sweep of the Jets on the horizon.

Stay tuned as we’ll address the rest of the Dolphins 2020 opponents in the coming days.

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