Can Fins Take Advantage Of Patriots Personnel Losses?
DAVIE (CBSMiami) – The Miami Dolphins have spent hundreds of millions of dollars and draft picks on the roster this offseason with one simple goal in mind: beat the New England Patriots. At least one of the newest Dolphins believe the team is ready to do achieve that goal.
“I think they are (vulnerable), but you have to prove it, you can’t just talk about it,” Dolphins linebacker Dannell Ellerbee told CBSSports.com.
Ellerbee’s observation may be closer to the truth than some fans realize. The Patriots lost wide receivers Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, and Danny Woodhead. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is also trying to come back from offseason back and arm surgery, which will likely keep him out at the beginning of the season.
Add in the loss of tight end Aaron Hernandez to first-degree murder charges and the Patriots’ roster looks thin at the wide receiver and tight end positions.
Currently, the Patriots’ top receiving options are Danny Amendola, Michael Jenkins, Donald Jones, and tight end Jake Ballard. While quarterback Tom Brady is arguably the greatest to eve play his position, he can only do so much if the talent isn’t around him to take it to the next level.
“I don’t think you can say the Patriots are the same as before after what happened to Hernandez,” Ellerbe told CBSSports.com. “Losing a starter always hurts and losing a starter as good as he was will really hurt.”
On the flip side, the Dolphins have gone all-in with speed, speed, and more speed to counter the Patriots’ normally stingy defense. The Fins signed wide receiver Mike Wallace to stretch the field and Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson to keep defenses honest underneath.
The Fins also added tight end Dustin Keller to help give quarterback Ryan Tannehill a threat down the seam of the opponents defense and a reliable safety valve.
Miami also worked to fortify the offensive line by adding right tackle Tyson Clabo in free agency and moving Jonathan Martin to his more natural position of left tackle. If Martin can hold down the left tackle position, the Dolphins offensive line will be set for the near future.
Defensively, the Dolphins will look completely different from what teams have seen in the past few years.
The Dolphins brought in new cornerback Brent Grimes to man one side of the field and will match him up with Richard Marshall, who never got past an early injury last season. The Fins also spent big at linebacker bringing in Phillip Wheeler and Ellebe to man the middle with Koa Misi.
“I was brought here to help knock them off,” said Ellerbe. “That doesn’t mean we will, but we feel like we can. Like I said, we just have to prove it. You have to actually go do it.”
In 2012, Wheeler pulled down 109 total tackles, 3 sacks, and two forced fumbles on a bad Oakland Riaders team. Ellerbe was the heir-apparent to Ray Lewis in Baltimore before coming to Miami. He had 92 total tackles, 4.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles in the 2012 season.
Up front on the defensive line, the Dolphins have two goals: stop the run by clogging the middle with Paul Soliai, Randy Starks, and Jared Odrick and then on passing downs get to the quarterback as fast as possible with Cameron Wake and first-round draft pick Dion Jordan.
Saying the Patriots are ready to be taken down is like saying the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs are too old, you do so at your own risk. But, for the first time in several years, the Dolphins look poised to take advantage of a weakened New England team.