The New England Patriots struggled away from home last year, going 3-5 during the regular season on the road.
One of the most deflating, demoralizing losses of the year came at Miami on a hook-and-ladder to Kenyan Drake with no time on the clock.
The two teams are vastly different this season but that doesn’t mean the Patriots are taking Miami lightly. New England will undoubtedly handle this weekend as they would any other opponent.
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With focus turned to what will happen on the field Sunday in Miami, it’s easy to get distracted by the off-field saga that is Patriots receiver, Antonio Brown. Can New England walk away with a rare road win at Miami or will New England be foiled again? Here’s what to watch for.
Will Antonio Brown Play?
The Patriots receiving corps is loaded, as we discovered throughout the preseason and into last week against Pittsburgh. Between Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, and Julian Edelman, it’s easy to get lost on the depth chart.
But now, with Brown added to the mix, it’s tough to predict where the majority of the snaps and touches will go. It’s still uncertain if Brown will play. He has practiced just thrice with the team and is still adjusting to an entirely new offensive system.
Looking back to last year, it took Josh Gordon a couple weeks to see game action after being traded to the Patriots while he learned the new offense. Once he was settled he was a key part, and the same could be true for Brown. Just don’t expect instant results if he suits up Sunday.
Can the Running Game Get Going?
Last week, the Patriots rushed for just 99 yards as a team. The most disappointing part of an otherwise thorough victory was the lack of overall production out of the backfield.
Second-year back Sony Michel had an extremely rough game, rushing for just 14 yards on 15 carries, a rather inauspicious start to his season. Fortunately, the Patriots will go up against a Dolphins defense that allowed 265 rushing yards in its opener against the mobile Baltimore Ravens.
All eyes will certainly be on Michel. It’s one thing to have a bad game, especially against a run defense like the Steelers. But if his struggles continue into Week 2 it alters the Patriots’ offensive plans out of the backfield.
Does Elandon Roberts See Any Defensive Snaps?
Voted a captain by his teammates, it was unusual to see linebacker Elandon Roberts not play a single down on defense in the Patriots season opener. He played sparingly on special teams as well.
New England could have used Roberts in a few defensive packages late in the game last week when Ja’Whaun Bentley began to tire. He also could have helped cover James Conner out of the backfield to give Jamie Collins a rest.
But Roberts never made onto the field. Though the Patriots are deep at the linebacker position, it was strange Roberts was not a part of the plan against Pittsburgh. But against a Dolphins team that throws different looks on offense, we could see Roberts used as an extra man in the box to prevent Kenyan Drake from doing serious damage.