Dolphins hoping history has clues to stop Patriots’ tight ends

By Kyle Crabbs

The Miami Dolphins, for the second consecutive year, face the unenviable task of trying to bottle up the New England Patriots in Week 1 of the regular season. Miami has an AFC East contenders gauntlet to open the season and hitting the ground running will be an essential part of the Dolphins’ season.

Achieving that becomes a little more complicated thanks to an offensive overhaul from New England. The team spent top dollar on not just one, but two tight ends in free agency — tacking on Jonnu Smith from Tennessee and Hunter Henry from Los Angeles to significantly bolster their mismatch potential in 12-personnel.

And as the Dolphins try to prepare to stop those dynamics on the field, defensive coordinator Josh Boyer seem to think history could at least provide some clues to success — but not the final answers to the test.

“I think it goes back to (the Patriots) have some talented guys at that position for sure, and I think they’re very good football players. You can go back and look at how the coordinator, Josh McDaniels, who does a very good job – you can go all the way back to Daniel Graham and Ben Watson. I think you try to look at how they’ve utilized their tight ends in the past. They’ve had good tight ends there in the past and how their skillsets are similar to some of the players that they’ve had,” said Boyer on Tuesday.

“But again…there’s an element of unknown and we definitely expect to see the unexpected. We’ll just have to prepare and adjust for that as it comes up, but again, I think just when it comes to preparation that you don’t want to leave any stone unturned so you kind of study the player themselves and where they’ve been and what they’ve done and what they’ve had success with. And then you look at just from a philosophical offensive standpoint of how they may use them.”

The Patriots’ tight end philosophy historically is, in the most simple form, ‘use them often’. And Miami must be prepared to defend accordingly. This will be a big game for players like Eric Rowe and Jerome Baker — middle of the field defenders who must rise to the occasion and fit both the run and stay firm with their pass coverage responsibilities against play action. And if Miami comes home with a win in Week 1, it will likely mean Boyer and the defense found the right mix of historical clues and modern day applications to counter as needed.


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