The Miami Dolphins had an off-season of uncertainty as COVID-19 swept through the nation and halted the football world. However, the team made an impact in free-agency with long-term deals for big-name players Kyle Van Noy, Ereck Flowers, Shaq Lawson and Byron Jones. The cherry on top, of course, was drafting Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. And he’s healthy.
This has put the team in a position to enter a new era when it plays the New England Patriots at 1 p.m. Sunday in Foxboro with head coach Brian Flores and General Manager Chris Grier leading the future of the team.
All of what happened over the offseason — the training camps getting underway, and the roster being cut down to 53 — has led us to this moment.
Week one at New England Patriots:
The Dolphins are in a different situation this year than in any of the past 20 seasons, when they have played in New England against the greatest NFL dynasty ever. There’s no Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. starting at quarterback. Brady has created Tom-pa Bay in Tampa with the Buccaneers, and Cam Newton is the new starting QB for Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.
Newton is a former MVP and has shown, when healthy, that he can play at an elite level. He reached Super Bowl 50 with the Carolina Panthers after their 15-1 season in 2016, but eventually lost to Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos.
Finally back after multiple aggravated injuries, Newton is ready to prove doubters wrong and has been praised highly by Belichick, who said this on the Rich Eisen Show: “He’s the first person in, last guy out. He’s studied hard and has spent a lot of extra time learning the offense. I’ve been very impressed with that.”
The Patriots are dealing with the fact that their old signal-caller moved on to beachfront pastures. The team also lost defensive star Dont’a Hightower to the COVID-19 2020 opt-out agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association. That means Hightower won’t be able to play until the 2021 NFL season, when he’ll be 31 years old.
The team also lost starting tackle Marcus Cannon and starting defensive back Patrick Chung to the COVID-19 opt-out.
And the Dolphins were dealt a bad hand at the wide receiver position when Albert Wilson II and Allen Hurns both opted out of the 2020 NFL season. Wilson is on the final year of his contract, and his number (15) was given to newly acquired receiver/running back Lynn Bowden Jr., who was traded to the team from the Las Vegas Raiders. Hurns is still on contract with the Fins after this season.
The team goes into the Patriots season opener that will allow no fans in the stands at Gillette Stadium. This bodes well for the Fins because of the impact the fans have in New England. The Dolphins will have fans at a limited capacity at their home-opener at Hard Rock Stadium in week two against the Buffalo Bills.
Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the starting QB for the Dolphins during the season opener and for the foreseeable future unless the team sees a significant drop in play. Though Tua has shown some flashes of what fans expect from the young QB in training camp, his injury and limited time on the field moved him down to QB2 for now. The team is only carrying two QBs as they cut Josh Rosen on cutdown day. Rosen eventually went unclaimed and signed onto the Tampa Bay practice squad.
The Dolphins come into the game with injuries to cornerbacks Byron Jones and Xavien Howard, but both are expected to start the matchup on Sunday.
Prediction: Dolphins (0-0) 24 – 17 Patriots (0-0)
When all is said and done, the Patriots had a better team than the Dolphins last season and lost to Ryan Fitzpatrick in Foxboro. The team improved over the offseason while the Patriots got worse, and although you can never count out Bill Belichick, I think Brian Flores and his team will edge out the Evil Empire and win that close 24-17 game.
A win against the Patriots would put the Dolphins in a great spot against division favorites, the Buffalo Bills, during their week-two matchup on September 20.