As we transition to Week 2, we leave the hostile confines of the west coast for the hostile confines of the east coast in a divisional match-up with the New England Patriots in Foxborough.
The New England Patriots, without Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, beat a widespread nominee for Super Bowl participant in the Arizona Cardinals on the road. Totally f’ed me in my Survivor Pool on the Phinsider. Welp, that was fun!
What kind of statement will we make on Sunday? Here are 3 match-ups that will help shape that conversation:
3) Branden Albert Vs. Sheard/Long
Jabaal Sheard had 3 tackles for loss, and Chris Long had a sack against Arizona; Branden Albert looked below average against the Seahawks. You can bet we’ll see some stunts on Sunday, as we seemed to have difficulties handling the Seahawks’ DL stunts Week 1, Albert in particular.
Tannehill was sacked 5 times on Sunday, a couple of which were absolutely brutal hits. We need our veteran left tackle to play better, period.
Controlling the edge is so vital to neutralizing the current Patriots pass rush.
2) Bobby McCain Vs. Julian Edelman
The Patriots will do a ton of 3-step drops, targeting Edelman, TE’s, and RB’s. Our pass rush will have a difficult time getting to Garoppollo if simply because of how quickly he’ll get rid of the ball - making our coverage on Edelman a huge part of slowing down their short passing attack.
(Kiko Alonso/Jelani Jenkins Vs. Rob Gronkowski/RB’s might have taken this position if not for the uncertainty of Gronkowski’s playing status on Sunday.)
1) Jordan Phillips Vs. Joe Thuney
I assume Ndamukong Suh will be double-teamed most of the game - and in the rare instance he is not - I expect him to dominate 1-on-1 match-ups to influence the interior pass rush and rushing lanes. Without Earl Mitchell in the way, Jordan Phillips has a legit opportunity to show that he’s here to stay:
He’ll do that by disrupting the pocket while Suh occupies the focus of the interior Patriots offensive line.
Phillips’ ability to win 1-on-1 match-ups becomes integral to the DL success. Phillips creating interior pass rush will create more opportunities to get the Patriots short passing attack out of sync.
The Patriots will not be shy to test our running defense, but LeGarrette Blount is most certainly not an “outside”/shifty type of running back - an interior presence limits the angles from which Blount would have to work with.
To put it bluntly: Jordan Phillips’ superior play enables a close game. Maybe we’ll finish one of these close games!
What key match-ups do you see Phinsider Nation? Let’s hear it in the Comments!