The Miami Dolphins’ season is full of oddities this year. After the three-straight prime-time games, there is also the AFC East portion of the schedule, where the Dolphins will complete each home-and-home series before facing their next division rival. It starts in Week 3 when the Dolphin host the New York Jets, then face them again in Week 7.
It continues coming out of the Week 11 bye, when the Dolphins will visit the New England Patriots in Week 12 - then face them again two weeks later in a Week 14 Monday Night Football contest in Miami. The Dolphins will also do the two games in three weeks when they face the Buffalo Bills in Weeks 15 and 17. Odd.
This morning, we get a closer look at the Patriots thanks to Pats Pulpit.
Notable free agent additions
RB Mike Gillislee, RB Rex Burkhead, DT Lawrence Guy, LB David Harris, CB Stephon Gilmore
Notable free agent departures
RB LeGarrette Blount, TE Martellus Bennett, EDGE Chris Long, EDGE Jabaal Sheard, CB Logan Ryan
WR Brandin Cooks, TE Dwayne Allen, EDGE Kony Ealy
Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies
EDGE Derek Rivers, EDGE Deatrich Wise Jr. (OT Tony Garcia hopefully won’t play)
Biggest offseason addition
WR Brandin Cooks deservedly gets all the attention because of his ability (2,359 yards and 17 touchdowns over the past two seasons), his age (still 23), and his physical traits (4.33s 40 yard dash, 3.81 short shuttle), but the Patriots offense was already going to be great. I think the signing of CB Stephon Gilmore is the bigger acquisition this year because of money he received (the second-most guaranteed for a cornerback in the league) and the role he’ll have.
The Patriots lost CB Logan Ryan to the Tennessee Titans and hope they have added an upgrade in Gilmore. Gilmore has all the physical traits, but the Buffalo Bills failed to provide him with a supporting cast at the safety position. Now, Gilmore gets to play across from All Pro CB Malcolm Butler and alongside All Pro FS Devin McCourty. The Patriots secondary might have improved at a time where talent at cornerback is needed.
Last year, the Patriots faced a laughably weak slate of opposing quarterbacks. This year, the Patriots will not just face better quarterbacks, but a series of incredible wide receiver duos. Gilmore will be in the spotlight a lot.
Biggest storyline heading into training camp
There aren’t too many storylines for the Patriots. There are some competitions (ex: will Mike Gillislee see more time than Rex Burkhead? Can David Harris hold off both Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts at linebacker?) but these aren’t very big storylines in the sense that they’ll make or break a season. It’s like choosing between a donut or a cupcake; the Patriots will have a delicious dessert no matter the outcome.
To me, a big storyline requires a team to have a core-shaking outcome should the alternative take place. So my biggest storyline is whether the Patriots will reach an extension with CB Malcolm Butler.
Butler was shopped this offseason and no team took a bite. He’s an All Pro cornerback that will be 28 years old next year; he’s in his prime. If Butler doesn’t reach an extension with the Patriots prior to the start of the season, it’s likely that Butler will play out the season, enter free agency, and cash in elsewhere, leaving the Patriots to move forward with Gilmore, Eric Rowe, and Cyrus Jones at cornerback.
Or, the Patriots and Butler reach a reasonable extension and the Patriots will have the best secondary in the league for the next five years. This will be fun to watch.
Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp
How do the Patriots edge defenders look? Rob Ninkovich has retired. Kony Ealy is an inconsistent import from Carolina. Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise are rookies. Trey Flowers is the assumed superstar.
Many hope that the Patriots edge defenders will play at a high enough level in 2017, but it’s easy to overlook that the Flowers, Ninkovich, Chris Long, and Jabaal Sheard quartet were pretty okay. There’s a chance this 2017 group takes a step backwards and the Patriots could struggle to generate consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Notable injuries heading into training camp
TE Rob Gronkowski is returning from his back surgery, but he’s been 100% at camp and looks as good as ever.
Miami Dolphins 2017 season schedule:
vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Setpember 10, 1pm
at Los Angeles Chargers
September 17, 4:05pm
at New York Jets
September 24, 1pm
vs. New Orleans Saints (London)
October 1, 9:30am
vs. Tennessee Titans
October 8, 1pm
at Atlanta Falcons
October 15, 1pm
vs. New York Jets
October 22, 1pm
at Baltimore Ravens
October 26, 8:25pm (TNF)
vs. Oakland Raiders
November 5, 8:30pm (SNF)
at Carolina Panthers
November 13, 8:30pm (MNF)
at New England Patriots
November 26, 1pm
vs. Denver Broncos
December 3, 1pm
vs. New England Patriots
December 11, 8:30pm (MNF)
at Buffalo Bills
December 17, 1pm
at Kansas City Chiefs
December 24, 1pm
vs. Buffalo Bills
December 31, 1pm