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Dolphins players to watch versus Patriots

Jacksonville Jaguars v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins host the New England Patriots this afternoon the first of two meetings between to the AFC East rivals. The two teams are coming off opposite experiences from their Week 1 season openers, with the Patriots dispatching the Pittsburgh Steelers with realative ease while Miami was dismantled by the Baltimore Ravens. Now, facing one of the biggest point spreads in league history, Miami will look to upset the defending Super Bowl champions.

There are a lot of areas/players who need to perform for the Dolphins this afternoon if they are going to have a chance. Odd things always seem to happen to the Patriots in Miami, and the Dolphins will be looking to have that happen again today. Who should we watch to see if Miami has a chance?

Minkah Fitzpatrick, safety

This week has been filled with stories that Fitzpatrick, Miami’s 2018 first-round pick, has requested a trade, the Dolphins have given his agent permission to try to find a deal, and that Fitzpatrick is not happy about how the coaching staff is using him. Reports seem to say the Dolphins could trade him as early as this upcoming week, and that there is plenty of interest from across the league in acquiring the jack-of-all-trades defensive back. On Sunday, however, he is expected to start in place of Reshad Jones, and he should be a key member of the defense, even if the Dolphins are looking to trade hime.

“I’m a big part of this week’s game plan, so I’m going to go out there and give my all to this team, because I am a Miami Dolphin,” Fitzpatrick said on Friday when asked about a potenital trade. “(I am) going to do my best to make sure I play my best, perform my best. That’s all I’m focusing on right now is the New England Patriots, basically one of the best teams in the league, so we have to prepare for them.”

Safety Bobby McCain was asked about Fitzpatrick’s trade request, replying, “You control what you can control. I can’t really control how people feel. If he feels that way, then that’s how he feels. But we know, as he knows, that he’s a big part of the game plan. He’s got a job to do. Like I said, he’s a big part of the game plan so we have to put out a better performance than we had last Sunday. That’s really what we’re focusing on. Anything outside of those lines, you can deal with when those 60 minutes are up.”

McCain does not think Fitzpatrick will be distracted on the field on Sunday, even with the trade talks swirling. “Minkah loves football,” he explained. “Minkah loves football, so I know he is going to be all-in. I would never question that. At the end of the day, there is a business end of football, and then there is football. We know that unfortunately this business is a crazy business; but if that is what you’ve got to get done, you’ve got to get things done. You also – he knows, and we all know, regardless of everything that’s going on, everything that people want to blow out of proportion, just going out and getting the job done and winning, that will calm things down for sure.”

“Yeah. Minkah is a big part of the game plan right now,” head coach Brian Flores said of how he envisions Fitzpatrick’s play during Sunday’s game. “He’s done a really good job all week. This is a tough kid, a hardworking kid. He loves football. I expect him to play well Sunday. I’m excited to see what he does Sunday.”

Fitzpatrick is going to have a key role in Sunday’s game, and the Dolphins need him to perform. If he is looking to be traded, this is his audition with all of the league watching. Miami is expecting at least a first-round pick in any deal made, so they will want to see him perform well for that reason as well.

Miami and Fitzpatrick could come out of this game with multiple wins each if the defensive back plays well.

Offensive line

Stop me if you have heard this before. The Dolphins’ offensive line is still a question mark, and now another change is happening. Last week, Jesse Davis started at left tackle, Michael Deiter at left guard, Daniel Kilgore at center, Danny Isidora at right guard, and Julién Davenport at right tackle. Davenport landed on injured reserve this week after an injury in practice led to a fractured leg, with J’Marcus Webb likely moving into the starting lineup in his spot this week.

“Yep,” Flores replied when asked who would start in Davenport’s position. “J’Marcus will be the next guy up. He has practiced well this week, so we think – any time (with) injuries, they occur. They happen in games, they happen in practice. When they happen, the next guy just has to step up. I feel confident that he’ll do a good job.”

Miami’s offensive line allowed pressure routinely against the Ravens. Now, they are forced to make a change to the line, and hope that somehow they play better. Otherwise, Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to have a long day...

Ryan Fitzpatrick, quarterback

Immediately after the Ravens game, Flores made clear Ryan Fitzpatrick was still starting despite Josh Rosen seeing playing time at the end of the game. Ryan Fitzpatrick was 14-for-29 for 185 yards with a touchdown and an interception for a 66.0 passer rating. A big part of that was the offensive line allowing him no time to work his reads, so he was constantly running for his life. However, he also did not look sharp on the day and the offense struggled. Miami needs their quarterback to be more settled, more in rhythm immediately, and get some sort of movement early. The Patriots are going to find a way to score points, so Miami has to be able to do the same, and that is going to come down to Ryan Fitzpatrick’s performance.

Brian Flores, head coach

In his debut as a head coach, Flores got punched in the mouth. Now he will face his former team and look to pick himself up and get the Dolphins moving back in the right direction. He has to take the lessons learned from the Ravens game and show improvement this week. Things like in-game adjustments will be scrutinized after it appeared the Dolphins never changed from the plan to keep the safeties closer to the line of scrimmage against the Ravens, even when Lamar Jackson started beating them over the top. Will Flores respond against the Patriots, or will Miami be crushed again?

DeVante Parker, wide receiver

A three-reception, 75-yard performance from Parker last week was one of the few highlights for the Dolphins in the game. While it was not enough to make a change to the final score, it showed that Parker is ready to step up into the number one target role that was Kenny Stills’ before he was traded. If Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to have a good game, and if Miami is going to show up against the Patriots, it may come down to Parker and his making plays down the field. He has the talent, but it just has never seemed to come together for the Dolphins. They need it to blossom this season if there is any hope of them being competitive throughout the remaining 15 games, starting today.