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Reading the Tea Leaves after Week One

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NFL: Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Almost unbelievably, football is finally here. And right on cue, the Dolphins start slowly, the Patriots get a win, and everything is ruined.

Tua needs to start, Flores should be fired, Ross has to sell the team. Is that what we’re doing?

Noice. Toight. Smort.

To almost quote Aaron Rodgers’ famous saying: Calm your nuts.

How Bout That Context?

I’m not a hate kind of guy. Sure, there’s a lot of stuff out there in the universe to dislike or disagree with, but very little to truly hate. But there are two things I’ve hated as long as I’ve known them: The Patriots and Cam Newton.

Unfortunately, despite my impotent seething, they’re going to be good. Newton was a league MVP and is still a very capable player, even if he dresses like a TJ Maxx mannequin. The Patriots’ strength has always been Bill Belichick and his system, not Tom Brady. As long as Belichick’s around, the Patriots will be competitive.

Side note: has anyone been paying attention to Steve Belichick’s hair? Who is in charge of that guy? It is patently ridiculous.

As for our beloved Dolphins, does anyone remember Week 1 2019? I know it seems like a century ago, but September 8th, 2019 the Dolphins lost 59-10. In a real NFL football game with helmets and everything.

So yeah, it sucks to lose. The ultimate measure of a team’s value is wins and losses. But the way in which you win or lose is a valuable metric for gauging improvement (or lack thereof). I’ll take 21-11 over 59-10 every time. One of these days we might even be on the higher end of those scores.

This Idiot’s Opinion

I love the preaseason. It lets you see all the new players fighting for a roster spot, gives insight into growth from the previous season, and helps the position groups find their footing. Without one this year, I’m forced to guess at what the season holds from Week 1 alone. Here’s what I (a man who had Lasik surgery, so I see just fine thankyouverymuch) saw:

  • Fitz was up and down, but 2 of his 3 INTs weren’t all on him:

On the first, Williams slipped and made no meaningful attempt at the ball.
On the third, there was obvious pass interference in the end zone. (It was still a poor decision to throw where he did, but one that he should have gotten away with).

The second was classic Fitztragic. But some better cleats and fewer cheats and we’re probably looking at a much less ugly stat line.

  • Our running backs look kind of deep, maybe? I figured Howard was the main ball carrier with Breida serving as a third down change-of-pace back. Then Myles Gaskin went ahead and played as RB1 and looked pretty good. With Laird still milling about back there, we just might have a solid stable of backs to build on.
  • The WRs and TEs need more separation. Sure, the Patriots secondary is good (as the announcers will tell anyone within a 30,000 mile radius over and over and shutupshutupshutup), but they’re not that good. Just ask totally undeserving Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore. Our pass catchers can get more open and need to get more open. Plus, DeVante Parker popping up hurt is no bueno. We need last year’s Parker, not the years before. That said, Williams looked to be slowly getting back to form after his injury (besides his footwear) and Gesicki might have had two TDs if it weren’t for PI. We need them to keep getting better and need the Grants and Fords of the world to step up fast.
  • Our young offensive line was good in pass protection. If you’d have told me we’d have two rookies (Jackson LT, Kindley RG) starting and only surrender 1 sack, I’d have called you a liar and beaten you like DeVante Parker did Stephon Gilmore last year. Our line has been bad for so long that I can’t actually picture them being good. I try to imagine them being in sync and communicating and blocking defenders and executing and my brain just starts to slowly shut down until I wake up in an empty bathtub. They still need to get it together as far as run blocking, but if they can be good at even one thing, they finally won’t be last in everything.
  • We sacked Newton twice. That’s not terrible. We only pressured him four times, which is a little more terrible. Then we gave up 217 rushing yards. That is completely terrible. Wilkins stood out with 6 tackles, 2 TFL, and 1 sack. Jerome Baker had 128 tackles, so it was nice to see him get a season’s worth out of the way early. Other than those two, the front seven was nowhere to be found. Van Noy looked out of sorts, Ogbah and Lawson did nothing to fortify the run defense, and I wished Elandon Roberts was Raekwon McMillan all game long. The run defense (particularly through the middle) is the biggest area of need that I can see so far. Hopefully Raekwon Davis grows into a dominant force because we need an anchor.
  • The secondary seemed to cover well in man, but leave a lot of space in zone, though that could be down to play calling and New England using play action and RPOs. Rookie Noah Igbinoghene looked capable in his first game and fellow rookie Brandon Jones racked up 10 tackles, which is far more involvement than I expected to see from him. I’m very glad to have been wrong about that.

A quick note about the officials: I’m not much into conspiracies. But how many decades do I have to watch the officials favor the Patriots? Video evidence and agreement from the analysts showed that they were wrong when:

  1. Newton was out of bounds on his TD run
  2. Newton wasn’t hit in the helmet on a roughing the passer call
  3. Gesicki was interfered with on Fitzpatrick’s third INT

Plus, they called two pass interference penalties on Xavien How— oh, wait. That was Stephon Gilmore.

I realize it’s their first game of the year. I realize they missed calls like holding against Miami. But just those three plays are a score, a 15 yarder, and a possible score. I’m not saying it’s a conspiracy. But I did see the Mothman hovering just above the stadium.


This Idiot’s Predictions Based on Exactly One Game

Here’s what I expect, apart from expecting to be completely disproven by Week 4:

  • Fitz plays (unless he gets hurt) until we’re mathematically out of the playoffs (or in the Superbowl)
  • Our running backs continue to operate as a three-headed monster
  • Williams picks up the slack if Parker is out for any extended period
  • Hunt takes over for Davis at RT before Week 8
  • We get a big honkin DT before the trade deadline
  • We regret trading Raekwon McMillan
  • The secondary grows into something to fear
  • Our offensive playcalling gets more creative and less 1890’s as the season moves forward
  • We end up in the bottom 5 of the NFL in penalties against
  • We win our fair share of games and finish better than last year, right around .500

Three cheers to me being wrong and the Dolphins hoisting the Lombardi trophy, riding into the sunset on the shoulders of their quarterback of the future Jake Rudock.

Stay safe everyone!