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The Dolphins Need To Watch Out For These Three Patriots On Sunday

Off a stretch of four consecutive losses, the Dolphins find themselves all the way down from AFC East leaders to barely hanging on to a playoff spot and enter Sundays’ game at New England in need of a win. With four straight wins over the Patriots, the Dolphins have certainly had a recent stranglehold over the matchup, but none of those four have been late-season cold-weather games. The Patriots are by no means laden with stars, but they have guys who can make life very complicated for the Dolphins.

Matthew Judon

The Dolphins have been relatively sound offensively most of the season, but in the stretches where they haven’t, including this most recent losing streak, one of the biggest issues has been protecting the QB. Whether it’s Tua Tagovailoa or Teddy Bridgewater that takes the field on Sunday, avoid the Patriots’ pass rush will be of paramount importance for an offense that has allowed 32 sacks this year.

Judon has been one of the most threatening pass rushers in the entire NFL this year and has produced at a level to which his Pro Bowl selection was almost a given. He is currently second in the NFL with 15.5 sacks, and has completely evaded the late-season drop-off that affected him last year by improving his technique, constantly generating a motor against his matchup, and reading the QB better than he did last season.

Furthermore, the attention that his production has brought to him have opened up opportunities for other pass rushers to flourish, and guys like Josh Uche, Deatrich Wise, and JaWhaun Bentley have taken full advantage. Judon’s production and leadership have been arguably the biggest pillars in the Patriots’ defense, and to win this game, the Dolphins will need to at least limit his effectiveness.

Kendrick Bourne

The Dolphins have seen Kendrick Bourne in just two snaps this year, and in one of them, they saw him make a scintillating 41-yard catch that nearly brought the Patriots back into their week one game. Due to some poor decisions in offensive coordinating, the Patriots haven’t used Bourne enough this season, and when they have, Bourne’s effectiveness has been limited.

However, unfortunately for the Dolphins, Bourne may have caught fire at just the right time. Against the Bengals, his statline of six catches for 100 yards (129 total) and a touchdown spoke for itself, but still underestimated his impact. He carried the ball, he made catches both in short-yardage situations and down the field, including multiple excellent catches in traffic, and even prevented an interception with an excellent deflection on a Mac Jones overthrow. 

In what has been an otherwise quiet season from Bourne, this was a breakout game, and something much closer to last season’s career-best season, where he had 55 catches, 800 yards and five touchdowns. More than the stats, Bourne is a good route runner who can be useful both in short and long-yardage situations, and also has reliable hands and a good football IQ. The Dolphins will need to be wary of him for sure.

Marcus Jones

The Dolphins, and likely most teams, haven’t faced a player as dynamic and versatile as Marcus yet. In their first game against New England, Marcus didn’t get any significant playing time, but since, he has become an integral part of the Patriots’ team.

His natural speed, good hands, and agility have turned him into a multidimensional threat. As a punt/kick returner, he has started right where he left off, averaging almost 25 return yards on kickoffs and 13 return yards on punts, including a blistering 84-yard touchdown to win the Patriots’ second game against the Jets. Furthermore, the Patriots have integrated him a bit into the offense, where he scored a touchdown on his first play from scrimmage and has caught all four of his targets.

At cornerback, his main positional role, he has been getting more and more snaps, and has been doing quite well, having two interceptions (including a pick six) and seven pass deflections to go along with 29 tackles. He is the first player in the NFL since Julian Edleman in 2012 to have touchdowns on offense, defense, and special teams, and his ball skills and unbelievably quick legs have made him nearly impossible to tackle once he gets any sort of momentum and space.

It’s unpredictable where and how the Patriots will use him, so game planning for him is difficult, but the Dolphins will need to account for him to have a chance of stopping him.

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