New England Patriots: 3 things to watch for in Week 1 action vs Miami

J.J. Taylor #42 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
J.J. Taylor #42 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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New England Patriots
Damien Harris #37 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

New England Patriots thing to watch No. 3: How will the running game perform

The Patriots running backs certainly caught everyone’s eye during the preseason. They seemingly have four capable backs in Damien Harris, James White, J.J. Taylor, and Rhamondre Stevenson. Facing a stiff Dolphins defense that ranked as the sixth best unit last season, the running backs will have to establish themselves early and often in this one if they want to come out with a win.

Much of the workload is expected to fall on the shoulders of Harris, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get 20+ touches in this one. Harris won the top spot on the running back depth chart this preseason when Sony Michel was traded to the Los Angeles Rams, and this will be his first shot to prove that the front office made the right decision.

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Harris graded out as one of the best running backs in the game last season despite limited action, and chances are he will be in line for a big day against Miami on Sunday. The Dolphins strength on defense is their secondary and pass rush, but their run defense was a bit of a sore spot last season. They were right at the middle of the pack last season, ranking 16th in the league while allowing 116.4 yards per game.

Raekwon Davis was the top piece of Miami’s run defense last season, but there wasn’t much help behind him. The Dolphins worked on shoring up their interior defensive line this offseason, bringing in old friend Adam Butler and John Jenkins to help clog up some of the gaps up front. The problem is that neither are capable of dynamically changing their run defense.

The Patriots boast one of the better offensive lines in the league, and they should be able to create some space for Harris and the running backs to work on Sunday. Considering how strong Miami’s secondary is, it’s vital they establish themselves early in order to take some of the pressure off Jones in his first career start. If Harris can put up a line of around 20 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown, New England will be in a good spot to win this one.