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
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels of the New England Patriots talks to Mac Jones #10 (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

New England Patriots thing to watch No. 1: Can the passing game deliver when called upon?

While the running game will be heavily relied upon in this one, it’s clear the passing game will have to deliver when they are called upon to do so in this one if they are going to win. There are going to be crucial third-and-five situations where it will be up to Mac Jones to survey the coverage in front of him and make the right throw, and this will be the most important factor in determining which team wins.

Jones was able to do this time and again in the preseason, but the regular season is a different animal. He was mainly doing these things against backups and players who are now free agents. The Dolphins secondary is one of the best in the league, and offer Jones a very difficult challenge right off the bat.

Xavien Howard and Byron Jones are one of the best cornerback duos in the league. Howard is coming off an All-Pro season in which he led the league in interceptions, while Jones remains his ever consistent partner-in-crime on the other side of the field. They will most likely each be tasked one side of the field, while Justin Coleman or Noah Igbinoghene will get the slot receiver.

It really remains to be seen how New England will line up their top receivers. The most logical seems to be Nelson Agholor and Jakobi Meyers on the outside, with Kendrick Bourne lining up in the slot. They will probably switch all game long, but that seems the most likely base lineup.

Hitting receivers will admittedly be tough in this one, which is exactly why the Pats went out and brought in Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry this offseason. Smith and Henry will be heavily relied upon to create separation in the middle of the field in this one, while also providing an outlet as a checkdown option every once in awhile. Also worth considering is James White and J.J. Taylor’s abilities as pass catchers too, and they could take advantage of Miami’s linebacker corps.

Old friends Eric Rowe and Jason McCourty will probably see a lot of Smith and Henry, while Jerome Baker and Elandon Roberts will keep their eyes on the running backs coming out of the backfield. While the Dolphins have the advantage at cornerback, New England should be able to find some room to operate in this area of their passing attack.

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The Dolphins have a couple of solid pass rush options with Emmanuel Ogbah and Baker, but the Patriots o-line should be able to keep the pocket clean for Jones most of the day. Jones did hold onto the ball a bit too long a couple of times in the preseason finale against the New York Giants though, which is something to keep an eye on here.

Jones is in a great spot to succeed when called upon, although the Dolphins strong defense will make things a bit challenging for him here. This game could come down to a couple of crucial third down situations, and it will be up to Jones and the passing game to convert them. Whichever of Jones or Tagovailoa can do this more often will most likely lead their team to a win.