New England Patriots: 3 Dolphins players to keep an eye on in Week 1

James White #28 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
James White #28 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /
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New England Patriots
Outside Linebacker Jerome Baker #55 of the Miami Dolphins (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

Miami Dolphins player to watch No. 2: Jerome Baker

Jerome Baker has developed into one of the more underrated linebackers in the game throughout his first three seasons in the league for the Dolphins. He was rewarded for his improvements over the offseason when Miami handed him a three year extension worth $39 million. As the leader of Miami’s linebacker corps, Baker will play a big role in the outcome of this contest.

Baker did a bit of everything last season for the Dolphins. He led the team in tackles for the second season straight, racking up 112 last season. He also picked up seven sacks on the season to go along with that total, which was more than his first two seasons combined. Baker also showed notable improvements in coverage, which was probably his biggest weakness last season.

Considering just how good Miami’s secondary is, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Pats target their tight ends more often than not in this one. And Baker will be a big part of Miami’s gameplan to slow down New England’s tandem of Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith.

Baker plays closer to the line of scrimmage, so he will be responsible for the tight ends pretty much anytime they stay with 5-10 yards of the line of scrimmage. This means he will have to watch out for Henry and Smith on shallow crossing routes, spot routes, and when they roll into the flat. Obviously this won’t all fall on Baker and he will have help, but he’s going to be the one leading the charge.

If the Patriots struggle to get their passing game going in this one, Baker will have a large part in their struggles. Baker showed improvements in pass coverage last season, but he’s going to be tested early and often by the New England Patriots in this one. A good portion of Miami’s defensive success relies on Baker this week, and it will definitely be worthwhile to keep an eye on the young linebacker.