BOSTON (CBS) — It’s almost hard to believe, given how long and taxing a summer filled with fake football can be, but the real deal is finally here. The regular season is upon us.
The Patriots are in Miami this weekend to kick off yet another season, the 15th of the Bill Belichick era. Belichick’s Patriots have won 10 straight season openers, and overall the team is 11-3 in the opening week of the season. Two of those losses came in 2000 and ’01, before Tom Brady became the starting quarterback, which gives him an 11-1 record in Week 1 in his career. That’s slightly inflated, as he technically “won” in 2008 despite playing just over seven minutes, but it’s impressive nonetheless.
So hopes are high heading into this Sunday’s game in Miami. After all, it was just three years ago when Brady threw for 517 yards and four touchdowns in Miami for the season opener. He may post some more modest stats this time around, but you know he’ll be coming out slinging.
But there’s a lot more to this game beyond the quarterback. Here’s a look at four items to watch for when this game kicks off on Sunday afternoon.
Seabass On The Interior
The trade of Logan Mankins to Tampa Bay shocked a lot of people, but it affected nobody more than Sebastian Vollmer.
The offensive lineman has only played at the tackle position in his career, but without an experienced option to fill in at left guard, all signs are pointing to the Patriots asking Seabass to move inside.
It’s an interesting idea — and it should make for a rather startling visual, the 6-foot-8 Vollmer standing next to 6-foot-8 left tackle Nate Solder. At the very least, it would create quite the challenge for the Miami defense to try to penetrate that side of the line.
But a lot more goes into playing guard than tackle, and any mistakes Vollmer makes on the inside will be noticeable. The constantly present pressure to be perfect will be even stronger than usual this time around.
All right, we’ve been talking about this guy for six months. It’s time to finally see what “elite” can do for you.
Frankly, it’s been far too long since a player of this caliber has worn a Patriots uniform, so it will be mildly disorienting to see a member of the New England secondary properly defend a wide receiver, break up passes and intercept the ball with regularity. Of course, that’s dependent on the ball actually getting thrown his way, but even if Ryan Tannehill stays away from No. 24, the rest of the defense should be that much better. And if Revis draws Mike Wallace duties, Tannehill will have no choice but to try him.
We didn’t get to see a ton of work from Revis in the preseason. Let’s see it now.
Debut Of Dominique?
While Tom Brady’s appearance on this week’s injury report caught many by surprise, it was the absence of Dominique Easley on that list that really stands out.
We haven’t heard much about Easley this summer, as the defensive lineman worked his way back from a torn ACL, which he suffered last year at Florida. Easley didn’t play at all in any preseason games, so he understandably hasn’t exactly generated much buzz. Yet the Patriots spent a first-round pick on Easley for a reason, and the fact that he wasn’t listed on the injury reports on Wednesday and Thursday indicate we may get to see his NFL debut.
The Breakout Of Chandler Jones
The mos talented player on the Patriots’ defense is Darrelle Revis, but the most exciting is Chandler Jones. And it’s the new presence of the former that should only make the latter even more dangerous.
The 24-year-old Jones is coming into his own, both physically and in the mental part of the game, and he’s poised to have a breakout season. And he’s going to have quite the opportunity to get off on the right foot in Week 1.
That’s because the Dolphins were the worst team in the entire NFL at protecting their quarterback last season, allowing 58 sacks — eight more than any other team. Miami did its best to try to fix the O-line in the offseason, but things don’t exactly look promising.
In his two games against the Dolphins, Jones himself accounted for 2.5 of those Miami sacks, leading the Patriots in that category, but in Week 1 when he’s feeling his best, Jones should be an absolute menace in Miami.
Tune in to Sunday’s Patriots season opener against the Miami Dolphins on 98.5 The Sports Hub and WBZ-TV — the flagship stations of the New England Patriots. Pregame coverage begins on 98.5 at 10 am, with three full hours of postgame coverage following the game. WBZ-TV’s pregame begins at 11:30 am with Patriots GameDay, and tune in to myTV38 following the game for Patriots 5th Quarter!
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