Last Updated: 11/09/22 9:51am Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player The first NFL Sunday of the season is nearly upon us, with the New England Patriots' divisional clash with the Miami Dolphins kicking off the opening triple-header of the season on Sky Sports. Much is expected of Miami and their star-studded roster in 2022, and so a clash with their fiercest AFC East rivals - and six-time Super Bowl winners - New England represents a handy early test of their playoff credentials. Here, we take a look at the five keys to the Sunday night season opener in Miami.
. . September 11, 2022, 5:30pm Live on For Tyreek Hill, Miami gave up a first-round draft pick, a second, two fourths and a sixth - then made him the highest-paid receiver in the league.
It's fair to say, much is expected of the former Kansas City Chiefs star receiver. Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player Is there a more transformative non-quarterback-playing offensive asset in the NFL than Hill? He has made six-straight Pro Bowls and been named first-team All-Pro on three occasions while tallying 67 touchdowns over his six years in KC. How does he now fare in Miami? He had arguably the best quarterback in the game, in Patrick Mahomes, throwing him the football for the Chiefs.
Much of his success depends on whether his new quarterback in Miami can make the step up. As the offseason addition of Hill to this Miami offense is testament to, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa now has no excuses heading into his third season. After a couple of underwhelming years to start out in the NFL - a 13−8 record as a starter, compiling a modest 212.
8 passing yards per game, with 27 touchdown passes to 15 interceptions - the talk is that Tua must take this talented roster at least to the playoffs in order to keep his job in 2023. That might seem extreme, but yet just think back to the flirtations the Dolphins have had with Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson and Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Tom Brady that have been played out in the public since he was drafted with the fifth overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft. A strong start to the season, and specifically victory over Miami's bitterest division rivals, will go a long way to relieving some of the pressure placed heavily on his shoulders.
Mike McDaniel, the new man in charge in Miami, might not have been the Dolphins' first choice for the position - along with Brady at QB, ownership were seemingly making a big push this offseason to bring in former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton. That said, McDaniel is hot property in the NFL as an up-and-coming offensive whizz of a coach following his time with the San Francisco 49ers as first their run game coordinator before taking over the entire offense, overseeing their run to the NFC Championship game last season. The 49ers ultimately lost out to Sean McVay's Los Angeles Rams, the very man who started the trend of teams literally looking 'for the next McVay' at head coach, essentially the next young coach that can transform their offense.
McDaniel and all of his adventurous play calling and scheming could be the perfect fit in Miami to see him enjoy similar success - and maybe one day catapult them to a Super Bowl victory like McVay did last year. For once, there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the Patriots. Specifically, Bill Belichick and his coaching staff on offense.
Having missed out on the playoffs in 2020 for the first time in 12 years and for only the fourth time in the 22-year tenure of their six-time Super Bowl-winning head coach, the Patriots looked to be firmly back on the right track last season, with rookie quarterback Mac Jones leading them to a wild card berth. That being said, the Bills obliterated them 47-17 in their playoff meeting and Jones' development could be impacted by the loss of guru offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who has defected to lead the Las Vegas Raiders. Taking his place, it is not yet known if offensive line coach Matt Patricia or quarterback coach Joe Judge will be taking up the role as New England's new play caller on offense.
Patricia was previously their defensive coordinator, and Judge their special teams coach, before both flamed out as head coaches with the Detroit Lions and New York Giants, respectively. They have since returned to familiar surroundings but have never previously been tasked with leading an offense. Worrying.
That uncertainty over the ownership of the offense can't exactly provide ideal preparation for second-year quarterback Mac Jones. The quarterback out of Alabama was very impressive in his first season in the NFL, at one stage even being touted for possible Rookie of the Year honours until Ja'Marr Chase's sensational feats for the Cincinnati Bengals ensured that was wrestled from him. Jones threw for 3,801 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in leading the Patriots to the playoffs a year ago but how does he follow that up with what often proves to be a tricky sophomore season for many, as opposition teams build game tape on your play, become wise to your habits and find ways to exploit your weaknesses? Jones is an unflustered character, hence why he enjoyed such success as a rookie.
Can he continue to maintain his council and even improve in 2022?.