In 2017, Bill Belichick called Jay Cutler and Matt Moore two “outstanding” quarterbacks.
One year earlier, he responded to a question about Ryan Tannehill’s improvement with: “Since he killed us last year?”
So it should come as no surprise that Belichick was able to talk up the 2019 Miami Dolphins even after Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens obliterated them 59-10 on Sunday in Brian Flores’ head-coaching debut.
“I think the Dolphins have a lot of good players,” the New England Patriots coach said Tuesday in a conference call with Miami reporters. “I know they have a lot of good coaches. I know many of the people on that staff — the head coach, the coordinators, many of the position coaches. I have a ton of respect for what they do. I know the team will be well-prepared.
“These guys beat us last year, a lot of the same players we’re looking at. Last week was last week. I’m sure they’ll make a lot of corrections.”
The Dolphins’ coaching staff is stocked with Patriots alumni, with Flores, offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea, defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, defensive pass game coordinator/cornerbacks coach Josh Boyer, assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski, offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo and quality control coach Tiquan Underwood all having spent multiple seasons in New England.
And the Patriots, who visit Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, have had little success in Miami over the years, losing in five of their last six trips to South Florida, including last season’s Miami Miracle-aided 34-33 defeat.
It’s difficult, though, to take many positives away from the Dolphins’ maiden voyage under Flores. After gutting their roster in what appears to be blatant tank job for a high 2020 draft pick, they allowed 42 points in the first half, were outgained 643 yards to 200, lost the turnover battle 3-0 (one interception each from Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen, plus a muffed punt), surrendered eight total touchdowns, committed nine penalties and reportedly had players begging for trades immediately after the game.
Defensive backs Minkah Fitzpatrick (six catches allowed on six targets for 117 yards and three touchdowns), Eric Rowe (6-for-6, 82 yards, two touchdowns), Walt Aikens (4-for-4, 53 yards) and Jomal Wiltz (2-for-2, 72 yards, one touchdown) all posted coverage grades in the 20s on Pro Football Focus’ 100-point scale.
Wiltz and Rowe ranked last and second-to-last, respectively, among all NFL cornerbacks in that grading system. Fitzpatrick and Aikens were last and third-to-last among safeties. Now, they’ll get to face a Patriots offense that hung 33 points on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1 and just added superstar wide receiver Antonio Brown.
Despite all of this, Belichick said he expects a tough challenge from Flores’ troops this weekend.
“The first game, with a new program, is always a big learning experience for everybody and you just keep getting better every week,” Belichick said. “I’m sure we’ll get a strong effort from Miami this week and we’ve got to be ready to go. Again, they have a lot of good players, a lot of good skill players, a lot of good players on defense.
“They’re young, they’re aggressive, they’re talented and we’re going to have to contend with all of them and the scheme that they come up with. I’m sure they’ll have things that we’re not working on, and we’ll have to be ready to handle those.”
Thumbnail photo via Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports Images