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Five things you need to know about the Dolphins

10.24.13 at 9:00 am ET
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1. They have a hard time protecting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill does a good job evading the rush — he’s a former college wide receiver who has pretty good footwork — but he’s still had little luck when it comes to protection. He’s been sacked 26 times through the first six games of the season, and is on pace to absorb 69 sacks over the course of the 2013 season. (To give you some perspective, Tom Brady took a career-high 41 sacks in 2001.) The Dolphins made something of a panic move earlier in the week when they traded for tackle Bryant McKinnie, swinging a deal with the Ravens for the perennial underachiever. The Patriots don’t necessarily have an elite pass rush, but the opportunities should be there for Chandler Jones (a team-leading 6.5 sacks and 13 quarterback hits through the first seven games), as well as fellow defensive end Rob Ninkovich (who leads the team with 20 quarterback hurries, according to Pro Football Focus).

2. As a result of those protection problems, Tannehll has had ball security issues. The quarterback has fumbled the ball away seven times through the first six games of the season, and that, combined with a penchant for some ill-timed interceptions — he has seven, tied for sixth in the league — has led to issues for the Dolphins. The Patriots, who have forced turnovers in 34 consecutive games, will also have opportunities to force takeaways. New England enters the game with a plus-five takeaway ration, good enough to be tied for fourth in the AFC with the Bills.

3. They are below average when it comes to running the ball. New England should be able to breathe relatively easy when it comes to the Miami running game, as the Dolphins do not pose much of a threat when it comes to their ground game. Miami is 25th in the league when it comes to average rushing yards per game with 78.0. (The Dolphins average a relatively respectable 3.9 yards per carry, 16th in the league.) Lamar Miller is perhaps their best back, as he has 59 carries for 254 yards (4.3 ypc) and two touchdowns. A 5-foot-10, 216-pounder, he had a season-high in a Sept. 15 win over the Colts.

4. They have struggled to defend tight ends. The Dolphins have had issues trying to slow down some of the NFL’s best young tight ends at the start of the 2013 season. Jimmy Graham of the Saints lit them up for four catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns in Week 4, while Cleveland’s Jordan Cameron had nine catches for 108 yards and a touchdown in Week 1 and Indy’s Coby Fleener had four catches for 69 yards and a touchdown in Week 2. In all, they’ve allowed four passing touchdowns to tight ends in six games. That’s bad news when you’re facing someone like Gronkowski, who had eight catches (on 17 targets) for 114 yards in his regular-season debut last week against the Jets.

5. They’re a smart, well-disciplined team when it comes to penalties. The Dolphins have played six games to this point in the season, and they are tied with the Vikings for the league low in penalties assessed with 25, and have been assessed the smallest amount of penalty yardage (212). The Patriots aren’t much worse — they have played one more game than Miami, and are 25th in the league in total penalties (33) and 20th in the league in penalty yardage lost (342).

Read More: Ryan Tannehill,

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin: Don’t tell me Patriots’ offense is struggling

10.24.13 at 7:15 am ET
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FOXBORO — Don’t tell Dolphins coach Joe Philbin that the Patriots’ offense has problems.

Despite the fact that New England has struggled recently on third down, as well as some of their issues when it comes to scoring in the second half, Philbin, speaking on a conference call with the New England media on Wednesday, said there’s a lot to like about the state of the Patriots’ offense. Just take your pick.

“I think their offensive line is very good. I think Dante Scarnecchia is one of the best offensive line coaches in the National Football League,” he said. “I like the balance that they have — they’€™ve got their tight end back who they target and can make plays all over the field.  I think they’€™re young receivers are getting better. (Stevan) Ridley is a good back and obviously their quarterback is as good as there is in the game. It’€™s a talented group and it’€™s a well coached group.’€

Philbin said if there are issues, some of it could be in the fact that they’re in a state of transition, moving from a passing game that was centered around the likes of Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski to one that features some younger receivers, as well as a tight end in Gronkowski who is returning to the field just now after a prolonged absence because of offseason surgery.

‘€œI think they’€™re just working through [it],” Philbin said. “All teams in the National Football League have to deal with transition. They’€™re no different, we’€™re no different. And I think they’€™ve worked through that nicely, and I think they’€™ve got a good group and they’€™re making nice progress on offense.’€

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Dolphins say they’ll be ready if Aqib Talib is good to go Sunday

10.24.13 at 12:34 am ET
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FOXBORO — Despite the fact that he missed last Sunday’s game against the Jets and was limited in practice on Wednesday while moving gingerly through drills, the Dolphins are preparing as if Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib is going to play on Sunday when Miami meets New England at Gillette Stadium.

Regatdless of Talib’s injury situation, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin remains impressed with what the cornerback has brought to the table this season for New England.

“He’s having an excellent year,” said Philbin on Wednesday. “He can play on the line of scrimmage and get hands on and disrupt the timing of the routes very well. He gets his hands on the football a lot and catches the ball well. he can play off, and he’s having a very very good year. I think he’s one of the better corners we’ll face this year, without a doubt.”

Talib, who has four picks on the season, was a big part of New England’s defensive resurgence before he went down with a hip injury in the second half of the Oct. 13 win over the Saints. Without him in the lineup last week against the Jets, the Patriots secondary appeared to struggle at times in a 30-27 overtime loss to New Orleans.

“He’s definitely a great player,” Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill said on a conference call on Wednesday. “I think they have a lot of confidence in him, as they should. He’s made a lot of big plays so far for them this year. We’re going to have to account for him. Hopefully we’re going to have a plan in place to handle him when he’s in there, if he’s in there. But he’s definitely a guy that we account for and that we’re looking at on tape.”

Read More: Aqib Talib, Joe Philbin, Ryan Tannehill,

Rob Gronkowski, Aqib Talib and Danny Amendola among limited for Patriots

10.23.13 at 6:28 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Cornerback Aqib Talib (hip), tight end Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm) and wide receiver Danny Amendola (concussion/groin) were all limited at practice for the Patriots on Wednesday morning.

In addition, defensive lineman Tommy Kelly (knee) and running back/returner Leon Washington sat out of Wednesday’s practice.

Talib and Amendola both sat out last Sunday’s loss to the Jets, while Gronkowski saw his first action of the season, catching eight passes against New York. They were part of a list of limited players that included running back Brandon Bolden (knee), wide receiver Julian Edelman (thigh), and offensive lineman Marcus Cannon (shoulder).

Here’s the full report:

Did Not Practice
DL Tommy Kelly (knee)
RB/KR Leon Washington (ankle)

Limited Participation
WR Danny Amendola (concussion/groin)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
OL Marcus Cannon (shoulder)
WR Julian Edelman (thigh)
TE Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui (knee)
WR Matthew Slater (wrist)
CB Aqib Talib (hip)
DB Tavon Wilson (hamstring)

Full Participation
CB Kyle Arrington (groin)
CB Devin McCourty (shoulder)
DL Rob Ninkovich (groin)

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Great expectations: Logan Mankins knows fate of offense can rest on shoulders of offensive line

10.23.13 at 5:18 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Add Logan Mankins to the list of people concerned about the Patriots’ third-quarter struggles.

Asked about the issues — the Patriots have been outscored 44-9 in the third, and were shutout last Sunday against the Jets on the way to a 30-27 loss — the veteran offensive lineman said it’s a variety of problems.

“I don’€™t know. I think execution right now,” he said after practice on Wednesday. “You look at those plays that third quarter when we came out. Some bad assignments and some guys just not doing a good job, fundamentally, one-on-one plays. It’€™s just a combination of everything and that’€™s really holding us back.”

Mankins said some of the struggles can be traced back to the offensive line.

“Oh yeah, it’€™s not all on us, but there’€™s enough of it on us,” he said. “A perfect example is the other night. Come out in third quarter, sack, sack. A lot of that was on us. Mental assignments. Guys just getting beat. Whenever the line’€™s not playing good, it’€™s hard to score for us.”

It’s been a rough stretch for the New England offensive line — while sacks can be an inexact way to measure protection, it’s clear that the group is having some issues. Brady has been sacked 13 times in the last three games. For a group that prides itself on being one of the stoutest in football, Mankins knows it’s not sustainable.

“The expectations start high in our room,” Mankins said. “We expect a lot out of ourselves, and I think that’€™s why we were disappointed after the game the other night. We thought we played good until the end of the second half there. Third quarter was bad, and then I think we played better in the fourth. But we had that lull right there in the third quarter that hurt us and hurt the team. We can’€™t just play like that.

“There’€™s times when we play really good and there’€™s times when we play really bad,” he said. “Like the other night, the little stretch there was about as bad as you can get. The thing is, everyone in that room wants to be perfect and it’€™s just not going to happen all the time. We’€™re playing against good guys. The frustrating thing is when we do things wrong and that’€™s the reason for our problems. We want to make them earn it and they didn’€™t earn it every play.”

He knows the line will face another challenge this week in the Dolphins.

“It’€™s a big division game,” Mankins said. “We let one get away last week, and now we’€™re facing a team that’€™s very good, especially on their front seven defense. [Their] front four has good defensive linemen. It’€™s going to be tough for our offense again this week.”

Read More: Logan Mankins,

Rex Ryan on Bill Belichick and ‘Push-gate': ‘He’s got to make up his mind’

10.23.13 at 3:28 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The most controversial call of the season just won’t go away. And now it’s given new life to one of the more intense coaching rivalries in the NFL.

On Tuesday, Bill Belichick accused the Jets of the same “push” play on one of New England’s field goal attempts that the Patriots were called for, resulting in a second chance for the Jets and ending in a 42-yard game-winning field goal.

Only, on Stephen Gostkowski‘s 44-yard attempt no penalty was called.

On Wednesday, Jets coach Rex Ryan said of Belichick’s claim, “that’s not true.”

But Ryan went on to give a jab at Belichick. Ryan alluded to the fact that immediately after the game Belichick said that he wasn’t aware of a violation of the “second level” aspect of the “push” rule. He later was quoted as saying he wasn’t aware of the rule and that it was his mistake and misinterpretation of the new rule.

“He’s got to make up his mind,” Ryan said. “Was he aware of it? Was is second level?”

Sunday’€™s game ended in controversy, as the Patriots were called for breaking the NFL’€™s new ‘€œpushing rule’€ while Jets kicker Nick Folk attempted a 56-yard field goal to win the game in overtime. Folk missed that kick but Chris Jones was called for pushing Will Svitek into the Jets offensive line. A 15-yard unsportsmanlike call was made giving the Jets a new series of downs.

Four plays later, Folk took advantage and connected on a 42-yard attempt, giving New York the 30-27 win.

Following the game, various reports surfaced that Jets coach Rex Ryan had tipped off the officials that the Patriots have used this push technique.

Belichick was asked if it bothers him that there’€™s a report that the Jets tipped the officials off about the push play.

“Well, I mean, since they were using the play themselves I don’€™t even know about all that,” Belichick said Tuesday. “But basically, we’€™re just moving on here.”

It would appear Belichick was referencing Stephen Gostkowski‘s 44-yard field goal with 16 seconds remaining that sent the game to overtime.

Replays of Gostkowski’s kick show Jets outside linebacker Quinton Coples lined up to the left of teammate Muhammad Wilkerson, looped behind Wilkerson, and his right arm then pressed up against Wilkerson’s back as he then pushed Wilkerson, who then fell over snapper Danny Aiken and guard Logan Mankins.

Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, New York Jets, nfl

Bill Belichick says Shane Vereen is ‘really in the day-to-day category’

10.23.13 at 3:05 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Shane Vereen is making progress on the road to returning to the Patriots by Week 11 against the Panthers on Monday night football.

The running back, who had surgery on his broken wrist suffered in Week 1 in Buffalo, has rejoined the team but not formally yet in practice.

Bill Belichick was asked Wednesday if he could begin practicing this week with the team.

“He’€™s really in the day-to-day category,” Belichick said. “We’€™ll take it as it comes with him. What he’€™s doing, he’€™s obviously rehabbing with the trainers and can do some running but his involvement with the team, I’€™d say, this particular time, isn’€™t there yet but I don’€™t think that’€™s too far off ‘€“ whether that’€™s today or tomorrow or next week, whenever it is. [We’€™re] obviously being in compliance with the rules on that.

“We can increase his activity relative to the trainers throwing him balls and doing different drills and things like that. We can definitely, as he’€™s physically ready to increase them.”

Vereen was considered the most dynamic back – by far – coming into the season and he proved that in the Week 1 win at Buffalo, running 14 times for 101 yards and catching seven passes for 58 yards.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, nfl
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