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5 things you have to know about Dolphins 09.01.14 at 9:35 pm ET
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Ryan Tannehill will lead the Dolphins against the Patriots in the regular season opener. (Getty Images)

Ryan Tannehill will lead the Dolphins against the Patriots in the regular-season opener. (Getty Images)

Here are five things you have to know about the Dolphins, who are looking to break the Patriots’ 10-game winning streak when it comes to regular-season openers Sunday in South Florida.

1. They are going to look to push the pace offensively.

Miami imported former Eagles quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor to serve as its new OC, and in an attempt to give the offense a jolt, he’s expected to bring a little Chip Kelly-style flair to the proceedings. That means faster football, and given the fact that the Patriots will be entering into what’s expected to be sweltering South Florida heat, the Dolphins will try and use a quicker tempo to their advantage. For what it’€™s worth, Miami has been a little quicker than the average NFL team over the last two years under Joe Philbin. Measured using situation-neutral offensive pace — a formula from Football Outsiders that eliminates things like two-minute drills and late-game clock-killing situations to get a truer idea of the offense’€™s intentions when it comes to offensive pace — the 2012 Dolphins were ninth overall at one play every 29.23 seconds, and last year, on average, they ran one play every 30.08 seconds, 14th quickest in the NFL. Of course, it’€™s debatable how effective the uptempo style will be. But it’€™s important to remember that Lazor played a sizable role in the growth and development of Nick Foles in Philly’€™s fast scheme last year, as Foles went from backup quarterback to SI cover boy in the span of a few months and the Eagles went from worst (4-12 and last in the NFC East) to first (10-6 and a division title) under Kelly. It’s clear Miami is hoping that Ryan Tannehill and the rest of the Dolphins offense can respond the same way in 2014.

2. They are all-in at wide receiver.

The Dolphins have really gone above and beyond when it comes to giving Ryan Tannehill enough options. With the cap hit for Mike Wallace ballooning to $17.25 million this year, the Dolphins are spending a whopping $29.6 million on their 2014 wide receivers’€”by far the most in the league, according to a June study by CBS Sports. Wallace, Brian Hartline, Rishard Matthews and Brandon Gibson are joined by rookie Jarvis Landry to form a relatively deep group of wide receivers, one that will serve as a nice challenge for a revamped New England secondary at the start of the season. (Some believe Lazor will try and use Wallace in much the same manner the Eagles did with DeSean Jackson, which is an intriguing concept.)

3. The interior of their offensive line is vulnerable.

The Dolphins have struggled with their offensive line dating back to last year — from a pure football perspective, the Incognito-Martin imbroglio simply shone a light on things. Miami allowed a league-high 58 sacks of Tannehill last season, 10 more than the second-place finish (Baltimore’s Joe Flacco was sacked 48 times) and tied for 10th most all-time in a single season. (For some perspective, Houston’s David Carr was sacked an astounding 76 times in 2002, the all-time mark.) Here’s a highlight reel of all 58 sacks, a sequence that lasts almost 10 minutes.

In all, Tannehill has been sacked 93 times in his first two years in the league. (We haven’t even mentioned the fact that the Miami running game was 26th in the league last season — a sizable portion of the blame for those numbers can also be attributed to the offensive line.) And so it was no surprise the Dolphins made offensive line a priority this offseason. They stabilized their left tackle spot with the addition of Branden Albert, while they used their first round pick on Ja’Wuan James, who appears to be the Week 1 right tackle for Miami. But things are still very rough along the interior, as center Mike Pouncey continues to work his way back from offseason hip surgery (Samson Satele will get the start in his place), while guard play has been questionable at best over the course of the summer. Bottom line? If you want to attack this offense, your best bet appears to be up the gut.

4. Their pass rush will test the New England offensive line early.

Left defensive end Cameron Wake (8.5 sacks last year) and right defensive end Olivier Vernon (11.5 sacks last year) combine to form a very nice set of bookends, and are likely the top priority when it comes to pass protection for the Patriots. (Per Football Outsiders, Wake notched at least 20 hurries and 20 quarterback knockdowns for the fourth year in a row.) While the Dolphins are very good off the edge, it would ostensibly be a strength-on-strength matchup against right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and left tackle Nate Solder. Miami could have an edge if it finds a way to get pressure up the middle, as the interior of New England’s offensive line has some personnel questions, particularly if Marcus Cannon is utilized more as a backup swing tackle than one of the two available guard spots. But many of the questions people have had about the overall fitness of the Patriots offensive line will be answered against a pretty good front seven in the opener.

5. They are ready for Rob Gronkowski … if the big tight end does play.

The Dolphins hardly sounded shocked at the proclamation from Gronkowski that he was good to go for Week 1. Miami defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle was asked about Gronkowski’s statement that he was going to play, and he responded with a simple, ‘€œWe assumed that he might.’€ In Gronkowski’s career, the Patriots are 6-0 against Miami when he’s in the lineup, but for what it’s worth, the Dolphins have actually done a pretty fair job at containing Gronkowski over the years: In six career games against Miami, he’s averaged four catches, 56 yards and 0.5 touchdowns per game, some of his lowest per game averages against a regular opponent. (In his last two games against Miami, Gronkowski had only only four catches.) It remains to be seen if Gronkowski actually plays, and if he does, how many snaps he’ll take. (His overall football fitness remains in question, and Bill Belichick has said on numerous occasions that you just can run around a track a few times and be ready to play.) But history tells us that the Dolphins have found a way to not stop him completely, but at least slow him down to a point where he not the runaway offensive force he’s been against most teams when he’s been healthy. “He’s an excellent player,” Philbin said Monday when asked about Gronkowski. “He’s been a very, very productive player throughout his career. We’ll have a good plan in place, but he’s certainly an important part of their offense, and a productive part of it. We’ll be ready for him, for sure.”

Read More: Brandon Gibson, Brian Hartline, Cameron Wake, Joe Philbin
Sebastian Vollmer, Sealver Siliga among those back at practice for Patriots Monday 08.25.14 at 2:15 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots were in full pads for their Monday afternoon practice session and saw a handful of players return to the field, including defensive lineman Sealver Siliga, offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer and linebacker Cameron Gordon.

The following players were not spotted at the start of practice: defensive lineman Chris Jones, defensive tackle Ben Bass, running back Tyler Gaffney and offensive lineman Chris Martin.

The Patriots continue preparation for the final preseason game of the year, set for Thursday against the Giants at MetLife Stadium.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Ben Bass, Cameron Gordon, Chris Jones, Chris Martin
Setting the scene: Patriots host Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers in dress rehearsal 08.22.14 at 5:10 pm ET
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Bill Belichick is on the cover of GAMEDAY as the Patriots host the Panthers. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Bill Belichick is on the cover of GAMEDAY as the Patriots host the Panthers. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — As was the case last week, the Patriots will be playing a summer preseason game in very fall-like conditions as temperatures are expected to be in the low 70s with partly cloudy skies for the 7:30 p.m. kickoff against Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.

There is no precipitation in the forecast, with a breeze expected out of the east at 10 MPH.

This is the game where Tom Brady, along with the rest of the Patriots starters, are expected to play at least the first half, barring any injury. Brady said this week he is looking forward to the picking up the tempo under all game conditions that are presented.

Linebacker Jerod Mayo, after missing last week for an unspecified reason, practiced this week and could get his first taste of preseason action.

Rob Gronkowski also took a step forward this week, joining in on 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 contact drills but is not expected to play. It would not be surprising to see the tight end skip the entire preseason and attempt to make his debut on opening day in Miami on Sept. 7, as he said this week was his intention.

Gronkowski and Mayo were among several Patriots taking part in pregame sideline-to-sideline sprints at 5 p.m. with trainer Jim Whelan and strength and conditioning coach Moses Cabrera, two and a half hours before kickoff. Also in the group of wind sprinters were Sebastian Vollmer and Dont’a Hightower. That is usually an indication that they won’t be dressing and playing.

The Vollmer sighting is significant, as he missed all three full practices this week and is likely to sit out the third game.

There’s something else to consider. When Brady comes out of the game, either Jimmy Garoppolo or Ryan Mallett will enter the game. If it’s Mallett, there are several teams with scouts on hand to watch.

Nine teams have scouts at the game, including Baltimore, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, Miami, Minnesota, the Giants, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay.

Mallett played the entire second half against the Eagles and had impressive moments. Garoppolo played in the first half after Brady came out after two series.

Read More: 2014 training camp, Carolina Panthers, Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots
Sebastian Vollmer misses third straight day, Sealver Siliga works on side as Patriots work in shorts, shells 08.20.14 at 12:49 pm ET
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FOXBORO — It’s looking like Sebastian Vollmer won’t be in the lineup for the team’s most significant preseason game.

For a third straight day, the starting right tackle was not spotted as the Patriots worked in shorts and shells Wednesday on the grass fields outside Gillette Stadium.

Vollmer started and played 22 of 91 snaps on Friday against the Eagles with the starting offensive line, as did starting left guard Logan Mankins. Friday night, starters are expected to play the bulk of the first half against Carolina, meaning the Patriots will have to find some alternate plan for their offensive line protecting Brady.

One option for right tackle could be Nate Solder, who has played both tackle positions in the past, including on Friday when he reported as a tackle-eligible on the right side. Vollmer is coming back from a gruesome broken right leg, suffered against the Dolphins last October.

Teams are not required to disclose medical or injury issues during preseason so it’s not clear why Vollmer has been out the last three days.

If Vollmer is dealing with a significant injury issue, then it’s likely Marcus Cannon, who played some left tackle against the Eagles, could step in and fill the void at right tackle.

One bit of possibly encouraging news was the sighting of defensive tackle Sealver Siliga working out with training staff on the lower practice field. Siliga injured his left hand in the joint practices with the Redskins and has not been cleared for full contact practices since. He missed the first two preseason games and headed back to Boston for an exam.

Other players missing again Wednesday were tight ends D.J. Williams and defensive lineman Chris Jones. Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, linebacker Cameron Gordon and offensive lineman Chris Martin were also not spotted during practice, as he did on Monday and Tuesday, Hoomanawanui left after stretching and headed down to the lower practice field to work with trainers.

Read More: 2014 training camp, New England Patriots, Sealver Siliga, Sebastian Vollmer
Sebastian Vollmer, Michael Hoomanawanui, Sealver Siliga among those missing at Patriots practice 08.19.14 at 3:58 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Sebastian Vollmer was not on hand as the Patriots began their first day of post-training camp practice Tuesday on the grass fields outside Gillette Stadium.

It was the second straight day the starting right tackle was not spotted with the team in practice. Vollmer started and played 22 of 91 snaps on Friday against the Eagles with the starting offensive line, as did starting left guard Logan Mankins.

Teams are not required to disclose medical or injury issues during preseason so it’s not clear why Vollmer has been out the last two days.

If Vollmer is dealing with a significant injury issue, then it’s likely Marcus Cannon, who played some left tackle against the Eagles, could step in and fill the void at right tackle.

Another option for right tackle could be Nate Solder, who has played both tackle positions in the past, including on Friday when he reported as a tackle-eligible on the right side. Vollmer is coming back from a gruesome broken right leg, suffered against the Dolphins last October.

Other players missing Tuesday were tight ends D.J. Williams and defensive linemen Sealver Siliga and Chris Jones. Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, linebacker Cameron Gordon and offensive lineman Chris Martin did not practice with the team at the beginning of media availability but did work on the lower field with the team’s training staff.

Read More: New England Patriots, Sebastian Vollmer,
Sebastian Vollmer taking it ‘step by step’ in his return to the field 06.12.14 at 10:01 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Sebastian Vollmer is ready to put 2013 behind him. As a matter of fact, he admitted Thursday he’d rather not think about how it ended at all.

Who could blame him?

Anyone watching the Patriots and Dolphins on Oct. 27, 2013 on TV certainly will never forget how his season ended. The Patriots right tackle was moving outside to run block for Stevan Ridley when Dolphins nose tackle Randy Starks rolled up on his right leg. Sideline microphones picked up the yells of the 6-foot-8, 320-pound beast of a lineman who had just suffered a gruesome broken leg.

During Thursday’s OTAs, Vollmer returned and was moving freely with the first team offensive line, looking like a man ready to put the past in the past and leave it there. He even joked about being yelled at by coaches, a sign that he was indeed back and ready to put on the pads next week in mini-camp.

Whether he’ll be ready to take on the full load of a full training camp and be ready for the season opener against Starks and the Dolphins in Miami on Sept. 7 is another matter. And he’s more than ready to accept the reality of that deliberate pace.

“Let’€™s take it day by day,” Vollmer cautioned. “You work on some stuff every day in the training room, the rehab room, you know, on the field. You’€™re always working on something so you’€™re never there.

“Anytime you get hurt it’€™s not a good thing. You don’€™t really know what’€™s happening to yourself and take it step by step. You take it inside, talk to doctors and do what’€™s necessary and just work your way. It’€™s a strain. Every day you do rehab, you get better, you get stronger and all that stuff, looking forward. I’€™m back out here now and it’€™s a good moment for me.”

Vollmer felt from the moment he began to recover from surgery and begin his rehab program that he would be back on the field this summer, all along never doubting himself.

“No. I don’€™t think you should have that,” Vollmer said of skepticism and worry. “I trust our medical staff and rehab guys and we know we’€™re in good hands. You just have to do what they tell you to do. You have to work hard and I think that’€™s kind of what it comes down to.”

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Read More: Broken leg, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, nfl
Mike Petraglia, Chris Price on return of Vince Wilfork, Sebastian Vollmer and end of OTAs at 5:15 pm ET
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FOXBORO — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price talk about the return of defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer and the conclusion of Patriots OTAs on Thursday outside Gillette Stadium.

Read More: Chris Price, Jason Anderson, Mike Petraglia, New England Patriots
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