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Dolphins 2022 Opponent Breakdown: New England Patriots

The Miami Dolphins will face the New England Patriots at the start and near the end of the 2022 season

Our series examining the Dolphins' 2022 regular season opponents starts with the New England Patriots.

The Dolphins will face the Patriots in the season opener Sept. 11 at Hard Rock Stadium and at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 1.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

2021 Record: 10-7, second in AFC East (lost to Buffalo in wild-card playoffs)

Last Season’s Dolphins-Patriots Meetings: Week 1 at New England - Dolphins 17, Patriots 16; Week 18 at Miami - Dolphins 33, Patriots 24

These AFC East division rivals entered the 2021 season opener with plenty of storylines. Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones, was a teammate and the backup to Tua Tagovailoa at the University of Alabama. He came out of training camp with plenty of hype, having claimed the starting job, effectively ending Cam Newton’s short stint in Foxborough. The game also marked the NFL debut of Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, a favorite target for both Tagovailoa and Jones at Alabama.

Jones had a respectable NFL debut, going 29-for-39 for 281 yards and a touchdown. Waddle put up four catches for 61 yards and one score. Miami was able to upset New England in the season opener when Xavien Howard stripped Damien Harris and recovered the fumble at the Dolphins 9-yard line with 3:31 left.

The Week 18 was relatively meaningless with the Dolphins already eliminated from playoff contention and the Patriots already having clinched. The Dolphins were able to secure a 33-24 win, capitalizing off of a sloppy, three-turnover game by the Patriots, including an interception that Howard returned for a touchdown. This marked the Dolphin’s first season sweep of the Patriots since 2000.

PATRIOTS' 2021 SEASON IN REVIEW

It only took one losing season in the post-Tom Brady era for HC Bill Belichick to make uncharacteristically aggressive offseason decisions. The Patriots, a usually conservative team, were free agency’s biggest spenders. Belichick followed that up by making Mac Jones the first Patriots quarterback drafted in Round 1 since 1993 (Drew Bledsoe).

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Mac Jones threw for 3,801 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions en route to ending up in the Pro Bowl as an alternate. He was joined by fellow newcomer, and New England’s biggest free agent addition, Matthew Judon (12.5 sacks).

The Patriots started off 2-4, but then reeled off seven consecutive victories on their way to returning to the playoffs. But New England slumped down the stretch, losing three of its final four regular season games before getting blown out by the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the playoffs.

KEY PATRIOTS VETERAN ADDITIONS

WR DeVante Parker, CB Terrance Mitchell, RB Ty Montgomery, LB Mack Wilson (trade), CB Malcolm Butler

It was a relatively quiet offseason for New England after spending an NFL-record $163 million in guaranteed dollars the previous year. Their biggest acquisition was DeVante Parker in a rare trade with the Dolphins. He should be a factor in the wide receiver room, but will have to prove he can avoid the nagging injuries that plagued his seven years in Miami. Malcolm Butler returns to New England, where he spent the first four years of his career. The former Super Bowl hero Butler signed with the Arizona Cardinals in the 2021 offseason, but retired (personal reasons) months later.

KEY PATRIOTS DEPARTURES

CB J.C. Jackson, G Shaq Mason, LB Chase Winovich, OL Ted Karras, WR/ST Gunner Olszewski, LB Kyle Van Noy, FB Jakob Johnson, RB Brandon Bolden

Losing J.C. Jackson, an elite playmaker with 25 career interceptions in 62 games, leaves a major void in the Patriots secondary. Jackson’s departure comes after his first career Pro Bowl and All-Pro (second-team) season. The Patriots traded away Shaq Mason to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a move that freed up $7.38 million dollars. Bolden and Olszewski served as key special teams contributors.

NOTABLE PATRIOTS 2022 DRAFT PICKS

OL Cole Strange, WR Tyquan Thornton, CB Marcus Jones, CB Jack Jones, RB Pierre Strong, QB Bailey Zappe, RB Kevin Harris

The Patriots made headlines when they drafted Cole Strange with the 29th overall pick. Strange, as remarked by Rams HC Sean McVay, was expected to be a late day-two, early day-three prospect. Strange will look to fill the void left by Shaq Mason’s departure. Tyquan Thornton (second round) is a speedy deep threat and East-West Shrine Bowl standout.

EARLY PATRIOTS PROGNOSIS

It’s hard to view New England’s offseason as anything other than underwhelming. The departures of Jackson and Mason seem to be unnecessary collateral damage for the overspending of a year ago. Mac Jones needs legitimate play-makers, but DeVante Parker won't strike fear in opposing defenses. OC Josh McDaniels leaving for Vegas can’t he[p either. Bill Belichick might need some magic hidden in his hoodie if he want’s to avoid the bottom of a much-improved AFC East.