Patriots-Dolphins matchup of the day: Thursday

Posted Sept. 08, 2011 @ 5:01 p.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

Here's a key matchup to watch in the Week One game between the Patriots and Dolphins:

Dolphins WR Brandon Marshall vs. Patriots cornerbacks

The touchdowns might not have been there, but Marshall still put up big numbers in his first season in Miami, going 86-1,014-3, despite well-publicized chemistry issues with QB Chad Henne.

If the Dolphins are to upset the Pats, it's going to be behind a big effort from the passing game and utilizing Marshall, the team's best playmaker.

The Patriots' Achilles' heel last season was passing defense, as they ranked 30th in the league. Marshall had five catches for 50 yards in the teams' first meeting in Week Four and then five catches for 97 yards in the season finale.

In Brian Daboll's new offense in Miami, receivers get the opportunity to line up in different spots, meaning Marshall might not always be lined up on the outside, where Patriots CB Devin McCourty could key on him. McCourty provides the best matchup, as he can be physical with Marshall. As a rookie, McCourty had seven interceptions.

Leigh Bodden, who worked on the inside at times in the preseason, will also likely get some snaps against Marshall. Kyle Arrington might as well, although that matchup would heavily favor the Dolphins.

Assuming the Patriots get an early lead, Henne will be airing it out, and the Dolphins want to get Marshall more involved in the offense. The Patriots' secondary will have to keep Marshall in check. The receiver worked on his speed in the offseason, and the Pats don't have FS Brandon Meriweather covering receivers over the top anymore. That job will be given to one of two inexperienced players, Sergio Brown or Josh Barrett, both of whom may have to help on Marshall.