Patriots coach Bill Belichick always has nice things to say about the Dolphins before he plays them. But this week, he has reason to – not only because of the Dolphins’ respectable effort against Seattle, but also became Miami beat New England, 20-10, in the 2015 regular season finale.
Asked where the Dolphins have improved, Belichick said: "They were pretty good last time we played them. We couldn’t do much on our final game against them. They added a lot. [Dolphins executive] Mike Tannenbaum added a lot of quality talent, defensive linemen, players in the secondary, linebackers, offensive linemen, running backs [with] Arian Foster.
"It’s a good, talented team. They’re always strong on special teams and that’s certainly the case this year. Jakeem Grant has been impressive [on returns]. They’re very strong up front. A lot of explosive players on offense. Coach [Adam] Gase has a good system that gets everyone involved. Running backs, receivers, tight ends. They do a good job of making you defend everything."
And defensively, "they’re hard to move the ball against," Belichick said. "Other than the long run where James White broke a tackle, we barely had 100 yards in total offense [in that 2015 regular season finale]. They’re a very physical group, tough football team."
Belichick likes the two players Miami acquired from Philadelphia --- linebacker Kiko Alonso and cornerback Byron Maxwell.
Pro Football Focus rated Alonso the No. 1 linebacker against the run during opening weekend.
"Alonso is a really a productive player," Belichick said. "We saw him [when New England played] against Buffalo [in 2013], led the team in tackles. Great speed, range. Covers a lot of ground sideline to sideline. Good inside linebacker that could play mike or will [if needed].
"Maxwell is long, played against him in Seattle. Got good length, size. Good ball skills. You can’t be sloppy with your routes throwing the ball against him or he will make you pay. Good instincts. Productive player with good anticipation and skills. Smart player."
• Overall, Belichick said the Dolphins "did a great job out in Seattle. Seattle is one of the toughest places in the league to play. They competed very hard against them. Came back fourth quarter, moved ball length of field against a good defense. I thought they played very well against a good team. I’m sure they will continue to get better."
• The Dolphins re-signed defensive tackle Chris Jones, as we reported first on Twitter (please follow me there at @flasportsbuzz). To make room, they cut quarterback Brandon Doughty, who’s a candidate for the practice squad.
Jones started for the Patriots in 2014 but missed last season with an injury and was cut by the Dolphins on Sept. 3. Jones said he was training in Massachusetts when the Dolphins called him Tuesday.
He said when the Dolphins cut him, Gase told him there was a great possibility he would be re-signed.
• Jelani Jenkins, Mike Pouncey and Jordan Phillips weren’t practicing just now in the portion open to the media. Phillips has an ankle issue, but he said today that he will play Sunday, and Gase said Phillips wouldn’t miss any time.
• CBS is sending Sunday’s Dolphins-Patriots game to 14 percent of the country, with Greg Gumbel and Trent Green announcing. Here’s a map.