You more or less knew this would happen eventually.
The Patriots have ruled the AFC East now for nearly a decade, with every season more or less being a foregone conclusion that New England would add yet another hat and T-shirt to their collection as a precursor to a playoff run. As the starter Tom Brady has helped lead his team a Division title in every season with the exception of 2002, as well as double digit wins in every season over that same span. They've been the standard that everyone else measures themselves against as the team to beat, and it's been hard not to wonder how much longer they could sustain it.
This season as the Patriots start off in a transition year, the Dolphins appear to be on the move and no longer appear to be a team that can be penciled in as an easy win. Miami is 2-0, coming off of their opening day win over the Browns as well as their upset in Indianapolis on Sunday. Second year quarterback Ryan Tannehill looks like a completely different player, cracking the top 10 in completion percentage by completing 65.3% of his passes, up from finishing tied for 41st in the league at 58.3% during his rookie season. He threw just 12 touchdown passes as well as 13 intereceptions last year, but showed a lot of promise and now looks like he could be just the quarterback Miami's been in dire need of for a long time.
To help him out the Dolphins went out during the offseason and acquired former Steelers receiver Mike Wallace, who was a key addition to a group that already had Brian Hartline, and they also brought in Mike Gibson, along with tight end Dustin Keller. GM Jeff Ireland clearly knows his team is on the rise, and as the Patriots undergo an offensive overhaul of their own, the Dolphins have done the same but have a little more experience in their group.
It hasn't been a completely smooth transition after Wallace expressed some frustration following their opening day win against Cleveland where he was targeted just 5 times with one reception. On Sunday in Indianapolis they went back to him, with Tannehill targeting him 11 times with 9 completions along with 115 yards and a touchdown.
"He was important," Tannehill told the Florida Sun-Sentinel after the game. "We knew coming in we wanted to get him involved. He is a playmaker and when you have a playmaker like that, you want to give him the ball. Got him involved early and he took advantage of it and made big plays for us ... I think when you have that type of athleticism, that type of play-making ability, to get a good jump on it, sets the tone of the game."
The victory gave Miami their second consecutive road win, with three tough games now looming as they get set to take on the Falcons, Saints, and Ravens, all three of which New England will face in the coming weeks. This should be an interesting barometer to find out just how far Miami has come, and following a bye week as well as a home game against the Bills, they'll make the visit to Foxboro to see whether or not Tannehill can get his first win against a team that has swept his Dolphins over the last three seasons.
So far through two games they're playing well, and it's been a long time since there has been some serious competition within the division. It's a little early to get too excited about any team at this point in the season, but it's definitely starting to look like Miami may no longer be a team the Patriots will simply have their way with. We'll find out just over a month from now how much progress either team has made, and whether or not the Patriots can remain the team to beat in this division.
RIDLEY SPINNING HIS WHEELS SO FAR THROUGH ONE GAME:
Patriots running back Stevan Ridley has been a a guy who has been known for his quick slashing moves and his explosive running ability, but he's stumbled a little out of the gate so far this season. Out of his 25 carries he's been stopped for a loss five times this season and been held without a gain 3 times, which is unusual for a player who normally has been so effective. He admitted on Monday that this isn't the way he hoped to start off the season.
"I don't think anybody on this team is happy and where they want to be, starting with myself," Ridley told reporters via the Sun Chronicle. "I definitely didn't get off to the start that I wanted and I'll man up and say that. For me, I've got to do better for my team, and also, this team has got to work that much harder.
AMENDOLA RETURNS, SLATER OUT 4-6 WEEKS:
Despite reports over the weekend that said Danny Amendola has torn adductors as well as a possible sports hernia that may require surgery, Amendola was back out on the practice field Monday and was seen by reporters hobbling through drills. One would assume that if he's injured the only way he's going to heal is by getting rest, but on the flip-side the team obviously wouldn't have put him out there without a moderately good reason. According to reports Amendola wasn't spotted with the receiving group when the team returned to the locker room after practice, so it's tough to read much into any of it.
Meanwhile according to the Boston Herald's Karen Guregian, special teams standout Matthew Slater suffered a broke wrist against the Jets and will now be out anywhere from 4-6 weeks. Slater is one of New England's best coverage guys on kickoffs and will leave them needing someone else to step up and hopefully fill in at an area that goes largely unnoticed, primarily because of how well Slater has played in that role.
PATRIOTS RECENTLY WORKED OUT EIGHT PLAYERS:
Aaron Wilson of Scout.com reported on Monday that the Patriots recently worked out eight players, including a host of linebackers. Wilson reports they looked at DE Jeremy Beal, LB Jamar Chaney, LB Tavares Gooden, LB Josh Hull,LB Orie Lemon, DE Louis Nzegwu, LB Austin Spitler and LB Sean Progar.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
NOTEBOOK: Alfonzo Dennard terms same - Jeff Howe - Howe has an article on defensive back Alfonzo Dennard, who admitted during an appearance at Lancaster County Disctrict Court in Nebraska that he violated his probation after being arrested in Lincoln back in July and charged with suspicion of driving under the influence.
Gronk's return should help dormant 'O' - Jeff Howe - Howe writes that with Gronkowski getting closer and potentially available for Sunday's game against Tampa Bay, the Patriots finally have a reason to be optimistic about their offense.
Danny Amendola limps through practice - Jeff Howe - Howe writes that if yesterday is any indication, we probably won't see Amendola back any time soon.
Arrington tries to perfect trade - Adam Kurkjian - Kurkjian has a good article on Kyle Arrington, who so far is off to a great start this season.
Patriots' Stevan Ridley knows he has to improve - Shalise Manza Young - Manza Young has a good read this morning on Ridley, who acknowledged he's not pleased with his performance so far this season.
NOTEBOOK: Patriots' Alfonzo Dennard admits to violating probation - Shalize Manza Young - Manza Young also has an article on Dennard's legal woes.
Week 3: Monday Practice peek -- Amendola present, Talib among absentees - Shalise Manza Young - This entry contains news and notes from yesterday's practice session.
Pondering Life Without Matthew Slater - Mike Reiss - Reiss has an entry this morning and gives some thoughts on what losing Slater would mean for the team after the special teams captain reportedly suffered a broken wrist on Thursday night.
Former New England Patriots WR Brandon Lloyd is starring in zombie movie with Daniel Baldwin - Nick Underhill - Underhill has an interesting entry this morning on Brandon Lloyd, who apparently is taking up acting after calling it a career in football.
Five Monday Evening Thoughts on the Patriots, Bucs, and Danny Amendola - Christopher Price - Price has his five thoughts, including "your semi-regular reminder that Tommy Kelly is awesome".
ATTLEBORO SUN CHRONICLE:
Ridley, offense yet to hit their strides - Mark Farinella - Farinells has some additional quotes from Ridley, who apparently had quite a bit to say to reporters yesterday.