Game Preview: New England at Miami

After watching 28 other teams get their season under way on Thursday night or Sunday, the Dolphins finally take their turn Monday night when they play host to the New England Patriots. Here's a breakdown of this Week 1 matchup.

KICKOFF: Monday, 7 p.m. ET

SITE: Sun Life Stadium

SURFACE: FieldTurf

TV: ESPN (Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski, Jon Gruden)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Patriots are working in several new pieces on defense, including Albert Haynesworth and SS Sergio Brown, giving Dolphins QB Chad Henne an opportunity for a solid start. He also has a new versatile weapon in RB Reggie Bush, who is backed up this week by veteran Larry Johnson, and should vary his drops more this season to keep defenses off balance. The problem will likely come in slowing down Patriots QB Tom Brady. New England looked typically explosive during the preseason and has plenty of weapons to move around and create mismatches with. Unless the Dolphins shut down the ground game and apply serious heat on Brady, they'll risk getting drawn into a shootout they aren't equipped to win.

FAST FACTS: Brady's .776 winning percentage (111-32) is the highest in the NFL in the Super Bowl era among players with at least 100 starts. ... Bush leads NFL running backs with 294 receptions since 2006.

INSIDE THE CAMPS:

PATRIOTS

Albert Haynesworth is itching to get back on the field and do what he does best, which is line up in the trenches and wreak havoc on opposing passing games.

He'll more than likely get his chance Monday in the Patriots' season opener against the Miami Dolphins.

"At least last year, I didn't think I was going to play because I was playing a lot of scout team," Haynesworth said. "Now I'm in the system and I'm playing and practicing and stuff and I think it's time for me -- I guess, the sleeping giant -- to awake and go back out there on the field and play football again."

The idea of the giant Haynesworth playing at his peak potential is a scary proposition for the rest of the NFL, especially when you consider what his presence could mean to the Patriots' pass rush.

Last year, the team had trouble generating any pressure on opposing quarterbacks, leaving the secondary to fend for itself. Now, with Haynesworth on board and Vince Wilfork back in the fold, the Patriots have two gargantuan tackles with the potential to turn this 4-3 front into a menace against opposing offensive lines.

"I read what you guys wrote -- I mean nothing personal --that I didn't do much in D.C. and the scheme didn't fit me and stuff, so now I can go out there and play and I can get back to what I used to do," he said. "When I play, I want to dominate.

"I'm feeling good," he continued. "I talk to my coaches and they said since the day I got here, I've been improving and getting better and better. I still have work to do to get to where I want to be, but it's coming along great."

DOLPHINS

Larry Johnson, the once-dominant running back, was among those players the Miami Dolphins released on cutdown Saturday. On Thursday, he was back at the team's training facility in Davie -- its newest member.

Rookie running back Daniel Thomas injured his hamstring in a practice on Wednesday. Later the same day, Johnson said he received a call from Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland inviting him back.

It remains unclear how much Johnson will play in the Dolphins' season opener on Monday night against the New England Patriots but one thing is clear: The Dolphins became concerned - and quickly - about their depth at running back.

"Obviously we liked what Larry did during training camp," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said. "We had a little bit of an injury to Daniel (on Wednesday) so there's two different reasons (we brought Johnson back)."

Originally, Johnson arrived more than halfway through the Dolphins' training camp. He played sparingly in the third preseason game, a defeat at Tampa Bay, and then in the fourth preseason game helped the Dolphins to a 17-3 victory against the Cowboys. His 22-yard touchdown in the first quarter of that game gave the Dolphins an early 7-0 lead.

Still, Johnson wasn't necessarily surprised on Saturday when he didn't make the final roster.

"They just told me -- Jeff Ireland just told me just be ready," he said. "Because injuries happen in the league and everyone knows that. So they just said just be ready -- we may call you, another team may call you.

"So just stay ready. So that's all I could do."

Johnson waited. On Wednesday -- more quickly than he expected, he admitted -- he received the call.


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