New England Patriots (2-1) at Miami Dolphins (2-1)
KICKOFF: Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET
SURFACE: Natural Grass
TV: ESPN, (Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski, Jon Gruden, Michele Tafoya)
PREDICTION: Dolphins 30-24
KEYS TO THE GAME: Miami hasn't been an appealing destination for the Patriots in recent seasons, and the Dolphins strong start to the season makes it less so. The Patriots are throwing the ball 54 percent of the time, but might lean more on RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis and the ground game in Miami. New England has lost seven of its past nine road games, the defense is giving up 260.3 passing yards per game and the Dolphins opened up their passing game against a superior secondary last week. RB Ronnie Brown and Miami's Wildcat formation has also caused issues for New England the past two years. The matchup to watch is Dolphins second-year DB Sean Smith against impressive rookie TEs Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.
FAST FACTS: Patriots WR Wes Welker has averaged 7.8 catches for 102 yards in six games against his former team. He has 371 receiving yards in his last three games against the Dolphins. ... Miami is 33-19 (.635) at home on Monday's nights. ... The Patriots have won six of their last seven "Monday Night Football" games. ... Brady has eight TD passes in three games. He had 10 in the first three games in 2007, when he totaled 50 in the regular season.
The loss of Kevin Faulk, preceded by the trade of Laurence Maroney to Denver, sent a wave of panic throughout New England among fans wondering what the Patriots were going to do now with only three running backs.
Enter Danny Woodhead, a former Division II college standout and New York Jets castaway who saved the day last weekend with an unexpected performance against Buffalo. Woodhead went from the outhouse to the penthouse in a span of days and helped lift the Patriots to a 38-30 win this past Sunday with a 22-yard touchdown run.
The fact he's wearing Maroney's old number is somewhat odd, but Woodhead has already become a fan favorite after just one game. His focus, however, is on the next game on the schedule, which happens to be Monday night in Miami against the surprising Dolphins.
"Honestly, that's not something I worry about or think about," Woodhead said, "but I think that's probably more for you guys or everyone else. That's not something I look at. What I try to think about is what's at hand and what's coming up and that's the Miami Dolphins.
"My concentration is on working as hard as I can in the meeting rooms, the practice field, or whatever. That's more my concern."
Woodhead sounds every bit like a player who understands his role and is thankful for the opportunity, particularly after the Jets cut him at the end of training camp. The two-time Harlon Hill Trophy winner waited it out and eventually got the call from the Patriots after Faulk tore his knee up against the Jets.
"The only thing that was important to me was that we got the win," Woodhead said. "It's the only thing, and we were able to get the win. I was happy that we got the 'W.'"
Woodhead figures to play a significant role Monday night in Miami. The Patriots have five running backs on the active roster, but there are always injury concerns with veterans Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor, so Woodhead will more than likely have a role as the season progresses.
Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne admitted Thursday he is more comfortable under center than in the shotgun. This explains why the Dolphins keep him there at times even in obvious passing downs and will probably do so again on Monday night against New England.
"Just being under center I feel like I can see the safeties a little bit more, feel the coverage more," Henne said. "When you're in the shotgun, I think when you're taking the snap you have a split second where you don't see the safeties rotate or know where people are at ... and I just feel so much better where I can feel everything in front of my face and keep my eyes up when I'm under center."
Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said former quarterback Drew Bledsoe had the same preference in Dallas.
"Some guys sometimes, being back there in the shotgun, sometimes you can take your eye off of the look, off of the coverage," Sparano said. "Depending on where the snap is, you got to focus and concentrate on getting the ball. Just that little time that it takes, this thing could change. Some guys like to have it in their hand and see the picture.
"Drew Bledsoe was like that. He really would rather be under the center. He didn't want to be in the shotgun."
There's also a timing aspect.
"The other thing is, from a rhythm standpoint when you're throwing it, catching the ball in the shotgun and then getting your footwork right and throwing the ball, sometimes you can lose just that one tick that it takes maybe to make that throw. You're not loaded in time. ... Chad would rather have the ball in his hand."
--RB Fred Taylor was not at Thursday's practice due to a toe injury, leaving some uncertainty as to whether he'll be ready for Monday's game in Miami. The rest seems precautionary. Taylor is Out for Monday's game
--RT Nick Kaczur missed practice again Thursday due to a lingering back injury. Kaczur has yet to play this season and won't make the trip to Miami.
--The Patriots signed RB Thomas Clayton to the 53-man roster from Cleveland's practice squad. Clayton could see some playing time this week in Miami, though the emergence of Danny Woodhead could limit his role.
--OL Quinn Ojinnaka was released from the roster Thursday to make room for Clayton. Ojinnaka spent time on the suspension list before being activated last week. He did not play in any games.
--CB Terrence Wheatley missed practice Thursday with a foot injury and will likely be out for Monday's game in Miami. Wheatley, a nickel back in sub-defense packages, has missed the first three games of the season.
--Rookie RG John Jerry (illness) and rookie DE Jared Odrick (fibula) sat out practice again, and coach Tony Sparano said both remained "day to day" in terms of making it back for Monday night's game against New England. Both were restricted to riding stationary bikes. Both have been ruled out for Monday.
--LT Jake Long showed up on the injury report for the first time since Week 1 with a knee problem, but he practiced fully. It's unclear if this is the same knee (left) he banged at Dallas in the final preseason game.
--Inside linebacker Channing Crowder (groin) was limited again in practice. Crowder, however, has taken first-team reps with Karlos Dansby and, barring a setback, appears set to make his first game appearance since the first quarter of the preseason on Aug. 14 against Tampa Bay.
--Guard Ray Feinga was signed off the practice squad to fill the roster exemption the Dolphins received due to the one-game suspension of defensive lineman Tony McDaniel. Feinga might have made it there sooner if not for a concussion suffered in a car accident on the eve of training camp. "Ray's really starting to develop nicely," Sparano said. "This guy is athletic and he's got some strength. I like the things that he's done."
--Drew Rosenhaus, McDaniel's agent, said on WQAM he appealed the suspension under the NFL's personal conduct policy but the appeal was denied.
--WR Brandon Marshall insisted he was not "gassed" at the end of Sunday's game, as NFL Network analysts Mike Mayock, Solomon Wilcots and Sterling Sharpe claimed he appeared this week. "I wasn't running as fast as I was at the beginning of the game. That's natural," Marshall said. "I don't think there's too many guys in the world that can play 65 snaps and run 40 yards almost every play and still have the same speed and endurance throughout the whole game. I think I played at a high level throughout the whole game and made some plays when we needed it."
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