By Gregory Hunt
The New England Patriots have dominated the AFC East for so long that it's difficult to believe that will change for as long as head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady remain with the franchise. However, nothing is ever certain in the NFL, so here's a look at some of things that may factor into the outcome of Sunday's season opener against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium.
Rob Gronkowski may not play
Patriots Nation grew very excited when tight end Rob Gronkowski announced Monday that he would be ready to play in the season opener, but Belichick announced the very next day that he was not prepared to say if Gronkowski would be active for the game.
"I'm glad that Rob is optimistic about his situation," said Belichick in a conference call. "We will go through a week of practice, look at everything and everybody and see where everybody is at and try to do what's best for the team. With all due respect to Rob that he feels the way he does, but in the end we will have to make the decision that we feel is best for the team."
Pats acquire former Dolphins DB
Strong safety Don Jones, a 2013 seventh-round draft pick who played mostly on special teams for Miami last season, was claimed off waivers on Monday by the Patriots. Jones is not an impact player, so this move may be designed to obtain some insight into the Dolphins playback. The Denver Broncos made a similar move several days prior to meeting New England in last season's AFC Championship Game when they signed former Patriots cornerback Marquice Cole. Jones comes with some baggage, as he was briefly suspended during the off-season after tweeting some negative remarks about defensive end Michael Sam after Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams. Sam, who released by the Rams last Saturday, is attempting to become the first openly gay player in the NFL.
Dolphins will start Miller over Moreno at RB
Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked a league-high 58 times last season, so in addition to revamping the offensive line, the Dolphins tried to remedy the situation by signing former Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno. Moreno, who ran for 1038 yards last season, is known for being an outstanding blocker in pass protection, but he battled a knee injury during training camp and appeared in only one preseason game. Lamar Miller, who has rushed for merely 959 yards and three touchdowns in two seasons with the Dolphins, will start at running back.
Miami DE begins four-game suspension
Second-year defensive end Dion Jordan, one of the speediest players on the Miami defensive line, won't face the Patriots on Sunday as he begins a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance enhancing drugs. Jordan was the third overall pick in the 2013 draft, so the Dolphins were hoping he would have a major impact on the team this year after he suffered through an injury-riddled rookie season. The Dolphins have a bye week on Week Five, so Jordan won't be eligible to play until they meet the Oakland Raiders on Sept. 29.
For more Patriots news and updates, visit Patriots Central.
Gregory Hunt is a Boston native and a life-long fan of the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics. He's also particularly fond of lacrosse, IndyCar racing and women's college basketball. He currently works for Examiner.com where he serves as the Senior Manager of Content and Media Access. He also writes for Examiner.com as the New England Patriots Examiner. His work can be found on Examiner.com.
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