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Boston Herald Karen Guregian column

Boston Herald — Karen Guregian Boston Herald

Dec. 07--FOXBORO -- If Josh McDaniels isn't the hottest name on the coaching market heading into the Patriots' prime-time clash with the Dolphins, he might be on the top of everyone's list by the time he leaves South Florida.

Monday night's game should be a nationally televised showcase of the offensive coordinator's talents. If the New York Giants or any other team with a vacancy isn't already impressed with his abilities, McDaniels has another opportunity to strut his stuff.

Consider the variables.

The Patriots are down an all-world tight end thanks to Rob Gronkowski's one-game suspension. That leaves McDaniels drawing up plays without his best offensive weapon. He also might not have wide receiver Chris Hogan, who hasn't played since Oct. 29 because of a shoulder injury. Hogan practiced for the first time yesterday, so he's a question mark. Then there's the uncertainty on the offensive line, where the Pats might be down to his third-string right tackle.

Put all that together with the fact the Patriots are facing the Dolphins for the second time in three weeks, and it gets a little tricky.

As we've seen through the years, however, McDaniels is creative, especially when up against a wall.

When he didn't have Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo last season, he came up with a plan for third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett, a rookie making his first start, to beat Houston.

Already this season, he had receiver Julian Edelman taken away and had to adjust his game plans accordingly, without his best chain-mover. He also had to incorporate a deep threat in Brandin Cooks and discover the types of plays that fit him best. The wideout enters Monday night's game with 53 receptions, second on the team to Gronkowski. McDaniels masterfully has weaved his stable of running backs into the offense, using them to attack on the ground and out of the backfield as receivers.

So even before taking the field against the Dolphins, McDaniels' stock is high. He might already be the leader in the clubhouse in New York, especially if the Giants first hire Nick Caserio as general manager.

And if that doesn't happen, everything he does from here on out just enhances the resume since his first failed attempt as a head coach in Denver. As the saying goes, it's all gravy.

He has five Super Bowl rings, two as an offensive coordinator. Sure, he has Brady running the show, but the flow and feel of the Patriots offense is directed by McDaniels.

"He's been doing it for a long time. Our whole team has a lot of faith in the game plans he throws out there every week. We really believe in him," wide receiver Danny Amendola said. "Whatever pieces he has, he's going to put our guys in the best position to make our guys successful. We do a good job as a team and as an offense buying into that."

His mission against the Dolphins, who were successful getting in to Brady two weeks ago -- either sacking him or beating him up (eight quarterback hits) -- is to prevent that scenario from happening again, this time without Gronk, his best run blocker, pass protector and target in the short passing game.

Still, McDaniels will dial something up, whether it's using his running backs more, which worked well in the first meeting, or having Brady rely on the short passing game and get rid of the ball quickly.

"He's an awesome coach. I'm sure glad to play with him," left tackle Nate Solder said of McDaniels. "Life's never without its adversity. We go into whatever situation to do the best we can. We don't make excuses, we don't find reasons to beat ourselves, we just play the best we can whatever the situation is."

Cooks also is a believer and will be confident in whatever McDaniels draws up for Monday night.

"He does such a great job, working with the pieces of the puzzle he has and putting it all together. You have to commend him for that," Cooks said. "It's not an easy job, but he comes in here and works hard at it. It's great to have him as the OC."

Their brief sideline spat in Buffalo notwithstanding, Brady loves having him, too. He knows McDaniels is on everyone's radar, and if he isn't, he should be.

Monday night is just one more chance for him to shine.

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