Mistakes Continue to Plague Offense
Week 1 of the NFL season is always the hardest to predict. Teams don’t like to show much during the summer. And teams with new coaches, players, and schemes have not totally dialed in their chemistry so early.
But the issues that plagued the Patriots throughout training camp and preseason continue to set back the offense. Blown assignments, communication breakdowns, and a lack of explosive playmakers on the field all hurt the team in Miami.
The personnel groupings need to be looked at as well. Overall, the defense, with the exception of one blown play (see sentence above), was very solid, allowing just 13 points.
So, here are our grades this week for the Patriots-Dolphins game.
Mac Jones was making many calls at the line, setting his protection and calling audibles. On paper, he didn’t have a bad game, 21-30 (72%) passing for 217 yards, with 1 TD and 1 INT, 87.2 passer rating.
He also turned the ball over twice, one interception and one fumble. The interception came after an impressive opening drive where the team moved with ease down the field. Jones tried to top it off with a deep pass to DeVante Parker in the end zone down the right sideline. While Xavien Howard should have been called for DPI, if Jones had put a little more air under it, Parker, who won many 50/50 balls this summer, could have had a better shot at hauling it in.
The fumble was the result of a blown assignment by Trent Brown, who allowed an untouched, unblocked pass rusher to come in unabated to Jones’ blindside. Another sack took place when the OL allowed a DL to come into the backfield unblocked (more to that below).
Due to the wide receivers’ lack of separation, he often tried to put more touch than zip on many of his passes. Jones’ back injury will bear watching this week.
Running Backs: B-
The running game was led by Damien Harris, who averaged 5.3-yards per carry (9-48). Harris was running with a purpose and looked very good, displaying good vision and cutting ability. Rhamondre Stevenson had an up-and-down game but had a couple of nice runs to the outside.
Ty Montgomery was back on the field after his injury in the last preseason game seemed like a serious one. He didn’t contribute in the running game but added three catches for 15 yards and the team’s only touchdown.
Wide Receivers: C-
Jakobi Meyers was unsurprisingly the go-to guy once again. He caught four passes for 55 yards, including a really nice 27-yard grab in a jump ball situation deep down the sideline. DeVante Parker was held in check by his former teammates with just a single catch for 9 yards. He was only targeted twice.
Nelson Agholor had just 3 catches for 28 yards but was stripped of the ball on a short crosser on the Patriots’ final drive. Kendrick Bourne played just one (1) offensive snap and, on that play, caught a beautiful 41-yard bomb from Jones. He was then taken out of the game.
Tight Ends: C
Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry combined for 5 catches for 53 yards. The team needs more production from them. Both had some good moments, just not enough of them (a familiar theme for the skill position players).
Their blocking was solid, and a couple of missed opportunities need to be hauled in.
Offensive Line: D-
The offensive line started well enough. The first drive, prior to the interception, went extremely well. That’s what saves the grade from being an “F.”
Communication issues continue to plague this unit. One gaffe allowed interior defensive lineman Emmanuel Ogbah to be left alone, and he shot the gap and sacked Jones. The other was on the strip sack/fumble touchdown by Miami.
They put aside the outside zone runs for the traditional Patriot power running scheme, and the results were more positive. But too many times, assignments were missed, and plays were blown up.
Defensive Line: A-
The defensive line was spot on, limiting Miami’s new rushing attack to just 65 yards on the ground and averaging 2.8 yards per carry, which is very good. Deatrich Wise had a strong game, with a sack, a QB hit, and several pressures on Tua.
Christian Barmore was getting plenty of attention in this one. Carl Davis jumped offside on a 4th and 1, but this group was very good overall.
Matthew Judon gets very high marks in this one, he was a thorn in Miami’s side for much of the game. He had a sack, 4 QB hits, and a tackle for a loss. Ja’Whaun Bentley also had a sack. Mack Wilson chipped in a tackle for loss.
But Bentley had the deep drop on the 4th and 7, 42-yard touchdown where Mack Wilson would have been the better choice. Jahlani Tavai was also dropped into coverage, which Miami took advantage of. But an overall good day for the linebackers.
The Patriots’ secondary had a pretty decent day. Miami was feeding the ball to Tyreek Hill, trying to get him to have a monster game in his Dolphins debut. He was targeted 12 times and had eight catches for 94 yards, a very good day, but was covered well by Jonathan Jones.
Kyle Dugger had a really impressive day with some eye-catching open-field tackling. He tackled Hill twice in the open field, no easy feat. Adrian Phillips is out for any time with a rib injury; Dugger would no doubt step into that role. Dugger, however, took a really bad angle on Jaylen Waddle’s 42-yard touchdown and then took out Bentley, who probably wasn’t going to catch him regardless.
Myles Bryant still seems to be a liability in the slot. And he broke up an easy interception for Devin McCourty. There were several balls that the defense could have turned into turnovers. But much like the preseason, they are coming up just short.
Special Teams: B
Jake Bailey was outstanding; forget about his 39.3 average for the game. He punted three times, put two inside the 10-yard line, and the third right on the 10. Ty Montgomery had a nice 28-yard kickoff return. Bryant had one good punt return for 12 yards, but on the other, he was tackled by his own man, Justin Bethel.
Nick Folk made his only attempt, an extra point. The kickoff coverage unit was solid, allowing just 28 yards on two returns
The Patriots’ coaching staff had a good game plan defensively. This saves another “F.” The plan seemed to be to take away the chunk plays and force Tua to matriculate down the field. They held them to just 13 points offensively. But personnel groupings were strange and several times head-scratching. Why was Bentley the deep backer on the 4th and 7 play that Miami burned them for a 42-yard TD just before the half? If Mack Wilson (whose strength is coverage) is back there, it is doubtful that Tua even attempts the pass there. Especially after a timeout. Dropping Tavai into coverage is also a losing proposition.
Offensively, the OL is still blowing assignments and having communication issues. That should already be fixed. And the lack of explosive playmakers is easily fixable. Having Meyers and Parker on the field at the same time takes away any chance of pressuring the defense with speed. That isn’t a knock on either, they’re both fine players who can move the chains.
But why is last year’s most explosive playmaker, Kendrick Bourne, still on the bench? He played one offensive snap and became the Patriots’ second-leading receiver on the day. “Hello, anyone, anyone, Bueller?”
We’re on to the Steelers…
Posted Under: Patriots Report Card
Tags: Bill Belichick Damien Harris Devin McCourty Jaylen Waddle Mac Jones Miami Dolphins New England Patriots Patriots edge rushers Tua Tagovailoa Tyreek Hill