The New England Patriots opened the 2021 regular season with a heartbreaking 17-16 loss to the Miami Dolphins. The loss was disappointing for a number of reasons but none greater than the sheer amount of self-inflicted mistakes that cost New England dearly. Penalties and fumbles played a gigantic role in the Patriots’ defeat.
Despite the disappointing result, there were still some positives to take away from the game on Sunday. With that in mind, let’s get into this week’s Patriots stock report. Which players are trending up? Which players are trending down?
New England Patriots stock report
There was a lot to like about Mac Jones’ performance on Sunday. The rookie made a few mistakes early in the game, but settled in after a few series and really started dealing in the third quarter. Jones went 29/39 and threw for 281 yards and one touchdown. He had the best debut of any rookie quarterback.
Looking beyond the stat-sheet, what was most impressive was Jones’ ability to stay in the pocket amid serious pressure from Miami and deliver strikes. Coming into the game, most expected Brian Flores to put pressure on the rookie. Blitz after blitz and Jones continued to get the ball out quickly and accurately while avoiding a sack. That’s extremely impressive for any quarterback, let alone a rookie making his first start. Being able to make throws under pressure is an excellent trait to have. Plus, his poise will assuredly continue to grow as he gains more experience.
It’s only been one game, and a lot could happen the rest of this season, but the future looks bright in New England.
The Patriots have desperately needed a speedy down-the-field threat and they appear to have found that in Nelson Agholor. Agholor finished Sunday’s game with five catches, 72 yards, and one touchdown. Coming into Week 1, Agholor hadn’t done a whole lot in training camp or the preseason to warrant much hype, but after his performance against the Dolphins, he’s trending upwards.
One of the best parts about Agholor’s performance is that he didn’t have any drops. Drops have plagued him in the past, but not on Sunday. Looking ahead, it’s easy to feel confident about Agholor. He’s got great speed, he’s a good route runner, he seems to have developed some chemistry with Jones, and he can open up the rest of the field for the other wideouts due to his deep threat ability.
The Patriots pass rushers
As expected, the formidable New England pass rush was very good against a weaker Miami offensive front. In obvious passing situations, it’s going to be hard for opposing offenses to pass block against the Patriots. New England just has so many talented rushers.
Matthew Judon, Josh Uche, Kyle Van Noy, Christian Barmore, and Dont’a Hightower all had great moments when rushing the passer. Judon, in particular, was very disruptive. He’s quick off the ball and he’s very powerful, which is quite the combination. Given all the pass-rushing talent New England has in the front seven, this could end up being one of the best pass rushes we’ve seen in New England in a long time.
Nick Folk picked up where he left off last season. Folk went 3/3 on field goals and 1/1 on extra points. All of his kicks were right on the money. Having a reliable kicker, such as Folk, is such a weapon for the Patriots.
It will be interesting to see if Folk is eventually signed to the 53-man roster. As of now, Folk is still on the practice squad. Folk was elevated for Sunday’s game, while rookie Quinn Nordin was a healthy scratch. Until Folk proves he can’t be trusted, I am of the stance he should remain the Patriots kicker. Reliability is hard to find at the kicker position and once it’s found it should be held onto.
Trent Brown went down with a calf injury early in Sunday’s game, which forced Justin Herron to step in and play right tackle. Herron played well last year in limited snaps, but he had a rough outing against Miami.
Herron gave up multiple pressures and wasn’t very strong in the run game either. There was a very noticeable drop-off in offensive line play when Herron came in for Brown. So much so, that Herron was eventually benched for newly acquired Yasir Durant. Durant was a little better than Herron, but having to start either one of the two is not an ideal situation.
If Brown were to miss an extended period of time, it might be better for New England to move Michael Onwenu out to tackle and start Ted Karras in his place at guard. That way, neither Herron nor Durant will be expected to start.
The Patriots running back group
One of the Patriots’ most obvious strengths coming into the season was their running back group. While that’s still the case, the group didn’t have their best performance on Sunday.
Lead-back, Damien Harris rushed for 100 yards and looked really explosive, but had a brutal fumble inside the Dolphins 10 yard line with less than four minutes to go and down by one point. Harris will bounce back, but fumbling in that situation just can’t happen.
Like Harris, rookie Rhamondre Stevenson also fumbled against the Dolphins. It should be noted that after reviewing the play it looked as if Stevenson was down before losing the ball. Still though, after fumbling in the preseason and now in the season opener, one has to wonder if it will start to affect how many snaps Stevenson will continue to get. The rookie only had one carry for two yards on Sunday. It might be time to break out J.J. Taylor. Taylor was a healthy scratch against Miami.
It’s worth noting that one bright spot among the Patriots running back group was James White. White didn’t do much on the ground, but he was effective through the air. He finished with six catches for 49 yards.
Brown didn’t play bad by any means, in fact, he was good in the snaps he played. However, his stock is trending down after yet another injury. The severity of the injury isn’t yet known, but the big concern going into the season was always the health of the New England starting tackles. After only one game, it’s already become an issue.
Let’s hope Brown can come back quickly, as he’s a fun player to watch and he’s a force on the offensive line. Without him, the Patriots will have to do some shuffling along the offensive line.
The Patriots corner depth
Until Stephon Gilmore comes back, the Patriots are going to have issues at the corner position. J.C. Jackson, for the most part, had a good game, but the other boundary corners had their fair share of struggles.
Jalen Mills had a nice pass breakup in the end zone, but he had a few coverage breakdowns, including one that almost resulted in a huge play, if not for a drop by Jaylen Waddle. Joejuan Williams still seems to be struggling to keep up with speed at the wide receiver position. Meanwhile, Shaun Wade was a healthy scratch.
Tua Tagovailoa only threw for 202 yards, but without the dominant New England pass rush, it could have been a lot more. Miami moved the ball way too easily on quick slant routes. It should be interesting to see how New England proceeds with their current corner group.