The New England Patriots may have dodged a major bullet in Week 1.
Starting right tackle Trent Brown went down with an injury to his right leg in the first half that kept him out the rest of the game. Thankfully, Brown was diagnosed with a “minor calf injury” and was listed as day-to-day on Monday, September 13, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
This is good news considering things didn’t look good on the sidelines as Brown watched the majority of the game with a heavy wrap on his leg.
Brown is massive and a difference maker on the field, especially in pass protection.
Mac Jones Needs Brown on the Field
The Miami Dolphins’ pass rush was pretty relentless on Sunday. While rookie Mac Jones was only sacked once during the game, the Dolphins’ defense hit him nine times. That’s far too many hits for a QB to take in a single game.
Jones deserves credit for showing poise in the pocket. He was mostly accurate with the ball completing 29 of 39 attempts for 281 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. Brown’s replacement when he was hurt, Justin Herron, struggled mightily. He was beaten often which forced Jones to get rid of the ball perhaps a bit sooner than he wanted, and Herron was also whistled for a holding penalty.
Things got so bad for Herron that Bill Belichick chose to bench him in favor of Yasir Durant. The Providence Journal’s Mark Daniels tallied the Patriots pass protection numbers for the day.
New England’s pass protection will almost certainly get better this season–especially if Brown can go–but it’s inevitably going to benefit from its dominant run blocking.
Pats’ Running Game Was Strong Without Brown
The run game was about as good as you could expect from any NFL offense. The Patriots ran the ball for just 125 yards, but quite honestly, it would have been even more had the team not lost two possessions to turnovers.
Rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson fumbled early and was then detonated in pass coverage by former Patriot Elandon Roberts. Damien Harris had a mostly spectacular performance with 100 yards rushing on 23 carries.
Unfortunately, his late fumble deep in the Dolphins’ territory sealed the defeat for the Patriots. All in all, New England’s offense looks to be in a better overall state than it was last season. Jones better fits what the Patriots want to do offensively and he has far more weapons in the passing game than Cam Newton had in 2020.
Jones even has an improved offensive line thanks to the return of veterans like David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Isaiah Wynn, and the development of Michael Onwenu. If Brown can remain healthy and gets back to the form he was in when he helped the Patriots win the Super Bowl, we’ll see what the team can do for the remaining 16 games on the schedule.
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