BOSTON (CBS) — After an offseason spending spree by Bill Belichick, there are a lot of new faces on the Patriots this season. There are new players up and down the roster, and a lot riding on them after New England handed out $160 million in guaranteed money over the offseason.
And, of course, there is also that new kid at quarterback with a lot of new weapons on the offensive side of the ball. The Patriots suffered a frustrating 17-16 loss to the Dolphins to start the 2021 season at 0-1, but we saw a lot of good things from the fresh new faces on the team.
The quarterback played well in his NFL debut, though he wouldn’t say as much after Sunday’s loss. Jones mostly handed the ball off on his first drive, and his first NFL pass was… interesting… in that Jones felt pressure, turned around and threw the ball into the ground. That play is best known as a fumble. At least the Patriots recovered the ball, but the drive ended in a punt.
Jones looked much more comfortable from there on out, despite being under heavy pressure for much of the day. He completed 29 of his 39 passes for 281 yards and a touchdown, and some of those passes were absolute beauties. Jones also had a veteran-like poise on third down, completing nine of his 12 passing attempts, picking up seven first downs.
There were growing pains and Jones has a lot to work on this week, but the rookie looked incredibly solid for a 23-year-old making his pro debut.
Agholor caught Jones’ first career touchdown pass in the second quarter, one of five receptions from the receiver on Sunday. He racked up 72 yards on those five receptions (off seven targets). Prior to his touchdown grab, Agholor made a nice diving catch over the middle for a 25-yard pickup.
Jones and Agholor had a nice thing going on Sunday, which bodes well for their relationship throughout the season.
New England’s other wide receiver signing didn’t fare as well on Sunday, but it wasn’t really his fault. Bourne hauled in just one of his three targets for 17 yards, but had a big play taken off the board because of one of the team’s eight penalties on the day.
A 33-yard reception by Bourne was wiped off the board in the third quarter because of a holding flag on replacement right tackle Justin Herron. That would have been New England’s biggest passing play of the day. Bourne’s 17-yard catch-and-run in the second half went into the books, but it was really only a two-yard pickup for New England after Shaq Mason was hit with a blindside block on the play.
Smith was active in his debut, catching all five passes that Jones sent his way for 42 yards. Two of those receptions went for a first down, including a big 10-yard catch early in the fourth quarter that could have gone for a much bigger gain had Smith not stepped out of bounds along the sideline.
He also had a six-yard jet sweep early in the game, and fell on Mac’s fumble/backward pass. Smith did have a fumble of his own though, when he went airborne as he fought for some extra yardage on a seven-yard pickup on a third-and-14. David Andrews fell on the ball at the Miami 9-yard line, allowing the Patriots to kick a field goal instead of committing a red zone turnover.
We didn’t hear Henry’s named too much in the first half, but he came on strong in the second half and caught all three passes that went his way for 31 yards.
The tight end had a nice 16-yard catch over the middle to close the third quarter, and a wonderful six-yard catch on a low pass from Jones a few plays later. It was a huge play on a third-and-5 for New England, which eventually led to a field goal to make it a 17-16 game.
Jones and Henry did not practice much, as Henry spent much of training camp and the preseason sidelined by a shoulder injury, but their rapport should only get stronger as the season progresses.
It was not a great day for the rookie running back. He got just one carry, a two-yard pickup on New England’s second drive, and a few plays later he fumbled away a nine-yard reception when he let the ball get ripped out of his hands as he fell to the ground.
Stevenson played just five snaps on the afternoon, and is firmly in the doghouse after his fumble. Don’t be surprised to see J.J. Taylor active next Sunday against the Jets.
He started at right tackle in his return to the Patriots, but played only seven snaps before departing with a calf injury. The Patriots are still awaiting an update on his status.
Judon was everywhere on Sunday, playing 89 percent of New England’s defensive snaps. He took down Myles Gaskin for a pair of one-yard losses, and finished with four combined tackles. He didn’t record a sack, but it was his pressure on Tua Tagovailoa that forced the Dolphins quarterback to heave up a pass that ended up in the hands of Jonathan Jones midway through the fourth quarter. Judon also finished his vicious hit on Tua on that play, which we’ll see plenty of over the next 16 weeks.
There was one low-light for him though, which came on special teams when Judon was hit with an unsportsmanlike penalty that negated a 14-yard punt return by Gunner Olszewski.
We didn’t hear too much about New England’s fill-in No. 2 corner, which is a good thing. Mills had a huge play late in the first half when he made a nice recovery after being beat by Albert Wilson to break up a potential touchdown reception in the end zone.
— NFL (@NFL) September 12, 2021
Kyle Van Noy
As he was in his first go-around with the Patriots, Van Noy was a pesky presence on defense. He had three tackles, one for a loss, a pass deflection and a sack on Tua. He fit right back into the defense after spending last season in Miami.
Another former Dolphin now on the New England front seven, Godchaux had three total tackles on Sunday.
The second-round pick played 26 percent of the team’s defensive snaps and finished with one tackle.