Patriots-Dolphins Film Review: How Was Josh Gordon Used In Debut?

The New England Patriots weren’t about to throw Josh Gordon into the fire in his team debut. Instead, the Patriots simply lowered Gordon into some comfortably warm coals Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.

Gordon played 18 snaps in his Patriots debut, 12 of which were passing plays. He mostly lined up outside, wasn’t sent in motion and played his typical “X” role in the Patriots’ 38-7 win.

Quarterback Tom Brady targeted Gordon four times, but two of those plays were ruled “no plays” due to defensive penalties. He caught both of his official targets on slant routes.

He was targeted on three slant routes and a comeback. His comeback route was interrupted mid-target by illegal contact on one penalty. He dropped a pass on a slant from Brady, but the play was called back because of a defensive offsides penalty.

Gordon ran three slants, three in-routes, three comebacks, a deep route, an out and a post. He also worked as a run blocker on six plays. He helped spring James White into the end zone on the running back’s 22-yard touchdown run.

Let’s take a closer look at Gordon’s catches.

— Dolphins cornerback Bobby McCain gave Gordon a large cushion off the line of scrimmage on third-and-6 from Miami’s 16-yard-line. Gordon was Brady’s first read, and he made a tough contested catch with Dolphins linebacker Jerome Baker crossing over his sightline. Gordon shed an arm tackle and powered forward to the 3-yard line.

— Gordon got another large cushion from Dolphins cornerback Torry McTyer on third-and-3 from the Patriots’ 17-yard line. He caught another pass on a slant route, spun to avoid a head-on tackle, broke two tackles and powered through for a 19-yard gain. Brady ran up applaud Gordon after the effort on his second catch.

Here are some more non-Josh Gordon related notes from our film review:

— The Dolphins were boneheaded on offense, but the Patriots’ defense deserves a ton of credit. Take out short gains allowed (that weren’t enough for first downs) on third-and-longs, yards allowed right before the first half ended and 75 yards in garbage time, and the Patriots’ defense allowed just 55 meaningful yards on the afternoon.

— If you’re still not convinced Trey Flowers is the Patriots’ most important defensive player, consider this: The Patriots are allowing 2.62 yards per carry and 4.86 yards per pass when he’s on the field. When he’s not, they’re allowing 4.4 yards per carry and 6.2 yards per pass. The opposite is true for defensive tackle Danny Shelton and defensive end Keionta Davis. The Patriots are worse against the run and pass when either player is on the field.

— Brady had an average game. He threw two interceptions, made some questionable decisions and was off on targets. Expect him to be better Thursday when Julian Edelman is back on the field.

— Rookie running back Sony Michel was much better in Week 4 than he was in Weeks 2 and 3. His offensive line gave him plenty of room to run. We still think he looked more explosive in college, and there might still be rust to knock off.

— Running back James White was probably the Patriots’ best offensive player. He wasn’t touched on his 22-yard rushing touchdown because he juked defensive end Robert Quinn out of his shoes with a quick cut.

— People are saying Rob Gronkowski isn’t the same player this season. We just still think he’s constantly being double-covered. Expect him to play better when Edelman returns.

— Left tackle Trent Brown struggled. He let up four quarterback hits.

— The Patriots’ run defense and tackling was exponentially better compared to Weeks 2 and 3. Count Malcom Brown, Adam Butler, Dont’a Hightower and Elandon Roberts among players who saw improvement. Lawrence Guy and Kyle Van Noy continued their strong play.

— The Patriots’ secondary was nearly flawless save for a touchdown allowed in garbage time by safety Devin McCourty. Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill tried to pick on cornerback Jonathan Jones, but the plan wasn’t effective for the most part. Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty and Patrick Chung were barely targeted. Rookie JC Jackson picked off his only target of the season.

Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images

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