It’s hard to get a good read on this Patriots team.
New England probably should be 2-0, but Bill Belichick’s 1-1 team also has been sloppy, disjointed and just kinda meh through two weeks. The Patriots’ 25-6 over the New York Jets on Sunday offered some encouraging signs, but also some things fans should be concerned about.
As was the case after the Week 1 loss to the Miami Dolphins, New England’s Week 2 win at MetLife Stadium spawned a whole bunch of takes — some logical; some over the top. Each week, we’ll examine a couple of fair reactions, along with a couple of overreactions, from the conversation surrounding the Patriots.
Here’s the Week 2 edition:
The run defense is a major concern
This is legit, and it’s a continuation of what we saw during the preseason.
The Patriots were bad against the run in 2020, and seemingly addressed it during the offseason with the signings of Davon Godchaux and Henry Anderson, as well as the drafting of Christian Barmore and the re-signing of Lawrence Guy. But the run defense was concerning during training camp, and it’s carried over into the regular season.
The Patriots allowed Miami Dolphins running backs to rush for 69 yards on 17 carries in Week 1, and then Jets backs ran for 133 yards on 28 carries Sunday afternoon. Those numbers aren’t atrocious, but they definitely aren’t good. The most alarming stretch came at the end of the Dolphins loss when the Patriots knew what Miami was going to do and still couldn’t stop it.
If the run defense doesn’t hold up, the pass rushers can’t do their thing, and the thin secondary potentially gets exposed.
So, too, is the red zone offense
This should improve, but the Patriots’ struggles in the red zone remain frustrating and, at times, baffling.
It was understandable last season: Cam Newton was limited, and his supporting cast largely was incapable of getting open. But rookie quarterback Mac Jones is a totally different player, and the weapons around him are far better than what Newton had.
That Jones has yet to throw the ball into the end zone through two games makes no sense. He’s capable of more, and the Patriots need to open things up and take more chances.
Settling for field goals and playing not to lose works against the Jets, but not against the better teams in the NFL. The execution also must improve, as too often New England sees promising drives ruined by multiple screw-ups, such as penalties, drops and blown protections.
The offensive line stinks
It was bad the first two weeks. No way around it.
Yes, the injury to Trent Brown has been a major factor in the struggles of the line, but that excuse only goes so far. Isaiah Wynn hasn’t been good on the left side, and Shaq Mason has struggled in the right guard spot. Backup tackles Yasir Durant and Justin Herron should not be the total disasters they’ve been.
But this line will play better, regardless of Brown’s status (though he is a very important player for the Patriots). The group has too much talent, and New England’s coaching is too good, for the offensive line to keep playing this way. The coaches will coach it up and the players will play better. They have to.
That admittedly is more of a guess than an argument supported by data and hardcore analysis, but history matters here. And the reality is the Patriots almost always round their offensive line into shape. We expect that to happen this season.
This might be a sub-.500 team
Well, there are no .500 records in a 17-game season, but you get the point.
If you listen to Boston sports radio this week or subject yourself to the Twitter hellpit, you might hear callers — or even hosts — saying things like, “This team is worse than I thought. They might finish with a losing record.”
And hey, those takes are fine. Plus, the Patriots are relying on a rookie quarterback while coming off a season in which they had a losing record. So, we’re not saying it’s totally off the table.
But New England will figure things out. Once all the new pieces gel and the handcuffs truly come off Jones, the Patriots should play good football. The potential midseason return of Stephon Gilmore also could make a huge difference.
Relax. This is a good team that basically is playing an extended preseason.