Grading Patriots Newcomers For Performances In Season-Opening Loss

There were positives and negatives from these Patriots debuts


Sep 14, 2021

Grading players for Week 1 performances never is easy, and is especially tough this season.

Potentially due to both the general softening of training camps and the long layoff between the final preseason games and the season openers, many teams across the NFL looked sloppy and disjointed in Week 1.

The Patriots, who suffered a 17-16 loss to the Miami Dolphins, were no different.

With so many new players, it was not a surprise that New England occasionally struggled in all three phases of the game Sunday afternoon.

Speaking of those newcomers, we graded each of their Week 1 performances, regardless of how much they played. However, we reserved the right to assign “incomplete” to players who barely saw the field. (All stats via Pro Football Focus.)

So, let’s get into it:

OFFENSE (75 snaps)

Mac Jones, QB
Stats: 29-of-39 for 281 yards, one TD (75 offensive snaps)
Grade: B-plus
The rookie was outstanding in this game, all things considered. Yes, he left some yards on the field and had some issues with batted balls at the line of scrimmage. And that first dropback was a disaster. But perfection was an unrealistic expectation for Jones, who was otherwise as advertised in his debut.

The first-round pick showed toughness, poise and was deadly accurate in key situations. The Patriots need to take the handcuffs off and let him rip it.

Nelson Agholor, WR
Stats: Five catches on seven targets for 72 yards, one TD (64 offensive snaps)
Grade: B
The free agent addition erased concerns about preseason injuries and inconsistency by delivering an impressive debut performance. That he showed such strong chemistry with Jones despite not having any huge downfield plays is a huge positive for this offense.

Agholor might not be a true No. 1 wideout, but he has the ability to be a true difference-maker in the passing game.

Kendrick Bourne, WR
Stats: One catch on three targets for 17 yards (33 offensive snaps; one special teams snap)
Grade: C-minus
A holding penalty from Justin Herron (who was terrible) negated what would’ve been the biggest passing play of the game for the Patriots. So, Bourne deserves that caveat.

However, in his debut, the former San Francisco 49er really didn’t do much and seemed lost at multiple points. He should improve, but this wasn’t a great start.

Jonnu Smith, TE
Stats: Five catches on five targets for 42 yards; one rush for six yards (55 offensive snaps)
Grade: B-minus
There was some good from the Patriots tight end, but there were ugly moments, as well.

Smith struggled in run blocking and also blew the block that led to Jones’s fumble on the first drive. And his fumble in the first half largely was his own fault. It was an uneven performance from the pricey offseason acquisition. Still, the positives offered a glimpse of a player who could be dynamic in this offense once he gets comfortable.

Hunter Henry, TE
Stats: Three catches on three targets for 31 yards (54 offensive snaps)
Grade: C-plus
Honestly forgot he was on the team until the second half. Didn’t do much as a blocker, and his three receptions were nothing special. He was useful at times, though.

Henry should be a major red-zone threat for the Patriots this season. He really didn’t get any opportunities to show that in this game.

Rhamondre Stevenson, RB
Stats: Two yards one carry; nine yards on one catch with lost fumble (five offensive snaps)
Grade: F
The fumble on his first touch (a nine-yard catch and run), was a bad call. But you invite that sort of thing whenever you put the ball on the ground. Stevenson needs to get this straightened out, or he could get the redshirt treatment.

The rookie also got blown up while trying to pick up a blitz. It wasn’t pretty.

Trent Brown, RT
Stats: Seven offensive snaps (left with calf injury)
Grade: Incomplete
Brown, who we expect to have a big season, barely played after suffering a calf injury on the first drive. He reportedly is fine, but his issues with calf injuries are concerning.

Yasir Durant, RT
Stats: 23 offensive snaps; four special teams snaps
Grade: C
Thrust into the game after Herron was benched, Durant, who was acquired via trade after the preseason, actually played quite well. Wouldn’t be surprised if he and Yodny Cajuste both are active next weekend, with Herron watching from upstairs.

(Note: Rookie kicker Quinn Nordin did not play.)

DEFENSE (54 snaps)

Henry Anderson, DE
Stats: Zero tackles (three offensive snaps; seven special teams snaps)
Grade: Incomplete
Don’t understand why he wasn’t on the field more. Anderson offers far more than Deatrich Wise, who played a ton in this game.

Anderson should see an increased role as the season progresses. For now, he’s little more than a depth option.

Christian Barmore, DT
Stats: Two assists; two QB hurries (26 defensive snaps)
Grade: B
Played sparingly, but more than most rookie defenders do in their first games with the Patriots.

Barmore flashed the pass-rushing potential we saw during training camp and the preseason and held up fine against the run. Encouraging start for the second-round pick.

Davon Godchaux, DT
Stats: Three tackles; one QB hurry (36 defensive snaps; four special teams snaps)
Grade: C
He needs to be much better for this defense to succeed with its current secondary. Godchaux was brought in to be a force against the run, and he’s been average at best since the start of the preseason. The former Dolphin did have some success when rushing the quarterback.

It wasn’t a terrible debut, but it also wasn’t great.

Jalen Mills, CB
Stats: Two tackles; one missed tackle; one reception allowed on three targets (41 defensive snaps)
Grade: C
The Patriots played a ton of zone, likely to protect Mills, who is not good as a boundary corner. The former Philadelphia Eagle did make a few nice plays, but his soft coverage on DeVante Parker on Miami’s final drive all but eliminated New England’s hopes of getting the ball back.

Hopefully, Mills will be able play the role of swiss-army knife later in the season. For now, he’s not in a position to succeed.

Matt Judon, LB
Stats: Three tackles; one assist; two QB hurries; one QB hit (48 defensive snaps; seven special teams snaps)
Grade: B-plus
Judon carried his preseason success into the regular season. He wasn’t perfect, but the former Baltimore Raven was all over the field, showcasing the versatility that should allow him to thrive in this defense.

With Mekhi Becton set to miss Sunday’s game in New York, Judon could have a big day against an iffy Jets offensive line. Look out, Zach Wilson.

(Note: Rookie linebacker Ronnie Perkins and cornerback Shaun Wade did not play.)

Thumbnail photo via Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images
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