FOXBORO, Mass. — Some assorted notes and nuggets from the New England Patriots’ 17-16 Week 1 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at Gillette Stadium:
— Wide receiver Nelson Agholor silenced some critics in his Patriots debut, proving his value to New England’s offense.
Agholor caught five of his seven targets, finished with a team-high 72 receiving yards and was on the receiving end of rookie quarterback Mac Jones’ lone touchdown pass.
It was an encouraging performance from the veteran wideout, who signed an eyebrow-raising two-year, $22 million contract in free agency and then battled injuries and inconsistency during his first Patriots preseason. Agholor’s playing status wasn’t confirmed until shortly before kickoff, as he entered Sunday listed as questionable with an ankle issue.
Agholor, whose ability to threaten defenses deep adds a much-needed vertical element to the Patriots’ passing game, also reeled in receptions of 21 and 25 yards, accounting for two of Jones’ four 20-plus-yard completions. (The others were a catch-and-run by Jakobi Meyers and an over-the-shoulder wheel to James White.)
Maligned for his shaky hands during his time with the Philadelphia Eagles, Agholor held on through contact on both of his long completions.
Asked about his performance after the game, Agholor noted the final score.
“I am not really that happy that we lost, so that is where my mind is at,” he said. “I should do more to help us win at the end of the day, and that is the focus for each week.”
But despite the loss, and the fact the Patriots managed just 16 total points, Agholor struck a positive tone in his postgame news conference.
“From my past experience, we’d rather learn from wins, but there are a lot of beautiful things to learn from a loss,” Agholor said. “You see the little things you could’ve done to put yourself in position. I think Coach (Bill) Belichick is going to do an amazing job detailing this tape and helping all of us. …
“A game like this isn’t something that will send us in the wrong direction. It’s going to send us in a positive direction.”
With Jones delivering a thoroughly impressive performance in his NFL debut, better days should be ahead for New England’s offense.
— Four of Meyers’ six catches moved the chains on third downs, but he also had a drop on a third-and-4 inside Miami’s red zone. It represented one of several missed opportunities for the Patriots, who went 1-for-4 in red-zone trips and failed to find the end zone on any of their three 14-play drives.
New England had just three drives all last season that spanned 14 plays or more.
— High-priced tight ends Jonnu Smith (five targets, five catches, 42 yards) and Hunter Henry (three targets, three catches, 31 yards) posted modest stat lines in their New England debuts. Smith also had a fumble (which was recovered by teammate David Andrews) and a lapse in pass protection that led to an early fumble by Jones (recovered by Smith).
Neither Smith nor Henry played a single snap with Jones in the preseason — and the latter didn’t play at all in the exhibition slate — so the Patriots should expect more from this duo in the coming weeks. We did see the long-awaited unveiling of their two-tight end offense, as New England played upward of 35 snaps in 12 personnel.
— Third receiver Kendrick Bourne finished with just one catch on three targets for 17 yards but had 11- and 33-yard gains called back for penalties.
— The Patriots played most of the game without starting right tackle Trent Brown, who left after one series with a calf injury. Brown remained on the sideline with his helmet off for the remainder of the first half and didn’t emerge from the locker room after halftime.
Justin Herron, who played well as a sixth-round rookie last season, replaced Brown. But he struggled against a Dolphins pass rush that hit Jones nine times and eventually was replaced by Yasir Durant, whom the Patriots acquired in a trade Aug. 31.
It’s unclear how the Patriots would approach this position if Brown misses significant time. Starting left guard Mike Onwenu was very good as a right tackle last season but has seen little if any work there in recent months. New England does have a high-quality interior backup in center/guard Ted Karras, making an Onwenu shift plausible.
— Josh Uche didn’t make an enormous impact defensively, but you won’t see a more one-sided pass rush than his against rookie left tackle Liam Eichenberg on this second-quarter sack:
(Yes, Eichenberg tripped on the play, but still.)