MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Cole Strange initially appeared to have been benched in the first half of his NFL debut. He said after the game that was not the case.
The Patriots’ rookie left guard said James Ferentz replacing him for two series during the second quarter of New England’s 20-7 loss to the Miami Dolphins was part of a planned rotation.
“Yeah, it was just to keep us fresh,” Strange said in the visitors’ locker room at Hard Rock Stadium.
Strange, the Patriots’ first-round draft pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, was involved in an apparent miscommunication during the Patriots’ second possession that resulted in a sack. Edge rusher Emmanuel Ogbah came in unblocked between Strange and left tackle Trent Brown and dropped quarterback Mac Jones for a 7-yard loss.
The Patriots punted three plays later, and the next time the offense took the field, Ferentz was in the game at left guard. During Ferentz’s two drives, Strange watched from the sideline with his helmet off. He returned for an end-of-half kneeldown, then played the entire second half.
With temperatures in Miami topping 90 degrees and feels-like temps surpassing 100, head coach Bill Belichick said the Patriots went into the game intending to utilize their depth.
“We planned to play as many as many people as we could,” Belichick said in his postgame news conference.
In addition to the temporary Ferentz-for-Strange swap, Yodny Cajuste replaced right tackle Isaiah Wynn during the second half. Wynn had been listed as questionable for Sunday after a back injury limited him in practice. He also sported what appeared to be a large ice pack or wrap on his right knee after the game.
The Patriots rotated on defense, as well, mixing in rookie cornerback Jack Jones, linebackers Mack Wilson and Jahlani Tavai and safety Jabrill Peppers. The team spent the week practicing in West Palm Beach, Fla., to prepare for the South Florida heat and humidity.
Strange said he didn’t feel like the weather was a factor.
“We’re in pretty good shape,” the rookie said. “We run a lot. And we practiced down here this week, so we got accustomed to it.”
Asked whether he was glad the Patriots traveled early, Belichick replied: “Yeah, there was no problem. We had a good week.”