FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots have one running back who rushed for 1,000 yards last season and another who’s a former All-Pro. So why do they rank near the bottom of the NFL in most rushing metrics through two weeks?

According to one of those backs, the reason is simple.

“We’ve just got to win the line of scrimmage,” Ezekiel Elliott said before Wednesday’s Patriots practice. “We’ve got to come off good on our double teams and just — no other way to put it — just win the line of scrimmage.”

Translation: The offensive line needs to play better.

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A mix of injuries and poor performance have forced New England to cycle through different O-line combinations on a near-weekly basis since the start of training camp. Players haven’t been able to log enough practice reps together, and that lack of continuity showed on the field in Weeks 1 and 2.

Of the five O-linemen who started in Sunday night’s 24-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins, three did not practice with the team at all in training camp: right guard Mike Onwenu, right tackle Calvin Anderson and late-summer trade acquisition Vederian Lowe, who was starting at left guard in place of the injured Trent Brown. Another (left guard Cole Strange) missed nearly the entire summer with an injury. Center David Andrews was the lone exception.

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That group struggled to clear holes in the run game and protect quarterback Mac Jones. Stevenson and Elliott combined to average just 3.2 yards per carry, and Jones, who added 25 rushing yards on sneaks and scrambles, was sacked four times.

A week earlier, the Patriots had three different starters up front, with Brown manning the left tackle spot and rookies Atonio Mafi and Sidy Sow starting in place of Strange and Onwenu, respectively. That patchwork group did a respectable job against the Philadelphia Eagles’ vaunted pass rush but struggled in the run game, with Stevenson and Elliott totaling 54 yards on 19 carries (2.8 per attempt).

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Two weeks in, the Patriots rank 22nd in the NFL in yards per carry (3.5), 27th in rushing yards per game (88.0) and 17th in expected points added per rush. They gained 10-plus yards on just three of their 47 carries against the Eagles and Dolphins, and an 18-yard Jones scramble was their only one longer than 15.

No one would describe Jones as a mobile QB, yet he’s provided nearly a quarter of New England’s rushing yards (40 of 164) so far this season.

It’s also worth noting that, among the 45 NFL running backs with at least 12 carries, Elliott and Stevenson rank 41st and 43rd, respectively, in yards after contact per attempt, per Pro Football Focus. Stevenson was one of the best in the league in that metric last season.

So, while most of the blame lies with the O-line, there’s room for improvement elsewhere, too.

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“We have to improve the running game. There’s no doubt about that,” offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien said Tuesday in a video conference. “I think that starts with us as a coaching staff. We have to do a better job with what we believe we’re going to see and then what we actually see on game day. I think the players will continue to work very hard.

“Some guys have been out for a while and are just getting back in, and I think you’ll see improvement in run blocking and pass blocking. Not just with the line, but with the tight ends, and obviously with the backs and where they’re cutting the ball and things like that. But we have to get the running game better, and we’re going to work very hard on that this week.”

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As O’Brien noted, there is reason for optimism.

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Brown, one of the Patriots’ most important players, was back on the practice field Wednesday in a limited capacity after missing last week with a concussion. Strange and Onwenu should improve moving forward after knocking off a summer’s worth of rust against Miami. Anderson has been a liability at right tackle after missing all summer with an illness, but O’Brien can scheme around one weak spot.

The Patriots also will be able to utilize the run game more if they avoid the early mistakes that burned them in Weeks 1 and 2. They allowed 20 first-half points off turnovers over the first two weeks and trailed 16-0 and 17-3 in those games, limiting O’Brien’s play-calling options.

But they’ll need to solve a talented Jets defense this Sunday. New York enters the Week 3 rivalry game at MetLife Stadium ranked ninth in yards allowed per carry and sixth in EPA/rush.

“I feel like for the most part, we’re pretty comfortable with each other,” Stevenson said. “We just need to execute.”

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Featured image via Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports Images