The New England Patriots started off the 2022 regular season by getting absolutely crushed by the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. There are not many things to be positive about, and it’s a game that most Patriots fans are probably eager to forget.
Let’s get into the takeaways from the 20-7 defeat.
Mac Jones struggles: Sunday definitely wasn’t all on Mac Jones, but the Patriots’ sophomore quarterback certainly did not play well either. He came out looking great, but a questionable throw to DeVante Parker resulted in a pick that ended the promising drive to start the game. He never looked totally comfortable from that point on, and it also looked like he might have missed a few line calls, the strip-sack touchdown possibly among them.
He also left some big plays on the field. He had Jonnu Smith open 1-on-1 and just misfired, right before the strip sack. He also had Nelson Agholor wide open behind the defense for what should have been a long touchdown, but missed that one too. The Patriots didn’t have a ton of explosive plays, but Jones had a chance to make some and simply couldn’t get it done.
If the Patriots are going to be competitive this year, Jones is going to have to play significantly better than he did on Sunday.
O-line trouble: There has been some turnover on the offensive line this offseason, and it showed in Miami. Trent Brown really struggled, and there were multiple missed assignments, leading to both a sack and a strip-sack for a Dolphins touchdown. This unit has struggled all camp, but I was under the impression that it would be OK once the games started. That was not the case Sunday.
They need to get things fixed quick, but I don’t know what the correct answer is. Maybe the unit just needs more time together? Maybe Matt Patricia needs to give up some of his responsibilities to focus more on the position group? Whatever the fix is, it needs to happen fast, otherwise quarterback Mac Jones is going to be getting X-rays on a more frequent rate.
DeVante Parker fails to make an impact: The Patriots traded for DeVante Parker this offseason hoping that he would be a big-play receiver for the them this season. After dominating during the summer, he was unable to make a significant impact on Sunday.
Sure, the ex-Dolphin was held and probably interfered with on Jones’ first-quarter interception, but he needs to do more to fight for the ball there — something he said himself after the game. He also had a hard time creating consistent separation against All-Pro cornerback Xavien Howard.
The Patriots are going to need much better from Parker moving forward, especially considering that they have a...
Lack of playmakers: One of the biggest criticisms of the Patriots is that they don’t have any playmakers on either side of the ball. At some point, you have to have a guy who is just better than the one across from him, and can make a big play in a big moment. The Patriots don’t seem to have guys like that right now, and that makes it awfully difficult to win.
Having to put together perfect 10-play drives time and time again, is simply not easy (which is exactly why the Patriots play the kind of defense they do). They need as many of those guys as they can get. Maybe giving Kendrick Bourne more than two snaps could help with this, but what do I know.
Jakobi Meyers is still reliable: From a receiver who didn’t do much to one who picked up right where he left off last year. Meyers was the most reliable weapon for the Patriots last year, and he continued that on Sunday. The fourth-year man finished the game with four receptions for 55 yards, including an impressive snag on the sideline for a third-down conversion.
Meyers once again led the team in receptions and receiving yards. He can’t be the only guy to consistently contribute to the offense, though.
Jonnu Smith makes a contribution: One of the guys who the Patriots were going to rely on being better this season is Jonnu Smith. The tight end, who arrived on a high-prized free agency deal last year, may have only finished with three catches for 30 yards, but he made some nice plays in the passing game.
Getting Smith involved could really help this offense; he is a special guy with the ball in his hands. The combination of Smith and Hunter Henry could be a formidable one, and Sunday might have been a strong indication that we will see that this year.
Some questionable personnel decisions: This is nothing against Bryant or Jahlani Tavai, who is in the same boat as him, but the Patriots have young, explosive players and simply refused to give them regular snaps on Sunday. Marcus Jones, for example, should be on the field over Myles Bryant, especially against a team with as much speed as the Dolphins. He also should be back returning punts, because he’s perhaps the most electric returner that’s come out of the draft in years.
It’s only one week, so I’m not going to panic about it too much; Bill Belichick’s unwillingness to go with his young athletic players is nothing new. However, the focus all offseason was getting this team faster and more athletic on both sides of the football, and sitting players such as Jones is not the way to get it done.
Kyle Dugger is a monster: Maybe the biggest bright spot for the Patriots this weekend was the play of Kyle Dugger. He was all over the field, making plays in the backfield, and down the field. The Patriots thought that Dugger might make a leap this year, and it appears he is ready to do just that.
He may not have been perfect — see: the Dolphins’ second-quarter touchdown — but if he continues to play the way he did on Sunday, he is going to be one of the most impactful players on the team this year.
Injury concerns: The Patriots have a few injury concerns to keep ab eye out for. Adrian Phillips left the game with a rib injury and did not return. Phillips is a very important player for the New England defense and losing him for any extended period of time would be a big blow to the unit.
The biggest injury concern, though, is Mac Jones. As noted above, he had X-rays after the game and had his media availability canceled. This is usually a bad sign, but the results were reportedly negative, and he will be meeting with the media virtually on Monday.
The good news is that he doesn’t appear to have suffered a significant injury. The bad news is that he is still banged up after just one game. Hopefully, he won’t be dealing with too much pain because that could hamper him as the season goes on. Only time will tell what happened, but the hope is that Jones is just fine and will be fully healthy next week.
No need to lose hope just yet: It was ugly down in Miami, but there is no reason for fans to lose hope in the 2022 Patriots just yet. The vast majority of problems they had are fixable, and I do think there is enough talent on this team for it to become pretty good. They are better than what they showed on Sunday.
There were positives from a lot of parts of the team, they just weren’t able to put it all together for an entire 60 minutes or when it mattered most. If the Patriots can be a little more consistent on offense, and hit some of the big plays that they had a chance at, then they should be able to play with most teams in this league.