3 Takeaways from Patriots' Week 1 Loss

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistSeptember 13, 2021

3 Takeaways from Patriots' Week 1 Loss

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    The New England Patriots kicked off the Mac Jones era in disappointing fashion Sunday. While the rookie out of Alabama held his own for the most part, the Patriots still lost to the rival Miami Dolphins 17-16.

    This was not the way that New England, which went on a massive spending spree in free agency, envisioned starting the season.

    However, there are positives to be taken from the Patriots' season-opening defeat. Here's what we learned about New England on Sunday.

Mac Jones Is Ready

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    The Patriots showed their faith in the rookie out of Alabama when they cut 2020 starter Cam Newton before the start of the season. While Jones was not perfect against the Dolphins, he did nothing to suggest that New England made a mistake in its quarterback decision.

    Jones finished 29-of-39 for 281 yards and a touchdown. More importantly, he never seemed overwhelmed by the level of competition.

    "When all is said and done this weekend, Mac Jones will have played better than any other rookie quarterback," Greg A. Bedard of the Boston Sports Journal wrote. "He outplayed Tua Tagovailoa, and Jones was probably the best QB in the division on Sunday."

    While releasing Newton has generated plenty of buzz, the Patriots made the move because they believe that Jones is ready to lead their franchise. Even in a loss, Jones showed Sunday that the Patriots were right.

Damien Harris Is a Lead Back

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    When the Patriots traded away Sony Michel before the start of the season, it indicated the team's faith in its current backfield. Damien Harris, a 2019 third-round pick, led that group Sunday.

    Harris finished with 100 yards and a 4.3 yards-per-carry average.

    The Patriots were a run-centric team in 2020. They ranked third in rushing attempts and fourth in rushing yards. While they will likely employ a different strategy with Jones under center, New England isn't going to suddenly abandon the run.

    Parting with Michel might have been problematic. However, Harris showed Sunday that he is capable of being New England's lead back—despite a late fumble that likely cost New England the game.

    "It's a long season. I'm not going to let this mistake define me," Harris said in the postgame press conference.

    That mistake shouldn't diminish the fact that Harris is ready to carry the load.

Nelson Agholor Was a Smart Signing

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    One of New England's marquess free-agent signings was wide receiver Nelson Agholor.

    Agholor showed Sunday that he can be the go-to target on the perimeter that New England has been missing. The former Philadelphia Eagles and Las Vegas Raiders speedster regularly forced Miami's defense to respect the deep ball.

    He finished with 72 yards and a touchdown on five receptions.

    The Patriots didn't have a reliable No. 1 receiver in 2020; Jakobi Meyers led the team with just 729 receiving yards. Meyers was solid Sunday, finishing with six receptions and 44 yards, but it was clear that Agholor is New England's top downfield threat.

    Agholor caught Jones' first career touchdown pass and returned the ball to the rookie.

    When the Patriots signed Agholor to a two-year, $22 million deal in free agency, it felt like a bit of an overpay. However, it's now looking like a smart signing and a great addition for Jones' development.