New England Patriots: 3 areas of improvement as Week 3 approaches

New England Patriots running back Damien Harris (37) Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots running back Damien Harris (37) Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /
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New England Patriots
John Franklin-Myers of the Jets strips New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones of the ball Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /

New England Patriots Area of Improvement No. 2: The Offensive Line

The Patriots considered their offensive line to be one of the best in the league heading into the season. And for half of a quarter against the Dolphins, it lived up to that billing. But then starting right tackle Trent Brown went down with an injury, and things have gone south since.

The Patriots have struggled to find a quality replacement in Brown’s absence. The most logical thing to do would be to flip starting left guard Michael Onwenu to right tackle, which is where he played all last season, and insert backup guard Ted Karras at Onwenu’s vacant position. Instead, head coach Bill Belichick has decided to flip-flop Justin Herron and Yasir Durant at the position, with neither player having much success.

Herron initially got the call once Brown went down against Miami, but struggled so much that he was replaced by Durant midway through the game. Durant got the nod in Week 2, but gave up two sacks in a matter of three players, and was quickly swapped out in favor of Herron. Then Herron got injured only a few minutes later, forcing Durant back into action.

The right tackle spot has been a mess, but the rest of the line hasn’t been much better. Jones is almost always under duress, and seems to feel forced to release the ball quicker than he actually has to most of the time. The ground game has had varying degrees of success, but when they struggle, it’s notable that there just simply is nowhere for them to go.

The good news for New England is that Brown has been practicing (he logged a limited participation today, which is a good sign), implying that he is trending towards a return to action. With the line hopefully back in tact, it will help open up the offense by giving Jones more time to throw, and allows the team to try more runs behind the right side of the line. If Brown ends up being active for Sunday’s game, New England’s chances of winning increase drastically.