New England Patriots: Ball security a big concern moving forward

Patriots tight end Jonnu Smith (81) couldn't hold on to the ball after being upended by the Dolphins
Patriots tight end Jonnu Smith (81) couldn't hold on to the ball after being upended by the Dolphins /

During training camp New England Patriots running back Damien Harris ran every carry to the end zone. He also carries a football around with him everywhere he goes.

Practice didn’t make perfect for Harris. He was stripped of the ball during what could had been a game-winning drive against the Miami Dolphins.

To Harris’ credit, he took his error to heart.

Not only did he not put the ball on the ground, but he ran through the Jets defense on this memorable 26-yard touchdown run:

Harris showed that he can learn from his mistakes. The team needs to do the same.

The New England Patriots turnover plus/minus is deceiving. Ball insecurity doesn’t look like a problem, but it could become one if it’s not addressed

After just two games the Patriots have six fumbles, two were turned over. If it wasn’t for the New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson and his four interceptions, New England would be (-1) in turnover plus/minus.

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Also of concern are the passes dropped. While that stat is subjective, most would agree if a pass hits the receiver’s hands, he should had caught the ball.

So far the Patriots have drops by Jakobi Meyers, James White, Kendrick Bourne and Jonnu Smith. While none of these drops were in the end zone, drops like these could cost the team first downs that lead to scores.

Averaging two drops per game doesn’t sound like much, but over the course of a season that would total 34 drops, which would be fourth worst in 2020. To put it in perspective, last year the Patriots had 19 drops, tied for 26th.

Belichick has zero tolerance for lack of ball security. Just ask Rhamondre Stevenson. After he was stripped of the ball in the first quarter against the Dolphins, he didn’t touch the ball for the rest of the game.

Having sure hands as a receiver is just as important. Over the years the New England Patriots were usually one of the better teams when it came to dropped passes. They don’t count as turnovers, but a drive-killing drop is just as harmful.

And we know how much turnover differential matters when it comes to winning: in 2020, 12 of the top 13 teams in turnover differential were playoff teams.

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The good news is this can be fixed. It’s a matter of focus for the players. The very competitive Jones, who already has two fumbles, will be determined to not get stripped for a third week in a row. And the receivers, on the other end of those Jones passes, will put in extra work during practice.

The fumbles and dropped passes are nothing to panic about right now, but New England should be very aware of them because in the long run, it would become a problem if the trend continues.