Sony Michel Makes NFL Debut in New England Patriots Week Two Loss

Sony Michel

The New England Patriots took their first loss of the season Sunday to the Jacksonville Jaguars. First-round draft pick Sony Michel made his NFL debut for the Patriots in the 31-20 loss on the road, but the rookie’s late-game efforts could not overcome a slow start and poor play by the secondary to net the Patriots a win.

Sony Michel Makes NFL Debut, Secondary Shredded in Jacksonville

A Slow Start

The Jags have a pair of incredible corners in Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. The Patriots knew that the pass-catchers would need to show drastic improvement since last week’s squeaker over the Houston Texans. Unfortunately, the Patriots couldn’t get anything going in the first half, ending the second quarter with fewer receptions, fewer rushing yards, and fewer points than the Jaguars. Over the course of the entire first half, the Patriots didn’t have a single rush for more than five yards. Their inability to move the ball successfully and a missed field goal by Stephen Gostkowski forced the Patriots to play from behind the entire game, dooming an arrhythmic offense.

The Jaguars effectively shut down Rob Gronkowski all game, limiting his looks to only four targets. Gronkowski only recorded two of those targets for 15 yards. The Patriots also failed to capitalize on key opportunities throughout the game. A plodding 8+ minute drive in the second quarter ended with a field goal. A key interception by Kyle Van Noy with a chance to cut the Jags lead to four was negated just three plays later as Tom Brady was stripped of the ball.

A Second-tier Secondary

Blake Bortles proved himself capable of hurting opposing defenses through the air and on the ground during the Jaguars postseason run last season. The Patriots struggled in the defensive backfield last season but eventually came together and was able to hold off Bortles in the AFC Championship Game.

No such luck here.

The absence of Malcolm Butler was evident as Eric Rowe found himself matched up against Keelan Cole again and again. Bortles took advantage of the matchup, hitting Cole repeatedly for quick gains. Defensive coordinator Brian Flores dared Bortles to get the ball out quickly to sub-par receivers, but the secondary looked sluggish in the oppressive Floridian heat, allowing Bortles to toss for 377 yards.

The problem was exacerbated when Patrick Chung exited the game with an apparent concussion, allowing even more freedom for Bortles to move the ball. Jacksonville’s offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett was able to identify key weaknesses in the secondary, getting receivers open on the outside for huge gains up the sides.

A Star in Sony?

Sony Michel looked mediocre at best in this game. The explosive playmaker for the Georgia Bulldogs failed to hit his gaps and looked just about as sluggish as his teammates for the majority of the game. The lone highlight for the rookie was his powerful 15-yard burst up the middle in the third quarter.

The true star out of the backfield was James White, but even White’s production came primarily through the air. White posted a paltry 11 yards on the ground but a team-leading 73 yards through the air on seven receptions.

A lot of this can be attributed to the absence of Marcus Cannon. Without Cannon, the offensive line was left unbalanced, and Jacksonville took full advantage. The fearsome Jacksonville defensive line forced Brady to get the ball out quickly, and the historically great quarterback tossed more than a couple of errant balls over the heads of his receivers.

Quick Notes on Week Two

The Patriots will head to Detroit next week to face former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia with a 1-1 record.

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