Patriots

Patriots’ win over Jets showed James White’s role in a Mac Jones-led offense, and other things we learned

J.C. Jackson (right) intercepted a pair of passes while shutting down Jets top receiver Corey Davis.


Welcome to the Unconventional Review, an instant reaction to standouts, stats, and storylines from the Patriots’ most recent game . . .

The Patriots have their first win, and a lot of room to get better.

Mac Jones was efficient and in command in his second NFL game, and the defense took advantage of overmatched Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson. But the Patriots, who got four field goals from ex-Jet Nick Folk, left too many potential points on the field, especially immediately following Jets turnovers.

Some further thoughts, upon immediate review . . .

THREE PLAYERS WHO WERE WORTH WATCHING

(Players suggested in Unconventional Preview: James White, Hunter Henry, Dont’a Hightower)

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James White: One of the early satisfactions of this season comes from realizing that White has an important place in this Jones-led offense after Cam Newton’s shortcomings hindered his usage a season ago. White had 11 touches (6 receptions, 5 rushes) for 65 yards against the Jets, with 10 of the touches coming in the first half when there was still a modicum of suspense in the game. That gives him 21 touches in the Patriots’ first two games, more than he had in any two-week stretch last season except for Weeks 3-4, when he handled the ball a total of 22 times against the Chiefs (with Brian Hoyer at quarterback) and Broncos. He scored the Patriots’ first touchdown Sunday on a shifty 7-yard run at the end of the first quarter. He also broke off a 28-yard run on a screen pass after a little pump-fake from Jones, one of those plays reminiscent of a Tom Brady/J.R. Redmond connection in 2001. I do wonder if Jones is relying a little too much on White in the passing game, but when a young quarterback is learning when to take risks and when not to, it sure is beneficial to have someone as reliable as White in his huddle.

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Nick Folk: If you don’t take a moment to salute an unheralded kicker on the day he sets a franchise record for the most consecutive made field goals, you probably never will. So here’s a nod to Folk, who salvaged a couple of sputtering early drives by drilling 46- and 49-yard field goals on his way to making all four of his attempts. Folk has now converted 33 straight field goal attempts, breaking the record of 31 set by Stephen Gostkowski. Folk did miss an extra point Sunday, but hasn’t missed a field goal attempt since a failed 51-yarder in Week 2 last season against the Seahawks. The 36-year-old has come a long way from the kicker who missed 10 of 28 attempts with the 2009 Cowboys.

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Damien Harris: If redemption for a mistake made in a previous game is possible, then this is what it looks like. Harris, whose fumble in the red zone late in the fourth quarter last week against the Dolphins cost the Patriots a shot at victory, carried a lighter workload against the Jets (16 carries for 62 yards, compared with 23 for 100 last week). But when he had the ball, he ran like he was determined to gain atonement, particularly on a 26-yard touchdown run in the third quarter in which he broke at least seven tackles. That run looked like it came from a LeGarrette Blount highlight reel.

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GRIEVANCE OF THE GAME

All right, here’s the deal regarding the performance of Patriots fill-in right tackle Yasir Durant. I’ll let you make the “Kevin Durant would have done a better job blocking” joke, but you have to allow me to call him Nosir Durant. Deal? Deal. Not to pile on too much on the backup tackle, who started in place of Trent Brown (calf injury), but he was all too responsible for the Jets’ defense piling on Jones at times in the first half. Durant allowed three sacks in the first 22 minutes of the game. Durant, acquired for a seventh-round pick from the Chiefs earlier this month, was pulled for Justin Herron on the final possession of the first half, but Herron went down with an injury before the drive was complete. If Brown is going to be out for a while (and calf injuries are no joke) it might be wise for the Patriots to move Michael Onwenu from guard back to tackle. They can’t put Jones at risk like this. No, sir, they cannot.

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KEY MATCHUP

Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson vs. Jets quarterback Zach Wilson’s inexperience

The matchup to watch in our preview was Jackson against Jets receiver Corey Davis, but we should have focused more on the player throwing the ball rather than the one trying to catch it. It turns out Wilson is a long way from being ready for prime time, and really isn’t even ready for 1 p.m. on Sundays yet. It’s not that he was seeing ghosts out there, a la Sam Darnold; he wasn’t seeing anything. He threw four interceptions, three in the first half, and two to Jackson, the Patriots’ ballhawk cornerback who picked off nine passes last season. The second pick came on a perfectly executed tip drill in which Devin McCourty tapped the ball Jackson’s way like a vintage Larry Bird touch pass. At halftime, Wilson had three completions to Jets receivers and three to Patriots defensive backs. Hey, at least he didn’t butt-fumble.

THREE NOTES SCRIBBLED IN THE MARGINS

(Predicted score: Patriots 34, Jets 16)

(Final score: Patriots 25, Jets 6)

The Jets did manage to run the ball fairly well, gaining 152 yards on 31 attempts after getting just 45 yards on the ground a week ago . . . Tight ends Henry and Jonnu Smith combined for six catches for 70 yards. Smith’s explosiveness was hampered by the hip injury that landed him on the injury report all week . . . Jones, who was called for an obvious intentional grounding in the first half, needs to work on how to best abandon a play. But when that’s the biggest gripe about a rookie quarterback, you know you’ve got it good.

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