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Analysis: Patriots Downgrade CB Jonathan Jones, WR Nelson Agholor to Out For Sunday's Game vs. Browns

The Patriots will be down a starting cornerback on Sunday.

Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones (31).
Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones (31).

The Patriots are on their way to Cleveland for Sunday's matchup against the Browns, and their starting quarterback made the trip.

Although he remains questionable, Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (ankle) is heading to Cleveland with the rest of the team and could return to action on Sunday.

The second-year quarterback has missed the last two games due to a high-ankle sprain that Jones suffered on the final offensive play in a Week 3 loss to the Ravens. In his stead, rookie Bailey Zappe filled in with a win in his first career start last week against the Lions.

The last time we saw Jones, the Pats QB nearly outdueled Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in a high-scoring contest. Despite throwing for 321 passing yards and completing six throws over 20 yards, the story was Jones's three interceptions, including a turnover in the end zone with the Patriots driving to take the lead in the fourth quarter. 

New England used a more conservative approach with fewer turnovers while Zappe was under center, which limited the explosiveness of the offense, but also protected the football. We could see a balance between those two game plans if Jones returns on Sunday.

Along with Jones, the Patriots didn't rule out running back Damien Harris (hamstring), who is reportedly dealing with an injury that could cause him to miss games. As of now, the Pats running back has not been ruled out and could help Rhamondre Stevenson attack Cleveland's run defense that ranks 32nd in Football Outsiders' DVOA metric this season. 

Although it's good news for the Patriots starting quarterback and one-half of their top running back duo, the team did rule out cornerback Jonathan Jones (ankle) and wide receiver Nelson Agholor (hamstring) on Saturday. They are not traveling to Cleveland. 

With Jones continuing as a key component to New England's secondary, the cornerback spot opposite Jalen Mills against a run-first, heavy personnel Browns offense will be worth monitoring. Despite being a turnover machine, rookie corner Jack Jones has struggled with tackling, which is a huge aspect of this game for New England's defense. Instead, we could see primarily three-safety nickel with two corners on the field, likely Mills and Myles Brant, who are sure tacklers.

As for Agholor, he didn't see the field after aggravating a hamstring injury and dropping a pass that led to an interception in a 29-0 victory over the Lions last week. With rookie speedster Tyquan Thornton now active, the second-round pick could see more playing time to bring a downfield element, while Kendrick Bourne should also play more without Agholor. 

After moving him to the practice squad this week, wide receiver Lil'Jordan Humphrey is one candidate to be a practice squad elevation to add depth at the position.

The Patriots and Browns will kick off at 1 pm ET at FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday in Cleveland.

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