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Analysis: Patriots List Six Players as Questionable, Keeping Door Open for Key Contributors to Play vs. Dolphins

Despite missing practices this week, OT Trent Brown (concussion) and CB Jonathan Jones (ankle) have a chance to play on Sunday. 

Patriots defensive back Jonathan Jones (31).
Patriots defensive back Jonathan Jones (31).

The Patriots are leaving the door open for their entire active roster to play in Sunday night's divisional matchup against the Dolphins at Gillette Stadium.

Despite missing all three practices this week, starting left tackle Trent Brown and rookie G/T Sidy Sow are officially questionable as they remain in concussion protocol, while corner Jonathan Jones (ankle) is also listed as questionable. Jones first appeared on the injury report with an ankle injury on Thursday as a limited participant, indicating he might've suffered the injury during practice. The Pats cornerback didn't practice on Friday but still has a chance to play on Sunday.

Table inside Article
Player - All Questionable vs. Dolphins Injury
OT Trent Brown Concussion
OL Sidy Sow Concussion
CB Jonathan Jones Ankle
G Cole Strange Knee
OL Mike Onwenu Ankle
WR DeVante Parker Knee

After being inactive last week, WR DeVante Parker (knee, limited), G Cole Strange (knee, limited), and OL Mike Onwenu (ankle, limited) are also questionable – everyone on the Patriots final injury report this week has a questionable designation.

Starting with the secondary, Jones's mid-week placement on the injury report would be a worrisome development any week, but it's especially problematic if he can't go on Sunday. Over the years, Jones has fared well against Dolphins All-Pro receiver Tyreek Hill, holding Hill to an average of 24.5 yards and zero touchdowns as the primary defender in coverage in six games since 2018.

From this vantage point, the schemes on defensive play-caller Steve Belichick's call sheet might not initially change that much. Since using a dedicated double-team on Hill over 40 percent of the time in the 2018 AFC Championship Game, the Patriots haven't dusted off that plan much in the four games since winning the AFC title in Kansas City.

As we broke down in this week's Patriots Gameplan, Jonathan Jones typically holds up with just post-safety help to cover the NFL's fastest receiver in New England's man schemes. Furthermore, the Pats were in zone coverage on nearly 80 percent of Miami's drop-backs in their two contests in 2022.

Although it's good news that Jones at least has a chance to play, defending the game-breaking receiver without the Tyreek Hill stopper would be a tall task for New England. The best guess is that speedy cornerback/return man Marcus Jones might be tasked with running around the field with Hill to keep the speed-on-speed matchup. At the same time, rookie corner Christian Gonzalez takes Hill's partner Jaylen Waddle in man coverage situations. In zone, the Pats corners will probably take sides of the field rather than shadowing a particular receiver.

With the initial plan staying the course, the challenge for the Patriots comes in testing New England's depth at cornerback, while if Hill starts to go off without Jones, they might need to dedicate more attention to no. 10 without Jonathan Jones's experience against him.

Second-year corner Jack Jones (hamstring) is already on injured reserve. Without Jonathan Jones, that would leave the following players available for the Patriots at cornerback: Christian Gonzalez, Marcus Jones, Shaun Wade, and rookie Ameer Speed, while defensive backs Myles Bryant (slot) and Jalen Mills (boundary) can wear multiple hats as cornerback options.

Ultimately, the Patriots secondary going against an offensive that generated 17 explosive passing plays a week ago will be tested if the veteran Jones cannot play on Sunday.

Moving on to the offensive line, it seems like a long shot that Brown and Sow will be available based on the team's history with how they handle concussions. Last season, not a single Patriot that was placed in concussion protocol following a game played the next week.

The other shoe to drop is the availability of second-year guard Cole Strange and arguably the team's best offensive lineman, Michael Onwenu. The two projected starting guards were made inactive after being questionable heading into Week 1. Still, it seems like they're getting closer, as they weren't ruled out early this week, either.

If we assume the worst-case scenario that none of the injured linemen play against the Dolphins, our projected offensive line would be: LT Vederian Lowe, LG Atonio Mafi, C David Andrews, RG James Ferentz/Jake Andrews, and RT Calvin Anderson. If a positive development happens with Onwenu and Strange, we are likely looking at: LT Vederian Lowe, LG Cole Strange, C David Andrews, RG Mike Onwenu, and RT Calvin Anderson. If one of the projected starting guards plays, expect Mafi to fill whatever void is necessary on the interior.

The thought process of Lowe playing on the left side rather than flipping Anderson to left tackle is that Anderson's long-term home will be at right tackle. Hopefully, Brown's absence won't be lengthy as he recovers from a concussion, so this allows Anderson to continue getting game reps on the right side, with Brown expected back in the fold soon. With that said, Anderson worked at left tackle in the spring and is learning both spots, so he may flip to the other side to fill Brown's spot.

Wide receiver DeVante Parker was inactive last week, and his absence greatly impacted the game. Without Parker, rookie Kayshon Boutte was the primary "X" receiver. Boutte came up short in two key moments where he couldn't keep his feet in bounds on catchable passes along the sideline – getting Parker back would be huge for the offense.

Lastly, the Dolphins listed four players as questionable for Sunday night's game: T Terron Armstead, LB Jaelan Phillips, DB Elijah Campbell, and TE Julian Hill.

The last step for the Patriots comes in the form of Saturday's roster moves, where the team can use two practice squad elevations for Sunday's game. Given those on the injury report, offensive linemen James Ferentz, Kody Russey, and Andrew Stueber are elevation candidates, while linebacker/special teamer Calvin Munson is another likely option.

The Patriots will host the division-rival Miami Dolphins on Sunday Night Football at Gillette Stadium with kickoff at 8:20 p.m. ET.

DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer

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