The Patriots were out-played on both sides of the ball in their loss in Miami, particularly up front along the lines. But there were other factors and elements of the game that stood out to us and each week we'll provide some of those random thoughts from every game.
Blitz pickup – Stevan Ridley is the team's lead back and best runner and he even caught a couple of passes against the Dolphins, albeit for just 7 yards. But if Ridley wants to be a bigger part of the passing game and stay on the field for more downs he's going to need to improve as a pass protector. He completely whiffed on Cameron Wake as the defensive end got to Tom Brady for a huge strip sack early in the second half. While expecting Ridley to handle Wake one-on-one is unrealistic, the back should have at least been able to slow him down slightly to give Brady some extra time. It didn't happen on that play and Ridley will need to improve that area of his game if he wants more playing time.
Kick returns –** The Patriots cut Josh Boyce (since re-signed to the practice squad) and rookie James White was inactive, leaving the kick return duties in the hands of Patrick Chung. Huh? Chung doesn't strike me as the type of dynamic athlete that teams should be looking to get the ball in his hands as often as possible. He wasn't terrible – 25-yard average on two attempts – but he didn't provide anything substantial either. Shane Vereen would make more sense, and if Bill Belichick wants to preserve him then White should be active.
Kelly missed – The Patriots decided to part ways with Tommy Kelly last month and his presence was missed in Miami. With Kelly out of the lineup it left Joe Vellano and Chandler Jones, as well as Sealver Siliga, as the ends alongside Vince Wilfork in the middle of the Patriots 3-4 front. Kelly is a stout run defender at the point of attack and the Dolphins ran wild in the opener. While I expect things to improve, Kelly was a low-cost, proven veteran who certainly would have been an improvement.
Mankins missed – The Mankins trade received much more attention than the Kelly release, and his presence was also sorely missed in Miami. The offensive line featured a couple of different looks and neither did an effective job opening holes in the running game or protecting Tom Brady. Mankins may have been slipping in recent years, but like Kelly, his presence certainly would have been an improvement over what was left behind.