Patriots looking to find more consistency in rushing offense
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — The Patriots are just three games into the season, but their problems on offense are quickly starting to pile up.
New England has displayed numerous issues in the passing game during back-to-back losses . But its inability to produce a sustained rushing attack has been just as glaring.
Coach Bill Belichick said he’s seen moments in which his team has looked good running the ball.
He also acknowledges those instances have been few from a rushing attack that has yet to produce a touchdown through three games.
Now the Patriots will have to find a way to fix things without starter Rex Burkhead. He was placed on injured reserve Wednesday , three days after he left the loss to the Detroit Lions with a neck injury.
“It’s been inconsistent,” Belichick said. “We need more consistency in every area of our game. So, the answer’s the same for all of it — running game, passing game. We haven’t been consistent enough.”
Burkhead goes to IR as New England’s leading rusher this season, carrying 24 times for 86 yards. Running back Kenjon Barner was signed Wednesday to fill his spot on the roster.
But the coaching staff will be looking primarily to veteran James White and rookie Sony Michel to increase their output in Burkhead’s absence.
Michel has been the Patriots’ second-most productive running back so far, tallying 24 carries for 84 yards.
White has gotten his touches mostly through the passing game, hauling in a team-best 14 catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns. He has rushed 13 times for 66 yards.
He said Burkhead’s loss hurts, but is nothing they can’t recover from.
“Rex is a good football player. It’s tough to see him go down,” White said. “Guys like myself, Sony, Kenjon — we just gotta step up and kind of fill that void.”
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has been pleased with how Michel has performed after missing the entire preseason with a knee issue.
“He’s a young player that’s in his second game,” McDaniels said. “So, trying to bring him along, improve just like everybody else — nothing special or anything like that. We’re just trying to do the things that we feel like we can do to move the ball and make first downs and score points.”
That is expected to be tough again this week against a Miami Dolphins defense that is allowing opponents just 89 rushing yards per game. The Dolphins are also only giving up 17.3 points per game. New England is averaging 19.7 points, tied for 25th in the NFL. The Patriots averaged 29 points per game in 2017.
Still, Miami coach Adam Gase isn’t taking much comfort in New England’s early issues. He expected the Patriots would be a handful to prepare for even without the roster changes they’ve undergone over the past few weeks.
“It’s a challenge, period, just dealing with anything that (McDaniels) has his hands on because he’s going to be multiple,” Gase said.
“Once the game starts, you might have a little bit of an idea, but he’s always going to have that next step ready to go.”
White has confidence that he and his teammates will be able to turn things around.
“We have a lot to improve on, but we have all we need here,” he said. “We’re gonna continue to work, be on the same page, start fast and keep that energy for four quarters. That’s really what we need to do.”
Notes: The Patriots also placed linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley on injured reserve Wednesday and signed defensive end John Simon. Bentley has 13 tackles and one interception on the season. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy said the remaining linebackers will do what’s necessary to fill Bentley’s void. “When put in this situation — backs against the ball — we stick together and play Patriot football. We know what we’re capable of.” ... Defensive end Trey Flowers, who sat out the Detroit loss with a concussion said he’ hopeful he’ll be able to return this week. “I expect to work and be able to play,” Flowers said. “Whatever happens, happens.”
Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower