Ninkovich reveals why he's ‘concerned' about Patriots entering Week 1


The New England Patriots, for most of training camp and the preseason, did not look like a quality NFL team.

Installing a new offense has been a struggle, to say the least. The Patriots haven't officially said who will be calling the offensive plays, but based on what happened in the preseason games, Matt Patricia appears to be the guy to start the regular season. 

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Starting quarterback Mac Jones played seven possessions over the final two preseason games and the unit scored only one touchdown. The four drives he played in the preseason finale against the Las Vegas Raiders were pretty rough. And all of those drives were against mostly backups on the Raiders and Carolina Panthers defenses.

Patriots Talk: Cutdown day and how the Patriots’ offense could improve | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

These lackluster results from the last few weeks have ESPN NFL analyst Rob Ninkovich concerned about his former team with the season opener approaching.

"I’m concerned. When you look at the Patriots previously, they always had some type of identity going into training camp or in training camp, and they were building on that," Ninkovich said Tuesday on ESPN show "Get Up!"

"So now you have a new coordinator, you have question marks on who’s calling the plays. It’s not out there yet, but we know. You have an offensive line that’s trying to adapt to a new system. Again, with those things in place, when you watch this last preseason game, you kind of want things to be rolling in a good way, as opposed to playing poorly in your last preseason game.

"In the past, September, yes there’s always some changes that are going to happen in the first couple weeks of the season. You’re trying to adapt your team, your roster, manipulate your roster to help yourself. But with not having an identity, I think that’s going to be their biggest obstacle, trying to figure out what are we offensively right now? What are we trying to do?

"So they need to figure that out fast, because in September, if they only win one game, you’re in trouble. You’re in a tough spot."

Ninkovich also called the Patriots' first two games "vital". The Patriots travel to Miami to play the Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium in Week 1, before going to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers on the road in Week 2.

"Playing down in Miami is always really hard," Ninkovich said. "And there's always a lot of tough battles down in Miami, Week 1 it's hot. That game in particular -- everyone is flying high on the Dolphins right now. If you go down there and you don't look good and they beat you up, that's not good.

"And then Week 2 you have the Steelers with question marks at the quarterback position. Who's the starting QB right now? So if you go down 0-2 to start the season and you're still trying to figure out what you are, that's tough. And then after that, you're about to hit a steamroller (with the Ravens in Week 3 and the Packers in Week 4)."

If the Patriots can survive the first four weeks at 2-2, they'll have an opportunity to go on a run in the middle portion of their schedule with winnable games against the Lions, Browns, Bears and Jets through Week 8. New England started out 2-4 last season and rebounded to finish 10-7 with a wild card playoff berth. 

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