Patriots Practice Report for September 9: No Mills, Agholor…What to Do?

The Patriots might be a bit thinner at two key positions of need on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.
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While the New England Patriots once again enjoyed full attendance from their 53-man roster for practice on Thursday, there might be some cause for concern with two positions at which the Pats are already a bit thin.

For the second straight day, wide receiver Nelson Agholor and cornerback Jalen Mills were listed on the Patriots injury report, each tending to ankle injuries. Unlike Wednesday (when both players were listed as ‘limited’ participants, neither participated on Thursday. As a result, their status for Sunday’s 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff at Gillette Stadium might be in jeopardy.

Here is Thursday’s full report, along with its implications for Sunday’s season opener:

DID NOT PARTICIPATE

New England Patriots

WR Nelson Agholor (ankle)

CB Jalen Mills (ankle)

Miami Dolphins

N/A

While Miami looks to be as close to full-strength as possible heading into this weekend, the Patriots injuries have the potential to stifle their effectiveness on both sides of the ball.

In the absence of Stephon Gilmore, the primary role at outside corner will be manned by J.C. Jackson, and rightfully so. The 25-year-old performed well during the preseason, and thus has proven himself worthy of the role [until Gilmore’s return, that is]. Earlier this week, Mills seemed to be the consensus choice to align with Jackson as the Pats' second options. Should his injury affect his status for Sunday, Joejuan Williams should see increased snaps. However, the former second-rounder out of Vanderbilt has yet to emerge as a match with the Patriots press coverage schemes. Despite Williams’ size and length, newly acquired Shaun Wade may end up being a better fit there. Wade struggled a bit at outside corner during his final year at Ohio State. However, some of his performance woes may be attributed to his playing with turf toe for much of the season. Still, the talented rookie is still learning the Patriots plays and coverage schemes, having joined the Pats in the eleventh-hour of the 2021 preseason. New England could also choose to move Jonathan Jones out of the slot. However, his prowess in that role likely makes him too valuable in his current spot.

Ideally, the Patriots would love to utilize Agholor’s skill set by deploying him on vertical routes on Sunday. This would allow them to take advantage of his speed and ability to get open over the top. Should Agholor be unable to suit up on Sunday, the Pats might be hard-pressed to find someone with the ability to consistently find separation from their opponents. Kendrick Bourne could be a candidate to start along with incumbent Jakobi Meyers. Throughout training camp, the fourth-year wideout has shown impressive versatility. Bourne has aligned in the slot, and on the outside. Though his technical prowess allows him to win from either alignment, the expectation is that Bourne would see significant snaps as the Pats' second option at wideout. Should Bourne align as such, the Pats might consider Gunner Olszewski or newcomer Malcolm Perry as their third option. Camp standout Kristian Wilkerson and rookie Tre Nixon remain call-up options from the practice squad.

LIMITED PARTICIPATION

New England Patriots

OT Yodny Cajuste (hamstring)

LB Ronnie Perkins (shoulder)

Miami Dolphins

WR Preston Williams (foot)

OT Liam Eichenberg (thigh)

Once again, offensive lineman Yodny Cajuste was listed as a limited participant with a hamstring injury. The Patriots' new addition to the report was rookie outside linebacker Ronnie Perkins. The former Oklahoma Sooner was not listed on Wednesday’s report, which might indicate that Perkins’ shoulder injury could have occurred during practice on September 8.

While both Cajuste and Perkins project to be notable contributors to the Patriots in 2021, the team’s depth at linebacker and along the offensive line makes their status a bit less precarious for Sunday’s game plan.

FULL PARTICIPATION

New England Patriots

N/A

Miami Dolphins

RB Salvon Ahmed (back)

WR DeVante Parker (shoulder)

WR Albert Wilson (quad)

LB Elandon Roberts (knee)

S Clayton Fejedelem (shoulder)

While the Patriots did not list any players on the injury report with ‘full participation’ status, each of the five Dolphins’ players listed on Wednesday’s report remained unchanged. Among the notables are wide receiver DeVante Parker, and linebacker Elandon Roberts, who spent four seasons as a member of the Patriots from 2016-2019.