Sharing some first-half thoughts

September, 16, 2012
9/16/12
2:28
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Ugly first half for the Patriots.

It’s been a disjointed effort from Bill Belichick’s team, from the field to the sidelines.

The three big storylines from this perspective are:

1. Aaron Hernandez’s ankle injury. Hernandez stayed down on the ground, grabbing his right ankle, on the Patriots’ third offensive play. He was blocking as Julian Edelman caught a short pass and had his lower right leg landed on. Last week, the Patriots ran every offensive play with two or more tight ends, but without Hernandez, they switched to more three-receiver sets. Hernandez needed help coming off the field. It looked painful.

2. Julian Edelman over Wes Welker on the depth chart. When Wes Welker’s limited playing time in the season opener was noted (compared to his 2011 playing time), the thought was to not read too much into it (42 of 67 snaps vs. Titans after playing 89.2 percent of the snaps in 2011). We now have two more quarters to analyze and Edelman started over Welker, playing most of the two-wide receiver sets opposite Brandon Lloyd. Edelman has played 28 snaps, compared to Welker's 22. This continues to be a storyline to monitor. Welker had one first-half catch, a 25-yarder after the two-minute warning that put him atop the franchise record book for most receptions (558).

3. Third-down defense and Chandler Jones. The Patriots ranked 28th in the NFL in third-down defense last season and 32nd on third down two seasons ago. The third-down D has been a big story in this one, as the Cardinals are 2 of 8. Some of that has been the Patriots, while other times, it's been the ineffectiveness of Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb. Rookie Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones has been terrific, drawing a holding penalty and later forcing a fumble (recovered by safety Tavon Wilson).

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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