Every week, PFW associate editor and Patriots writer Kevin Fishbain will identify three up-and-comers and three players/units going in the opposite direction in the Patriots stock report.
1. CB Ras-I Dowling: The rookie got a surprising start and, according to ESPN Boston, played in 66-of-76 snaps on defense. Dowling, a second-round pick, was much more than just a nickel defender in his debut. He finished with two tackles and had great coverage on WR Brian Hartline on the Dolphins' failed 4th-and-1 near the goal line.
2. DT Myron Pryor: All the talk in the offseason centered on the new D-linemen — Albert Haynesworth, Andre Carter and Shaun Ellis. But it was Pryor who was very explosive off the line, allowing him to get into the backfield. Pryor finished with one-half sack and three QB hits in just 28 snaps.
3. ORT Nate Solder: The Pats' first-round pick wasn't expected to play much this season, but an injury to Sebastian Vollmer thrust him into the lineup in Week One, facing one of the league's elite pass rushers — Cameron Wake. Solder was very impressive in holding his own most of the night, allowing only one sack and getting hit with one holding penalty.
1. Offensive penalties: Penalties are expected in Week One, even with a veteran team, but Bill Belichick can't be pleased about six offensive penalties. Four of them were pre-snap penalties (three false starts and one illegal formation), and each tackle picked up a holding call.
2. DRT Mike Wright: Wright, the team leader in sacks last season, started but didn't play most of the game. A concussion knocked him out of the second half of last season, and he dealt with injuries in the preseason. This is nothing against his play, but Wright still doesn't seem to be in the shape he was in at the start of last season.
3. Passing defense: The Patriots gave up 416 yards passing to Chad Henne. Granted, a lot of that came with the Dolphins behind and in garbage time, but Miami was in the game longer than they probably should have been because of Henne's ability to move the ball through the air. The Pats get a much stiffer test with Philip Rivers in Week Two, when we will get a better sense of where the "D" is.