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The New England Patriots initial preseason game did little to assuage concerns about some key back-ups. That said, it was a fantastic showcase for the understudies to take to the stage and get a chance to perform with the spotlight shining brightly on them.
There is no bigger indicator to the offense’s success in New England than the offensive line play. Developmental tackle Jordan Devey got the start in Logan Mankins’ spot at left guard and moved to left tackle for the second half of the game as he was was given a full game of much needed work. Just seeing veteran defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly back on the field together again was a big boost for the defense.
With no Darrelle Revis and Alfonzo Dennard not yet ready to play, the starting duo was Brandon Browner and undrafted free agent Malcolm Butler. Butler was the star of week one with a couple of nice plays in the first quarter against Washington wide receiver Aldrick Robinson in coverage and a near interception on Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins’ first pass of the game. Wide receivers Brandon LaFell, Kenbrell Thompkins, and Josh Boyce all flashed some potential in the offense on the third drive of the game at the end of the first quarter into the second quarter. Much later in the game wide receiver Brian Tyms shook up the fanbase as he went off for 5 receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown (and nearly two).
New England Patriots Takeaways: Front Seven Shines In Loss by Cyrus GellerHow Did The New England Patriots React To The Loss? The New England Patriots players seemed ready to take the field and put as much of this offseason behind them.
Looking back at last season’s preseason game one loss to the Washington Redskins, the stars of that game were defensive tackle Tommy Kelly (released in preseason), offensive lineman Chris Barker (practice squad), wide receiver Brian Tyms (limited role in 2014), and cornerback Malcolm Butler. With that in mind, here are some notes on the first half before the backups took over completely in the second half. However, veteran free agent cornerback Robert McClain looking good at times in the nickel cornerback role replacing Kyle Arrington.
At linebacker Jonathan Freeny does not look like he is ready to step in for Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins and cover tight ends. Jabaal Sheard (#93 at defensive end) and Trey Flowers (#74 at defensive end) both had some push in the pass rush in the first half. Later in the first quarter, Bradley Fletcher appeared to have some good coverage along with Logan Ryan on first and goal. On offense, it was wide receiver Josh Boyce who with a chance to shine with Brady at quarterback dropped a catchable ball on third and eight on the first offensive series. Jimmy Garoppolo looked sharp standing in the pocket to convert a third and seven early in the second quarter to Josh Boyce in the face of a blitz.
Running back James White had trouble running the ball with some bad run blocking in front of him; however, he added a nice interior run on a dump-off pass showing good patience to set-up his blockers and spring free for a first down. Fourth round draft picks Shaquille Mason and Tre’ Jackson were solid against the pass rush, but struggled in the running game.
Veteran tackles Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer returned to action for the first time in 2015. Recent pick-up Ryan Groy struggled in pass protection, letting pass rushers get to Garoppolo on multiple occasions in the second half. The Patriots will go into the season with Solder and Vollmer on the edges, with Stork at center.
The running back battle between potential third-down running backs Travaris Cadet, Dion Lewis, and James White is still up in the air due to Cadet and Lewis missing much of camp and preseason game one.
Giants quarterback David Carr (8) attempts a pass before being hit by Patriots defensive end Trevor Scott (99) during New York Giants vs New England Patriots preseason football game at MetLife Stadium. Preseason game two is in the books and as always another review of the game tape is necessary to fill in some of the quick-hits on the notes filling up the notebook for the Patriots – Eagles matchup.
Jordan Devey at right guard getting more first team repetitions with Dan Connolly at center. Left guard Logan Mankins and left tackle Nate Solder looking to hit some Eagles: both were well downfield making room for Ridley. Same alignment for second play of drive with wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins switching to wide left and Julian Edelman moving to wide right.
Offense looking smooth on the first drive as they extend it with the always critical third down drive.
Ridley for ten yards then six yards to midfield and staying on the field on first and second down. No safety help on that side with Philadelphia safety Malcolm Jenkins late to the play and Thompkins was wide left next to him.
Brady saw that same ten-yard cushion from Philadelphia cornerbacks (Cary Williams again) and Thompkins wide left is the beneficiary. Maneri at TE did not see the same alignment as Brady as he never turned for the ball until well afterwards. Not sure if Maneri (he’s only been around a week) was reading the same thing as Brady there.


With two preseason games in the books for the New England Patriots and a 26-24 win in their match-up Saturday night in New Orleans, question marks still abound for the defending Super Bowl champions. Heading into training camp, there were few depth questions as the Patriots seemed deep on both sides of the ball. Game two of the preseason did little to resolve the position battles raging on both sides of the ball. It was hardly the efficient showing the New England Patriots expect of themselves in any game, but like any preseason tilt there was plenty of good and bad across the roster.  Which players did a lot to improve their stock with the coaching staff and which ones weren’t able to help their cause? New York Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich (58) knocks down a pass to Patriots Danny Aiken (48) during New York Giants vs New England Patriots preseason football game at MetLife Stadium. Some took advantage of the opportunity and opened some eyes; others missed a golden chance to grab a role and run with it. Give Brady time in the pocket and the backs running lanes and the offense is unstoppable no matter what injuries do to thin the ranks of the rest of the skill-position players. The run blocking left a lot to be desired against the first team Washington defense but improved as the game went along. The two did strong work in the first five or six games of the season last year and the defense really struggled without them anchoring the middle of the defensive line. Butler does not even have his own number as he shares number 29 with running back Roy Finch. Thompkins made a nice grab on the right sideline in heavy coverage on third-and-five which was negated by Boyce lining up offside. After what was easily the most tumultuous offseason since Bill Parcells exited after the 1996 season, the Patriots weathered the ongoing “deflategate” scandal which continues to refuse to go away. With a ton of injuries on both sides of the ball, it was a typical preseason game one featuring a mishmash of starters, rookies, and backups. There was also a lot of talk in training camp about undrafted free agent tight ends Asa Watson and Justin Jones–neither who were long for the team. McClain made some plays for the secondary being strong in coverage and also against the run.However, he was burnt late in first quarter by Randall Cobb and gave up a third down conversion just before halftime. Rob Ninkovich and Jones brought pressure, as did new defensive ends Trey Flowers and Jabaal Sheard. At running back, Jonas Gray moved the ball forward with poor blocking in front of him on the second drive.
That was followed by Jonas Gray right for 55 yards and a touchdown and then Jonas Gray left for the two-point conversion. Blocking was definitely an issue as the young group struggled at times in the first half to open space and keep the pass rush at bay.
Undrafted rookie free agent center David Andrews was beat repeatedly in the running game although he was solid as well in pass protection.
Vollmer exited with quarterback Tom Brady in the first quarter, but Solder had significant playing time and was solid in pass protection. Martin was a long-shot for a roster spot coming into camp but suddenly seems like a lock on the offensive line. Expected starting left guard Josh Kline continued to build versatility playing at center and was strong at the point of attack.
White rushed nine times for 23 yards as well as a stirring 20 yard reception on a screen pass again showing the nifty footwork. Blount seemed rusty on occasions, but other times he was a victim of weak blocking in front of him. Dion Lewis put together a strong performance Saturday night and has inserted himself into the battle for the third down receiving running back. Develin made room around the corner for a potential big run but Ridley never got there with Devey losing ground and allowing the defender into the backfield. Beyond the ridiculous four-game suspension for quarterback Tom Brady for the “deflategate” scandal that leaves the team guessing who will be behind center on Thursday night on September 10 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, there are still significant question marks on both sides of the ball. Starters Tom Brady, Darrelle Revis, Devin McCourty, Jerod Mayo, Chandler Jones, Jamie Collins, Rob Gronkowski, Rob Ninkovich, Dont’a Hightower, Danny Amendola, Logan Mankins, and Julian Edelman were all on the sidelines for the first preseason game making it very difficult to draw conclusions about the team from just warm-up performance.
Time to take a second look at the tape to see who was a shining star and who was a disappointment during the first preseason game on last Thursday night before moving on to the next preseason game this week . Left tackle Nate Solder had a rough game one of the preseason against Washington getting beat by Brian Orakpo and allowing a sack and having a costly holding penalty negating a first down conversion. The pass blocking improved once Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo were on the sidelines, but there is still more work for the line to do in getting ready for the regular season. Browner showed up in the playbook with an illegal contact penalty with about 4 minutes to play in the first quarter. On the last play of the first quarter Boyce worked the middle of the field and sat down just past the first down marker and made a nice move to make a defender miss and pick up three more yards. Tyms may last at roster cutdowns due to his suspension allowing New England pushing the decision back a month. With Tom Brady still awaiting a decision in court, the Patriots may not know whether he can play until right before opening day.


Quarterback Tom Brady was a surprise starter on offense, but with a depleted offensive line in front of him Brady did not play much throwing just four passes. In the passing game, Davante Adams and Jordy Nelson were at times being covered by rookie seventh round draft pick Darryl Roberts–this was definitely a mismatch. The Patriots had some very good pressure on fourth down on the first series to stall the drive at the two yard line.
On fourth and inches it was a good interior push by the Patriots defensive line to stop the Packers again with Sheard in the middle of it as well.
Quarterback Tom Brady had some misfires, but his third and four incompletion to Michael Hoomanawanui was a second catchable pass dropped by a receiver slated to be a backup in the regular season. On special teams, kicker Stephen Gostkowski closed out the first half with a 56-yard field goal to put New England ahead 11-9.
Expected starting guard Ryan Wendell remained out on the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list and center Bryan Stork was out with an undisclosed injury. Second year second-string tackle Cameron Fleming showed up with two penalties but beyond the two very public mental mistakes played well at right tackle. The 2014 undrafted free agent out of Central Florida was on multiple team’s practice squads last year and was cut by Miami this summer.
A solid run-blocker, he showed punch in pass protection as well and most-importantly handled the line calls and snapping without incident. Wendell’s status is unknown going into the season and one of the rookies on the offensive line at guard. Lewis returned with a strong performance against New Orleans with a rushing touchdown and five catches for 36 yards. Gray had the same issues with three rookies starting in the interior of the offensive line. There was one major miscue by New England in the first quarter and a Jimmy Garoppolo first quarter sighting.
Getting hit with the ten-yard penalty for illegal hands to the face did not help the rookie’s situation. With backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo having a strong performance Saturday night, there are bigger questions at running back, tight end, wide receiver and the offensive line to monitor. Starting off with the offense, here is a look into the performance and status of the running backs, the tight ends, offensive line, and wide receivers with the defense to follow soon.
Browner made up for it with a strong play in the running game on the next play (even though Michael Buchanan was flagged for a late hit after the play).
Finally, LaFell made a nice first down grab lined up on the right side in a five wide look with Mallett in the shotgun. Of course, he needs to show this kind of ability against better players to stick in New England with the already crowded wide receiving group.
However, the Packers were throwing the ball in the first half with 35 pass attempts and just 16 rushes (and one of those a quarterback scramble). Brandon Gibson looked great in the Julian Edelman role hauling in a ten yard slant from the slot. Veteran tackle Marcus Cannon has missed much of training camp and could be passed by Fleming on the depth chart. White picked up a first down and a touchdown on the ground, the touchdown most impressive as he seemed stopped and showed some power and drive. Fullback James Develin was a wrecking ball against Green Bay but missed some blocking opportunities against the Saints Saturday night.
For Cadet, he has to get on the field in the next two weeks to make an impression on the coaching staff. With so much going on, here is a breakdown of what was going on in the first quarter with the starters on the field for the Patriots in their win over the Eagles.
On defense, the Patriots still have questions on the defensive line, linebacker and even in the secondary to figure out in the next few weeks.
LaFell was lined up closest to the line in old “Aaron Hernandez” spot and converted a first down.
Sixty combined snaps by undrafted free agent rookies Asa Watson and Justin Jones without any significant positive contribution other than some decent help in pass blocking on the handful of plays when they stayed in to block.
With Tre’ Jackson more advanced as a pass blocker, he has the inside track to start on opening day at right guard next to his Florida State teammate Stork.
Going through the tape again there was little to see by Watson or Jones to inspire confidence.
Head coach Bill Belichick obviously felt the same and pulled the plug on the duo over the weekend.



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