Patriots Pre-Season Week #1: Hill's Game Time Notebook

I just finished watching the game and I've decided to document my thoughts throughout the game. It's very stream-of-thought, but I tried to make it manageable to read. The point of the notebook was to give myself a place to put down the players who standout as well as those who need to improve. I'll give a summary of my thoughts and at the end you can see how I watched the game.

Rookie Watch

Nate Solder - Held down the fort at left tackle for most of the game. He didn't allow a sack, which is a positive, and he limited the pressures allowed. He is a force in the run game and he can definitely hold his own in the passing game. Solder showed that he has the athleticism to go toe-to-toe with any defender, but he needs to work on his technique and hand placements when facing the speed rushers.

Stevan Ridley - Was one of the first rookies in camp and has definitely taken advantage of his time. He was the workhorse for most of the game and managed to impress. He flashed his improved receiving hands and showed that he was a capable runner behind a make-shift offensive line. He's definitely a grinder and won't go down for a loss. He flashed quickness and looks to be a solid weapon in the offense.

Ryan Mallett - Exceeded my expectations for the first pre-season game. He came out and had a solid game. He needs to work on his deep ball touch (a couple overthrows) and his sideline passes (a little too far wide/high a couple times), but he showed an excellent base skill set and showed football intelligence. Looks like a steal in the 3rd.

Lee Smith - Played a little bit. Was a solid blocker and was used as a receiving weapon. He didn't catch anything, but that's because he was unable to get separation from the defender. One was overthrown (in the end zone) and I believe the other two were broken-up. If he's going to be a receiving weapon, he needs to improve his quickness to get open.

Malcolm Williams - Solid special teams player who registered a tackle. Still just a camp body at this point.

Christian Cox - Noted because he had his clock cleaned on a special teams play.

Chris Koepplin - Handled the kick-off game and was unbelievable. He had one bad kick that was, luckily, called back, but the rest of the game he was kicking the ball deep into the end zone. He won't replace Stephen Gostkowski, but his leg is sure to impress some team during the middle of the season.

Aaron Lavarias - Made a couple special teams plays and looks to be a camp body.

Richard Medlin - Another camp body, but Medlin made the most of his opportunities. I wouldn't be surprised if he was cut and ended upon a team like the Dolphins, Rams, Chiefs, or Broncos- some team that likes Patriots' players and could use some running back depth.

Jeremy Ross - Played some receiver and was utilized as a deep threat where he was wasn't able to collect any receptions. However, the passes weren't really catchable so he should be given another shot. He also played special teams and had a couple kick returns. He was brought down fairly quickly, but he should continue to return kicks until Brandon Tate returns.

Alex Silvestro - Had a couple solid plays as a third string defender. He looks like a lineman and looked stout as a defensive end, but he didn't really stand out.

Jeff Tarpinian - Showed skill as both special teamer and a depth linebacker. He was making plays on both units and is doing a solid job of pushing Tracy White for the special team slot.

Will Yeatman - Showed hands and strength as a receiver and a blocker. He was able to get the separation that Smith was unable to get, so watch for the Yeatman/Smith battle this off-season.

Did Not Note/Play: Ras-I Dowling, Shane Vereen, Marcus Cannon, Markell Carter, Clay Nurse, Mark Wetterer, Corey Woods, Kyle Hix

Rookie Up:

1. Ryan Mallett - Proving to be a solid return on the investment. Great first game in the big leagues.

2. Stevan Ridley - Took advantage of his snaps and showed up a quadruple threat (rushing, receiving, blocking, special teams)

3. Nate Solder - Was off the stat sheet and performed well for having just rejoined the team.

4. Jeff Tarpinian - Tarpinian is my dark horse right now. Tracy White is a better ST player, but Tarpinian is a better defender. He's definitely helping his case.

5. Richard Medlin - Medlin might not get a spot with the Patriots, but he's auditioning for the league and people will take note.

Returning Thoughts

Player Up:

Dane Fletcher - Fletcher was easily the most notable player of the game. He exploded for multiple TFLs, he shot the gap, he defended the pass, he was awesome. He wasn't washed out in run defense and appears to have gotten a lot stronger than last season. The way he played the run could mean that Fletcher might be a potential starter in the 4-3 looks and could push Spikes as a 3-4 ILB if Spikes doesn't make a leap/stays injured. Great game by Fletch.

Brian Hoyer - Hoyer was awesome as well. He not only marched the offense down the field, he was also finding ways to manipulate the defense. He needs more gusto on his deep passes, but he plays within his limits and won't hurt the team by making a bad decision. For all the talk about Ryan Mallett having trade value, Hoyer could be trade bait much earlier and could be worth an easy 4th round pick. That said, the price of a solid back-up is worth more than most offers and he has definitely improved as a player over last season.

Taylor Price - No Wes Welker, no Deion Branch, no Chad Ochocinco, no Brandon Tate, no problem. Price was the offensive weapon I hoped he could be and he dominated the field. He has burner speed and has absurdly fantastic body control when going up for passes. Tate was a big loser as a result of how well Price played. Look for Price to break-out this season.

Darryl Richard - Not going to lie, I had written Richard out. Drafted alongside Myron Pryor, Richard spent the last two seasons on the practice squad or IR. The Patriots liked him enough to give him a raised salary over the normal base contract. He was given the starting nod at LDE, but really played DT for most of the game. He rewarded the coaching staff with two sacks and a pass defended. He made a great impression and should continue to fight for a depth role on the team.

Brandon Meriweather - Has he finally put everything together? In a contract year, Meriweather looked like a solid performer early on. He was solid against the run, he was taking good angles, and, most importantly, he was doing his job and playing within his role as free safety. It didn't hurt that he played special teams for a lot of the game as well. Meriweather is definitely a player to watch for the rest of the pre-season.

 

Fighting For Life:

Mathew Slater - I had written off Slater as well. However, when he was on the field he had an impact. He made a great reception on a deep pass and showed phenomenal body control. He was his regular special teams ace self. He looks to play another day and his solid game definitely warrants another week back.

Steve Maneri - Maneri is buried down the depth chart as a tackle and spent last season on the practice squad. That said, when he was on the field he had a positive impact. He was a solid pull blocker, he swung and played both left and right tackle, and he kept the quarterback clean. He still has a lot to learn, but the School of Scarneccia appears to have another success on the rise. Maneri could fight for one of the last offensive line roster spots because I doubt he makes it back to the practice squad.

Buddy Farnham/Darnell Jenkins - Both Farnham and Jenkins are long shots at wide receiver. They almost certainly won't make the team, yet both put on quality shows in their auditions for other teams. Jenkins showed reliable hands and Farnham pulled a Troy Brown and switch hit for both the offense and the defense. Farnham made some impressive plays in the receiving game and showed excellent route running ability. He should definitely end up on a football roster this year, even if it's not the Patriots.

 

Player Down:

Darius Butler/Jonathan Wilhite - Leigh Bodden played limited snaps, Devin McCourty and Ras-I Dowling were out and Kyle Arrington played well in his snaps at RCB. Butler and Wilhite are both fighting for one of the last defensive back spots on the roster and it seemed as if neither wanted the spot. While Butler played well on crossing patterns between the hashmarks, he showed that he still struggles on the sidelines and was abused by hitch passes. Wilhite didn't almost nothing, other than perform poorly on special teams and have a penalty called. Neither player seems to have stepped up their game.

Gary Guyton - Guyton alone had an okay game; he definitely wasn't anything special. He had good and bad angles. He allowed a few completions. He was pushed around in the run defense. Guyton did not improve his game over last season and it was obvious when Fletcher was playing the Super Star. Guyton's loss is Fletcher's gain. Guyton should stay on the roster and is definitely serviceable, but it would be nice to see him step up his game a notch when other players are passing him.

Matt Katula - He had a bad snap. That's not good, especially when he sat out the early parts of the camp. Belichick has no problem cutting long snappers, so don't be surprised if one of the next signings is a competitor at long snapper.

 

Roller Coaster:

Aaron Hernandez - He's fun to watch. He's awesome when he gets the ball in his hands with daylight. However, Hernandez needs to work on his football awareness. He reduced his drops so far, and that's a good thing. However, he had two fumbles due to helmet and shoulders to the ball, and one of those was on the goal line. Those mistakes need to be rectified.

Danny Woodhead - Woodhead also had a fumble on the Patriots first possession after Hernandez's fumble. That's not the reason he's on the list, though. Last season, Woodhead's role in the offense was to be a change-of-pace running back who can run out of the shotgun and be the outlet receiver. In the game, Woodhead was asked to run out of a more traditional offense and he was less impressive. That's not really a knock on Woodhead, but it shows that he needs to be given select opportunities to thrive and that he cannot be an every-situation back.

Mark Anderson - Anderson was one of the best pass rushers on the field, there's no question. He is an excellent Tully Banta-Cain replacement and improvement. He was generating all sorts of pressure and could be a stud. However, his game is really one dimensional as he was less than spectacular in the run defense. He spent so much time getting into the backfield that he abandoned his lane as a run defender and missed a couple easy tackles that most other OLB/DEs on the roster would have made. His pass rushing skills are only rivaled by Eric Moore (who had a quietly solid day), but his run defending skills are what will prevent Anderson from being a full time player.

 

Battles To Watch:

Dane Fletcher vs Gary Guyton - This fight isn't for a roster spot, but these two will be competing for a role in the 4-3 defense and to be the hybrid player Belichick is looking for. (My Guess: Dane Fletcher will beat out Guyton for playing time)

Darius Butler vs Jonathan Wilhite - These two players are fighting for one of the last DB roles on the squad and each player will be expected to contribute on special teams and as the nickelback (at best). (My Guess: Darius Butler makes the roster as one of the final cuts while Wilhite is let go)

Tracy White vs Jeff Tarpinian - White has the ST advantage, Tarpinian has the defense advantage. Tarpinian is younger, but the roster spot is for the special teams player. (My Guess: Tracy White, while Tarpinian signs with another team)

Darryl Richard vs Myron Pryor vs Kade Weston vs Ron Brace vs Kyle Love vs Landon Cohen vs Steve Williams vs Brandon Deaderick - A result of all the DL signings is that a couple of the young DL players will be cut from the roster. Richard had a solid game, Weston's been solid in practice, Pryor, Love, Brace, and Deaderick have been solid in real games, and Cohen has been serviceable. (My Guess: Ron Brace, Kyle Love, Myron Pryor, with Darryl Richard as one of the last cuts. Brandon Deaderick is another late cut)

Mark LeVoir vs Steve Maneri - LeVoir has been the back-up tackle for the past few seasons, but Maneri took that role in the game as LeVoir was moved inside to guard. (My Guess: Mark LeVoir, as the Patriots try to sneak Steve Maneri to the practice squad)

Rich Ohrnberger vs Ryan Wendell - Both players are G/C and Wendell had the advantage last season. Ohrnberger looked good in the game so this will be a tough decision. (My Guess: Rich Ohrnberger and Ryan Wendell, both make it as a surprise)

Lee Smith vs Will Yeatman - Smith is the draft pick, but Yeatman has the added skill of being a receiver that might make him the choice at tight end. They are almost the same size, so it will come down to the small things. (My Guess: Lee Smith, while Will Yeatman makes the practice squad)

Buddy Farnham vs Darnell Jenkins vs Jeremy Ross vs Mathew Slater vs Brandon Tate - All of these players are fighting for what is essentially a special teams role. The addition of Ochocinco and the apparent emergence of Taylor Price relegates Tate to bottom of the pecking order. The other players are fighting for their roster lives. (My Guess: Brandon Tate, Mathew Slater, while Farnham makes another team's roster)

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Final Thoughts

The Patriots had an excellent first game after a long off-season. Once the returners are healthy and back into the swing-of-things, they should take the field and produce. The roster's depth shone through as it appears the Patriots are the deepest team in the league. There will be a lot of great battles over the next couple weeks as rosters are trimmed down to regular-season-size and as players return from injury. Despite the long off-season, the Patriots look primed to pick up where they left off and take the team to the next level.

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1st Quarter

Koepplin booming opening kickoff

Richard Love Moore (RDE)

Nink Fletch Guyton Cunning

Butler Meri Chung Arrington

 

Jaguars Drive 1

Butler beat on a hitch

Kyle Love into the backfield against the run

Butler beaten

Chung drag down, Guyton bad angle, Meri around the play

Richard ran into the backfield, abandoned his position

Fletcher into the backfield and Butler in tight coverage

Guyton blown backwards by the fullback

Eric Moore good pressure, Arrington still not thrown at

Cunningham with a sack, chipped at by the outlet receiver, was able to be close enough to Gabbert- might not happen against an experienced QB

Moore bit on a fake by the RB, just missed the tackle

Overthrows Arrington in quality coverage, replay shows Butler in good position as well.

Patriots Drive 1

Woodhead Ridley Edelman Price Hernandez

Hoyer

Hernandez bad fumble, helmet and shoulder on the ball. He needs to watch the handling

Jaguars Drive 2

Eric Moore makes great penetration, needs to work on his backfield awareness

Mark Anderson makes great pressure

Patriots Drive 2

Woodhead puts the ball on the ground. Two consecutive plays

Hoyer unable to connect with Edelman- shows Edelman down the field, though. Hoyer with fantastic touch on the ball

Maneri with a good lead block, Ohrnberger trailing the play and still has to improve. Edelman with a good block to make up for the dropped pass

Mesko with a great punt

Jaguars Drive 3

Fletcher with a monster TFL. Shows that he can square up against the run- and the fact that he can cover the pass means that he might add value as the versatile LB needed next to Mayo.

Butler beaten on another hitch

Mark Anderson generates the pressure and Landon Cohen cleaning up with a sack

Patriots Drive 3

Hoyer doing extremely well, Edelman gets cracked but holds on.

Solder on the pull block, takes out the secondary.

Solder seals the run, but has awkward form. Gets away with size, strength, and speed, needs to work on technique

Hoyer to Hernandez- Herndo as an outlet in the spread is dangerous with his YAC ability. Great time in the pocket

Ridley with an impressive first run. He makes a move but doesn't dance- keeps his forward movement

Woodhead used as a traditional RB- something he didn't do as much last season. Usually as a change of pace/outlet. Making him pound the rock.

Hernandez drops the ball again. That is a problem. Elbow to the ball on his blindside. Belichick glares at Herndo- not happy.

Ridley cracks it into the end zone with a powerful run. Seems like a more quick BJGE. Has BJGE strength (if not more) with more quickness.

Jaguars Drive 4

Matt Slater with a great ST tackle

Meriweather with a great angle tackle

Another pass over Arrington, might be more on Gabbert being uncomfortable throwing in that direction and less on Arrington's coverage

Terrible punt by the Jaguars

 

2nd Quarter

Patriots Drive 4

Hernandez with another outlet YAC play

Hoyer with a tall pass, Smith struggles to gain separation up the seam

Ridley with the run- took advantage of a Vereen/BJGE-less preseason to earn starting time

Price with an athletic catch. Don't think it would have counted in the regular season, but shows great body control. Hoyer threw it a little far behind him, but Brady would give Price a TD almost every time. Ochocinco talked to Price after the TD on the sidelines

Katula with a terrible snap. Gostkowski gets roughed up in the scrum- shows confidence in leg to get in the mix-up. Mesko to the rescue

Jaguars Drive 5

Meriweather, Woodhead, Wilhite, Ridley, Tarpinian and White all miss tackles or were in position to make a move until White comes back to make the tackle. 84 yard return

Cunningham with weak recovery in the run defense, Chung with a great tackle

Bodden's on the field at RCB

Ninkovich with solid disruption and teamwork with other LBs

Fletcher with another solid run defend up the gut for a TFL. Seriously- pair him with Mayo and those are some versatile ILBs. Maybe even give him a spot over Guyton.

Hold Jaguars to a FG after the kickoff return is a win for the defense

Patriots Drive 5

Jeremy Ross runs into Murrell's back, but looks fast

Slater with a great reception down the field. Fighting for his roster spot. Great touch by Hoyer and great adjustment by Slater

Ridley showing he can catch in the flat while under contact

Hoyer moves in the pocket to gain time, but Smith is unable to get separation down the field

Gostkowski with a great FG

Jaguars Drive 6

Koepplin with anothe great kick, White with a great tackle. Meriweather's been playing a lot of ST this game

Richard with a great sack, Arrington with phenomenal downfield coverage, Bodden with good coverage. Richard splits the double team with ease

Richard with another great interior tackle against the run

Butler beaten on another hitch, but manages to get the WR down shy of the first down marker

Richard Medlin (rookie RB) neutral zone infraction, gives the Jaguars another set of downs (although it looked like it was White who jumped on the TV. Not sure, though)

Fletcher with another great TFL. Becoming a clear leader

Chung and Ninkovich knock the ball away from the TE

TE beats Chung in the seam, well placed ball behind the TE by Gabbert

Mark Anderson with a MT, Arrington with a MT, Meri with a drag down

Guyton beaten on the out route

Butler with a well times hit, apparently Bodden was flagged for Illegal Contact off the ball. Gives the Jaguars another set of downs

Cohen with a great run stop and follows with great pressure

Gabbert throws it into Chung's numbers and just drops it. Catches that 100 times out of 100.

Patriots Drive 6

Ridley makes three players miss to gain a first down off a reception. If he can catch the ball, he could definitely be an integral part of the offense

O-Line isn't really giving much space for the RBs to run

Hoyer with a backpocket pass to Price for a 30 yard gain. Price with great body control adjust and grab the ball

Price almost pulls down the sideline pass for another big play- he's going to be a part of the offense

Hernandez catches the ball in traffic under contact

Ridley makes another solid catch to move the chains for a first down. Hoyer manipulated the defense to force the Jaguars defense back into the secondary to open a quick pass lane for Ridley

Hoyer with another quick pass to Hernandez in traffic- ball's not leaving Herndo's hands

Hoyer with another quick pass to Ridley

Hoyer with a deep route pass to Buddy Farnham and it doesn't look like Farnham even tried to catch the ball

Go for the field goal

 

3rd Quarter

Patriots Drive 7

Mallett starts the 2nd half

Mallett with a nifty dip to pass to Ridley as an outlet and dodge a defender

Taylor Price looks like a stud. Has his chemistry with Hoyer carried over to Mallett? Great YAC.

Mallett with great movement outside of the pocket. Hits Darnell Jenkins in stride, but it's out of bounds. Jenkins demolished a minutewoman

Mallett asked to go for it on 4th down. Great first down bullet to Farnham, replay makes it look like he stared him down, though

Mallett playing safe with the ball in the red zone. Had some issues in college with overconfidence that he turned the ball over- seems to be playing possession football. Impressive.

Ochocinco and Tom Brady are standing next to each other the whole game.

Mallett with good eye movement stares down one half the field and hits Yeatman on the other side.

Another great grab by Yeatman while being hit

Ridley with a great first down rush

Ridley with an impressive jump, got pushed back in the air a couple inches from the end zone

Ridley with a fantastic second effort to get into the end zone for a score

Jaguars Drive 7

Koepplin with terrible kick, but Christian Cox is hit after the whistle so they can rekick. Butler with a missed tackle

Butler seems to be more comfortable in coverage, but that may be a result of the lesser competition

Silvestro makes an appearance around the ball to slow the runner

Wilhite burned by the receiver he was covering, lucky for a bad throw

Price with a great punt return (aside from the flag). He's going to be a player- that makes me excited. Wilhite might be the guilty party- not looking good for him.

Patriots Drive 8

Mallett with a deep try to Jeremy Ross, but put too much on the ball

Ridley with a great run and lowers the shoulder at the end of the play for 21 yards. However, looking at his whole game- eliminate this run and he's average under 3 yards/carry.

Great connection with Farnham. Don't think he makes the Patriots' roster, but it looks like he'll be playing somewhere this season. Ran a great route with a great cut to get open.

Mallett with a phenomenal pass in stride to Ridley. Wow. He's got hands out of the backfield. Touchdown.

Jaguars Drive 8

Lavarias misses a tackle on ST, Wilhite gets stiff armed into tomorrow, but gets the tackdown

Tarpinian with a stop against the run

Anderson caught out of position against the run- showing his same problems that he had in Chicago. Phenomenal against the pass and in generating pressure, but weak against the run

Richard with a solid sack after Bouman runs into him. Sheds the double coverage

Butler beaten on a crossing route by a RB

Game tempo has stalled on this drive. Slow offense by the Jaguars.

Silvestro with a solid tackle against the run.

Tracy White looking like Larry Izzo on defense- passable, but should spend time on ST.

 

4th Quarter

Patriots Drive 9

Mallett with an amazing bullet into triple coverage right into Price's hands

Same play, Price gets hit across the middle and the ball is popped into the air and is interception. Luckily, a penalty brings the ball back. Helmet to Helmet against Price before the ball was intercepted- and it was the same player who took out Cox earlier in the game.

Mallett with a nice drop to Ridley as the outlet

Mallett catches the defense sleeping and slides for some quick yardage.

Next play Mallett sneaks for a first.

Mallett with poor touch over the top and out of bounds on the deep ball.

Price with a great grab-and-go to get close to a first down.

Mallett hits Jenkins in stride again and gets the first down.

Bad throw to Ross

Ridley with a powerful run and showed his shifty ability

Richard Medlin gets the touchdown on a quick and easy run as the O-Line opens a hole and lets him walk in untouched.

Jaguars Drive 9

Buddy Farnham does his best Troy Brown impression and flips to the defense to make the interception and give the Patriots' the ball back. Belichick was extremely excited by that outcome. Good for Buddy.

Patriots Drive 10

Medlin is given the ball to run down the clock

Maneri with a great lead pull block to spring Medlin for a 17 yard gain

Medlin gets another touchdown and the clock did not run down nearly as much as I had expected

Jaguars Drive 10

Lavarias with a solid ST tackle to a chorus of "oooo"s from the crowd

Tarpinian is showing value as a solid ILB back-up by making solid plays. Not game changing, but game managing plays. Good for a depth-player.

Richard with a pass broken-up

Patriots Drive 11

Price has his legs taken out from under him in punt return. Needs to learn his limits.

Medlin runs out the clock

Mallett kneels out the clock and Medlin ends the game by asking Ed Hochuli for a high five and getting straight up ignored

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Oh, by the way, just judging by the length of this, could you tell that I missed football?

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