Ryan Mallett #15 of the New England Patriots feels the pressure of Phillip Hunt #76 of the Philadelphia Eagles during a preseason game at Gillette Stadium on August 20, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
Ugly Game, Patriots Starters Sit. The Eagles chose to play their starters into the second half tonight, while the Patriots rest quarterback Tom Brady and many of their other top starters on both sides of the ball. And although the Patriots were actually able to jump out to an 11-0 lead behind Ryan Mallett, a Brandon Bolden muffed punt shifted the momentum in the game. Overall, it was a really ugly game, with 23 combined penalties and three turnovers between the teams. Mallett had an improved performance, but still has a way to go. Tonight was a reminder that it's still the preseason, and both teams have a lot of work ahead of them.
Shoulder Injury for Patrick Chung; Abdomen injury for Vick. Patriots safety Pat Chung appeared to injure his shoulder / arm in the first half, and didn't return to the game. Fortunately, it appears that he avoided serious injury. For the Eagles, quarterback Michael Vick went down for the game after taking a shot to the ribs in the first quarter from Jermaine Cunningham. X-rays on his ribs were reportedly negative, so it appears they may have also dodged a bullet.
Struggles for Patriots offensive line. For the second straight week, the Patriots' offensive line had some serious first half struggles. Nate Solder was consistently abused by Trent Cole, and Marcus Cannon didn't look like an NFL tackle (perhaps he is best suited for right guard). Center/guard Nick McDonald also had his fair share of struggles. It's still early, but it's hard not to be a little concerned about the bookends for the Patriots. The further we progress in the preseason, the more apparent it becomes that the Patriots will need Sebastian Vollmer to be healthy this season.
Strong Performance from Deion Branch. Veteran receiver Deion Branch really showed his potential worth, coming up with 3 receptions for 51 yards, beating press coverage with great route running on several occasions (even beating Nnamdi Asomugha on a deep in). Meanwhile, Donte Stallworth continued to be ineffective, and struggled to gain separation. It's only a game, but it seems that Branch has turned that roster battle in his favor.
More thoughts after the jump!
Patriots front seven shows up again. The Patriots once again had some strong performances along the front seven. Jermaine Cunningham showed up with several strong rushes, while 2009 second round pick Ron Brace had a near sack on Nick Foles in the first half. At linebacker, both Brandon Spikes and Dont'a Hightower had several strong plays, making stops in the open field and even looking solid in pass coverage. In the second half, Jake Bequette looked particularly disruptive, making several hurries and quarterback hits. One more defensive player who stood out: safety Nate Ebner. Ebner had a nice interception to close out the first half, and also made a jarring hit in pass coverage in the second half.
Quick turnaround for Patriots. The Patriots will now travel to Tampa Bay for two days of joint practices with the Buccaneers. Then, the two teams will face off on Friday at 7:30 PM ET. It's the second of three preseason games in ten days for the Patriots. The Patriots are expected to play their starters.