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Nugget #1: Locker Room Love
In two of the better off-season stories for the beleaguered Patriots, undrafted free agents Thompkins and Sudfeld have taken the team and the league by storm. Thompkins is expected to be a serious contributor and Sudfeld is already drawing comparisons (albeit extremely premature) to the Patriots' own Rob Gronkowski.
Last year, the Patriots set up temporary lockers in the middle of the locker room for the rookies to have. Once they made the team, they got their own locker with everyone else. This year, the Patriots decided to do away with those temporary lockers and instead have their rookies share the real ones. In this situation, the two best rookies on the team just happen to share the same locker. As Doug said, how insanely perfect is that?
Nugget #2: Perspective
Weird stat from tonight: Tebow had negative 1 passing yards, Kaepernick's negative 3 passing yards.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) August 17, 2013
Tim Tebow was the worst quarterback on the field last night, there's no question about that. His 0.0 Quarterback Rating says it all. That said, third-year sensation 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick's night ended up with 2 more yards fewer than Tebow. Kaepernick was no where near as bad as Tebow (and he was playing against the 1s, while Tebow was playing with the Patriots 2s against the Buccaneers 3s), but that's a fun fact to put things into perspective. Everyone's going to have some struggles in the pre-season. Let's see how he rebounds this week (if he gets the opportunity).
Nugget #3: Jones' New World
I remember that time and I was one of those guilty of pushing that notion. Bequette was drafted in the 3rd round after having played plenty of snaps in the SEC, while Jones was an unpolished 1st round prospect out of the Big East. Everyone expected Jones to eventually overtake Bequette, but Jones was so raw that Bequette was tagged as supposed to be a strong contributor as a rookie, or until Jones was ready.
Instead, Bequette is playing with the 3rd string defense, behind this year's 7th round draft pick Michael Buchanan. Jones is playing with the first line and was the most dominant lineman in the game, for either side (although the Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy might disagree).
Jones is primed for a huge year and, if he stays healthy, he'll be a treat to watch.
Nugget #4: Where's the Rook?
Still no sign of Jamie Collins on the field...— Erik Frenz (@ErikFrenz) August 16, 2013
Never mind, just found Collins.— Erik Frenz (@ErikFrenz) August 16, 2013
Last week, Collins received plenty of playing time as he stayed on the field for most of the 2nd and 3rd team reps. This week was more of the same. Collins is a raw prospect (not as "raw" as Jones, in my opinion) who was primarily a pass rusher in college. The Patriots are trying to harness his athleticism and have him make plays at all levels of the field- and he did not disappoint.
As Frenz says, Collins made his presence known when he made a play. He was responsible for an incredible pass break-up across the middle of the field and he pulled down multiple runners for defensive stops. He was making plays left and right and is definitely growing as a player.
Nugget #5: Speaking of Linebackers...
Patriots might have the best blitzing linebackers in the league. Not pure pass rush. Blitzers— Steve Palazzolo (@StevePalazzolo) August 17, 2013
The Patriots first team defense elevated to another level last night, picking up four sacks in the first 18 minutes of play. Now sacks might be an overvalued statistic (when it needs to be compared with pressures and hits), but the number says it all. The Patriots defense was getting in the face of the opposing quarterback because of how excellent the linebackers were at blitzing.
Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Vince Wilfork, and Tommy Kelly did an amazing job of working the offensive line to open up lanes for the linebackers to make plays. Jones and Ninkovich were able to man their point and push towards the quarterback, all while still opening up gaps for rushing. Wilfork and Kelly were fighting double teams and they still collapsed the pockets. This allowed Hightower and Spikes to crash the pocket and force bad throws, stop run plays in their tracks, or flushing the quarterback into a sack (Spikes was given two sacks on the night).
I know this is still the pre-season, but this is a good sign moving forward. The Patriots have historically opened their season playing some vanilla defense until the unit grows together and can start playing some more complicated looks- and they've had to restart every year since 2008. This year? They have some continuity so hopefully the unit can take the step forward into the land of the Elite.
Nugget #6: He's Fine.
Nice 15 play drive for the #Patriots. Brady was 8 for 8 for 72 yards and a TD. I think his knee is OK— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) August 17, 2013
Everyone was nervous about Brady's health this week and, even though the reports came back negative, anyone who didn't breath a huge sigh of relief when he took the field and dominated is a big, filthy liar. Brady was back in his own little world as the best quarterback in the land- and he did it without a couple of undrafted players and and 7th round picks (UDFA: Danny Amendola, Zach Sudfeld, Kenbrell Thompkins, LeGarrette Blount, 7th: Julian Edelman).
In fact, out of his 12 attempts, only 3 were to highly drafted players (2 for 15 with 2nd round RB Shane Vereen and 1 for 5 with 4th round WR Josh Boyce). Last night was a masterful performance by the maestro we all know and love.
Nugget #7: Oh, C'mon Coach.
Bill Belichick, on what he thought of Tom Brady's performance: "We’ll look at the film and take a look at everybody." #Classic.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 17, 2013
Belichick was typical Belichick.
Overall it was a great night by the starters, a solid night by the 2nd team, and a terrible night by the 3rd team. Let's hope those on the bubble can learn and keep fighting for the rest of the pre-season.