The New England Patriots pulled out a 31-22 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday night in which they were supported by a strong running game and a sharp Tom Brady. Here is a quick position-by-position rundown of how the team performed in the win:
Tom Brady led the offense to consecutive scores on his only two drives. He didn't throw the ball on his first drive, but went 7 for 8 with a touchdown on drive two. He appeared to be in mid-season form.
Back-up Ryan Mallett went 9 for 18 before leaving the game with a head injury. He showed he could put some good zip on the ball, but was erratic with his touch and accuracy, missing Aaron Dobson on a slant as well as Josh Boyce on what would have been a touchdown in the second quarter.
After Mallett went down, Tim Tebow got to see some extended time on the field. He made some nice plays running out of the read option, but was significantly too slow in his reads, and showcased the sub-par accuracy we've known to expect. Not a great debut, but I suppose it wasn't completely terrible... so there's that.
The Patriots runners performed very well Friday, with the team netting 248 yards on 31 carries. Starting running back Stevan Ridley got things started as well as possible - with a 62 yard scamper on the team's opening play from scrimmage. Ridley finished that drive with a touchdown a few plays later.
LeGarrette Blount made a push for the #2 spot behind Ridley with his performance tonight. While Vereen is penciled in as the 3rd down and change of pace back, Blount showed that he could take some of the load off Ridley's shoulders. He showed surprising agility, good power, and good vision en route to a 101 yard, two touchdown performance off 11 carries.
Danny Amendola looks like the #1 receiver, making one reception on one target and not playing past the first two series. Most of his snaps came from the slot. The big performer was rookie free agent Kenbrell Thompkins, who caught four Tom Brady passes on a touchdown drive. He came out of his breaks well, and had a nice "post-up" type catch on a third down with an Eagles cornerback in coverage on the team's second drive.
Aaron Dobson showed up with a 23 yard reception from Tom Brady in which he went up and caught the ball in traffic. And to finish up the rookie report, Josh Boyce went catchless on one target (should have been a touchdown, Mallett overthrew).
Sudfield had an awesome 22 yard catch and run in which he came from a h-back spot on the left side, rolled to the right with Ryan Mallett, and made defenders miss afterwards. Jake Ballard had his first action since microfracture surgery, and played 12 snaps... all on the first two series. Daniel Fells showed up as a receiver, hauling in three catches for 27 yards on three targets.
Will Svitek performed reasonably well at the right guard spot. The unit allowed three total sacks, but it was Tebow getting sacked each time, and it mainly had to do with indecision on his end. And of course, when the team runs for over 250 yards, you know the line is opening holes. Rookie free agent tackle R.J. Mattes played a team-high 78% of the snaps.
Tommy Kelly showed up in the first half, combining with Chandler Jones for a strip-sack and turnover. He looks like the clear-cut #2 defensive tackle. Marcus Forston and Cory Grissom played a lot of snaps, but didn't really stand out. Rookie free agent Joe Vellano came up with a sack.
Chandler Jones was around the quarterback a couple of times in 11 total snaps. Marcus Bernard showed up on a couple of occasions, including a sack. He also lined up blatantly offsides once, which is the type of mistake there's really no excuse for. He didn't show up in the stat sheet, but I liked the quickness and length seen from Michael Buchanan. He made a few strong rushes.
Starters were Mayo - Spikes - Hightower, as expected. Mayo and Spikes showed up early against the run. Rookie Jamie Collins came in with the second unit and played at a variety of spots throughout the night and looked comfortable in space. Steve Beauharnais proved to be a solid tackler and veteran Dane Fletcher also stood out at various times.
Aqib Talib got burned pretty bad by DeSean Jackson on the Eagles' opening drive for a touchdown. It was worth noting however, that there was no safety help over the top. Kyle Arrington seemed to hold his own. Logan Ryan was on the stat sheet with a pair of passes defensed, but was up and down in his debut (looked good in run support, so-so in coverage).
Liked what I saw from rookie Duron Harmon, who always seemed to be in the right spot and took some good angles. Adrian Wilson looks like the starter next to Devin McCourty. He didn't show up on the stat sheet, but diagnosed a first quarter Michael Vick pass and was a step from an interception. Steve Gregory was the one who should have helped on the Jackson touchdown discussed earlier.
Two punts with a 54 average for rookie Ryan Allen, although he outkicked his coverage on his first attempt. Leon Washington return both kicks and punts. Stephen Gostkowski had a down game, going 1/3 on field goal attempts.