With Week 2 of the preseason now in the books, it's a good time to once again revisit that ironclad preseason logic:
When my team does well, there is plenty of reason for optimism and it's a surefire sign that everyone is on pace for a strong regular season.
When my team does poorly, there is absolutely no cause for concern, as it's only preseason.
Last week, Patriots fans were staunchly embracing the latter point; New England looked nothing but lousy against the Washington Redskins. After yesterday's game, however, the needle is trending more towards the former, as the New England starters looked fairly solid against the Philadelphia Eagles to improve to 1-1 for the preseason. There are still some areas that need improvement, and the way that the Pats are rotating offensive lineman right now you'd think that, but last night's game was a drastic improvement from what we saw last Thursday. Which, of course, means that the ship has completely been righted and we may as well just hand the Patriots the Lombardi now. Because, you know...preseason.
A few more meaningless observations from the game:
- I wish that, just once, either Papa John's or Domino's would level with us regarding their ad campaigns. Let's all call a spade a spade here. Your pizza is terrible. I know it. You know it. We all know it. However, you fill a very important need, and so it's time to start playing to that. It isn't "better ingredients, better pizza"; you aren't fooling anyone. It's "we're cheap, you're hydrated, we're open later than the good places, and we deliver." Now THAT'S an ad slogan I can get behind.
- If you're going to screw around with new rules in the preseason, why not eliminate touchbacks? Nobody likes touchbacks anyway, and eliminating them in the preseason would give bubble guys more chances to impress the coaching staff without making it seem they are foregoing the smart play in order to try and make something happen.
- I was downright giddy to see Tommy B out there last night.
- Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola lined up right next to each other in the slot has the potential to be pretty much uncoverable - particularly if Gronk is the tight end lined up on the same side. I think they should call it the Pygmy Bunch formation.
- I'd say "so long, Steve Maneri" after he basically just waddled out there and completely misread the coverage leading to a pick six - but he's pretty much the only tight end left standing right now, so he'll likely be around for a few more weeks.
- Regarding that interception - how great is it to see Tommy B sitting on the sideline pissed off after a completely meaningless pick thrown to a tight end that probably isn't even going to be on the roster in a few weeks? He wasn't yelling at anybody, as he's aware that there's no need...but you can tell he really wanted to.
- That said - please don't try to tackle anyone, Brady. Ever. That goes for the regular season as well. If you throw an interception, just make a beeline for the sidelines and nobody will judge you.
- Other than that pick, which wasn't Brady's fault, the first offense looked extremely solid. Philly was playing a very vanilla zone defense, and Brady picked it apart.
- Belichick is high on James White, and that means I'm high on James White. But I sure would like to be able to write about a play or two that helps to illustrate why I'm so high on James White. He was the runner I was least impressed with last night, and that includes backs who are likely going to be landscaping in a few weeks. As well as Ryan Mallett.
- So in case you didn't notice, there were a few flags throw last night. Almost 30, in actuality. 21 of them were accepted. That's about five penalties per quarter. I know that this is a concerted effort by the league to make players aware of the new rules, and, I don't want to spend the entire preseason harping on the number of flags thrown, so I think I'll just get all the bad jokes out of the way now, if that's alright.
- Man, these refs are throwing around more laundry than a bunch of frat boys at a panty raid!
- Gee, I haven't seen this many flags since the last time I played Minesweeper on expert!
- Wow, that field had more yellow on it than Stowe Mountain when the bathrooms freeze up during ski season!
- Phew! Good thing those flags aren't white, otherwise Iraq probably would have assumed we surrendered by now!
- Hey, I haven't been this negatively affected by penalties since Blockbuster screwed me for not rewinding after I watched the entire National Geographic "Really Wild Animals" series on VHS!
- OK, I think that's it.
- I think that Edelman caught that ball that was ruled DPI. I personally don't care, but Belichick clearly did; he was about as rankled as I have ever seen him without a podium and a bunch of reporters in front of him. He even reached for the challenge flag...which of course, drew a penalty flag.
- Oh wait! One more:
- Man, if these refs keep throwing flags like this, there are going to be a lot of refs added to the injury report every week. They'll likely be listed as "Probable" with a right shoulder issue.
- The preseason is lame enough as it is, but the amount of flags being thrown make it all but unwatchable. It's almost like Goodell has been making a concerted effort over the past few years to see how much money he can make while making his product markedly inferior than it was when he first took the reins.
- Last thing I'll say about preseason penalties. I don't want to seem like a typical Patriots fan here, but this game certainly begs the question: are they just going to keep drastically changing the way you are allowed to play defense in the NFL every single time Peyton Manning is made to look foolish? Is that their plan? To just cater the entire league in a manner that allows him to look good? I know it sounds petty, but don't pretend that the exact same thing didn't cross your mind.
- Malcolm Butler continues to impress. Not only was he in on the fumble on Philly's very first offensive play, but every time he gave up a completion he was right on his man and attempted to strip the ball as he made the tackle. He stripped two balls, both of which were recovered by New England, and he even recovered one of them.
- I know that there is a joke to be made regarding Butler, stripping balls, and fast recovery, but I just can't find it. Give me some time. It's preseason.
- I wish that Christian Fauria and John Gruden could man a booth together just once. I think my head would explode.
- Apparently Vince Wilfork really slimmed down coming into this season. I guess I'm just going to have to take his word for it, because that man looks as massive as ever.
- His skillset, awareness, and ability aside, I have to say: Jimmy Garoppolo is just plain fun to watch. He has some kind of weird energy around him and you can tell that his offense trusts him. I'm not going to even think about crowning him the heir apparent to Tommy B just yet, but anyone who says that the difference between Mallett and Garoppolo out there isn't tangible clearly has better things to do on a beautiful Friday night in August besides sit in front of the television watching meaningless football. Well good for you. But I don't have anything better to do, alright? So get off your high horse.
- That said, Mallett played significantly better yesterday. More confident in his throws, better accuracy, and (perhaps most importantly) effective in the pre-snap reads. There was definitely a "yay, Ryan! Let's go put this game up on the fridge!" reaction from the rest of the team, which goes a long way to show just how badly Mallett was struggling last week, but it's good to see Mallett finally put together some solid drives.
- It technically wasn't a fumble, but Stevan Ridley put the ball on the ground again. Come on, Ridley. Whatever it is you have, you have to fix it. Hang onto the damn ball.
- Fauria on what Bill Belichick was saying to Garoppolo after his beautiful TD throw to Brandon LaFell: "you know, you look like Lou Ferigno's kid, but you're doing a great job." Good work, Christian. That was funny.
- Tommy B and Jimmy G sitting side by side on the bench going over game stills, Ryan Mallett sitting alone on a Gatorade cooler. A telling sign.
- How many plays against a Chip Kelly offense could you keep up with before you threw up and passed out? I give myself one and a half.
- This was a great offense for the D to go up against, as it's unique and difficult to defend against once it finds a rhythm.
- My smile at seeing Mark Sanchez, and seeing Sanchez do well, was way too big. He came on after the two minute warning, looked completely lost after every play, yet came out and marched right down the field for a score before the half. If Foles comes out this season for whatever reason and Sanchez starts winning...how great would that be?
- Of course, Sanchez remembered who he was in the 2nd half and threw the ball right to Duron Harmon.
- Ryan Mallett in a knee brace is still way faster than a healthy Tommy B. How can a man possibly be that slow?
- This now marks the second week that Will Smith has seen reps in the third quarter of a preseason game, and I can't remember him making an impact at all yesterday. I'm starting to think that he's going to transition from rotational lineman to #1 on the speed dial should someone get hurt during the year.
- Look at Brian Tyms with another sold TD catch and a Randy Moss tribute! He's still unlikely to make the final roster due to the depth at the position and his upcoming suspension, but credit to him for doing everything he possibly can to prove he's worthy of a spot.
- And the winner of the Alec Shane Senseless Preseason Outlandish Overexcitement Award : Nate Ebner with his gimme pick that floated directly to him. There's just something about the guy that I simply can't get enough of, and it seems that Ebner is good for an A.S.S.P.O.O. Award every preseason. Good for him, I say.
- It sure was nice to see Philly convert a 3rd and long. It was like paying a visit to an old friend.
- That Eagles TD to end the third quarter was some straight up Benny Hill stuff on the New England side of the ball. Just a bunch of dudes getting turned around, bumping into each other, and missing tackles.
- I'll be very curious to see what new England does with their backfield. You can make the case for carrying Ridley, Vereen, Bolden, White, and Roy Finch as well. That's a lot of running backs.
- Jake Bequette out there, in the fourth quarter, wearing sleeves in 65 degree weather as a lineman, does absolutely nothing to sway my opinion that he will not be on this team come September.
- However, he was in on an absolutely fantastic goal line stop towards the end of the game. So there's that. Probably will end up being his career highlight.
The bottom line is that not only was this game much more fun to watch than that stinker against Washington, but it was also a nice glimpse into the potential that this team has once real football starts. With that pivotal Week 3 matchup against Carolina exactly seven days away, the big focus this week will be on the status of the injured players and whether or not they'll be able to get more reps during this week's practice. Week 3 is traditionally the time when the starters play until at least halftime, so these next few days will go a long way towards determining how the depth chart is settling out.