If tonight's game against the Carolina Panthers was truly considered a dress rehearsal for the New England Patriots, fans have plenty to be excited about. In tonights 30-7 win over the Panthers, the Patriots starters played into the 3rd quarter and dominated in all three facets of the game.
Here are a few of my initial thoughts:
- The defense was absolutely dominant tonight, and no player stood out more than Chandler Jones. Playing from the 3-4 OLB spot, Jones got after Cam Newton with two sacks, he dropped into coverage, stuffed several running plays, and had an athletic lunging tackle on a scrambling Newton. It's just the preseason, but if Jones can play like this during the regular season, the Patriots defense will be significantly better.
- And as good as Jones and the pass rush was, credit has to be given to the secondary. Even when Cam Newton had time to throw, he rarely had an open receiver, leading to forced passes and coverage sacks.
- Tom Brady was a bit shaky in his first two series, but was nearly perfect from that point on. He had several impressive third down throws, and get into a great rhythm with both Julian Edelman (8-99) and Shane Vereen (5-57).
- Speaking of Vereen, it was good to see him get involved in game action. Vereen is going to be a big factor in the Patriots' offense no matter what this season, and continues to be a match-up nightmare.
- Another fantastic performance from Jimmy Garoppolo. His reads were excellent, and his pocket presence was much improved from his first two games. He led the Patriots a poised late touchdown drive to extend the Patriots' lead to 30-0, connecting with linebacker-turned-fullback Taylor McCuller.
- Some quick personnel notes: Ryan Wendell received the starting nod at Dan Connolly at center... Jordan Devey stepped in at right guard with Marcus Cannon starting at right tackle for Sebastian Vollmer... Will Smith saw extensive time with the first unit, and flashed a bit more than in the 1st two preseason games... Malcolm Butler once again received the start at cornerback opposite Darrelle Revis. Brandon Browner didn't play a snap until the fourth quarter... Josh Boyce didn't see a single first half snap, and didn't record a statistic... Patriots used a fair amount of "20" personnel with Shane Vereen and James White in the backfield and three receivers. Vereen's first touchdown came on a wheel route from this set... Jonas Gray saw a fair amount of time with the starters on offense. He runs hard and is took advantage of Brandon Bolden's absence... Steve Beauharnais had a second half interception off a Derek Anderson throw in the red zone. Beauharnais read Anderson's eyes the whole way and broke on the throw nicely, getting himself a long return as well... Patrick Chung, for the third straight game, got the start at strong safety across from Devin McCourty and flashed in run defense (but also had some lapses in coverage).
What are your initial thoughts on the game?