Week 3 of the preseason, and the Patriots look great! Cue the duckboats! Arizona here we come!
While it was nice to actually win a Week 3 preseason game - the past few years the Patriots have found themselves on the receiving end of an absolute beatdown by a Lions team that likely would have held a parade through the streets of Detroit after those games had Detroit actually had access to street that wasn't riddled with burnt out car shells and tumbleweeds - I'm doing my very best to curb my optimism. Ultimately, these games are completely meaningless and looking good in preseason doesn't necessarily translate into a successful regular season campaign. That said, there was a lot to like about what we saw from the 1st team offense and defense last night.
Some more observations:
- If Week 3 is the week that the starters get a decent amount of reps and the coaching staff does at least a little bit of gameplanning with a certain group of players in mind, that certainly bodes well for Roy Finch and Malcolm Butler. Finch seems to be the guy the Patriots have chosen to kneel in the end zone during kickoffs, and Butler seems to have overtaken Logan Ryan as the second outside cornerback, with Alfonzo Dennard in the slot. At the end of the day, who knows, but it appears that Finch and Butler are strong candidates to stick around at the very least.
- That Brandon Bolden was inactive tonight might also be telling. I doubt the Patriots are keeping more than four backs, and with Ridley and Vereen locks, Finch looking to potentially take on return duties, that means there is only one spot open. Maybe they end up going with five, but I don't know.
- And while we're talking about RBs: James White. What gives? Name a single play this preseason where he has impressed or looked like someone who belongs out there with the starters. At one point he brought in a screen pass with blockers and some space, and was only able to pick up a few yards before tripping over his own feet.
- You too, Stevan Ridley. Vereen just doesn't have the size to consistently run between the tackles, so you better figure something out and fast.
- Not that it mattered, as that screen play t White was called for Offensive Pass Interference, aka blocking too early. I think I'm going to start calling that every time a fat person sits in front of me at the movies.
- There was a lot to like about last night's game, but one thing that's still concerning are the coverage linebackers. Didn't see too much to assuage any leftover fears from last season that tight ends and running backs will be able to have a field day across the middle.
- On the flip side, this secondary looks rock solid. A handful of the sacks that New England got last night were of the coverage variety, and that's always great to see. That the Patriots were able to generate a coverage sack or two while keeping Cam Newton, one of the more mobile QBs in the NFL, in the pocket also speaks highly of edge rushers Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones.
- Speaking of Chandler Jones...that man looked flat out unblockable last night. Whether he was swimming to the outside, ripping to the inside, straight up pushing guys back, or chasing down runners from behind, he was the defensive MVP of the night and is likely the only person happier than every Patriots fan out there that Revis is now in New England.
- You know who else gets an MVP Award for last night? Ryan Allen. Had several long, booming, high punts that generated little to no return. Crazy to think that around this time last year Zoltan Mesko was a lock to make the roster and Allen was little more than a camp body.
- A play that I hope I see more of this season is the quick screen to Brandon LaFell. That's usually a Julian Edelman/Danny Amendola style of play, but a fast throw to LaFell adds a whole new dynamic to it
- The only time I even thought about Josh Boyce last night was when I realized that he kind of looks like how I think Laurence Maroney might look without any dreadlocks. I don't think he was even targeted at all last night, and with Finch potentially set to handle return duties, Boyce might start making some lists of surprise cuts.
- You know who else hasn't looked great so far? Brandon Browner. It isn't at the point where I'm worried about it just yet, but I am starting to wonder if this new rule change is going to more or less completely eliminate what he does best as a cornerback. Still have plenty of confidence in him and think he'll be very effective once he returns from suspension...but still.
- Perhaps my biggest takeaway from last night's game was that this team seems to be very well prepared to move on without Rob Gronkowski. That most certainly wasn't the case last year and the offense with and without him couldn't have been more different. The sad truth is that we may never get a full season out of Gronk, and if that's the case I'm glad that 4 WR sets and a two back pistol offense is viable.
- Yet another Tommy B pass that will be lost to history was that Giselle-gorgeous floater that Brady threw to Edelman to start the 3rd quarter. Perfect touch, perfect trajectory, and Edelman got his hands up at just the right time to bring it in. It's the little things like that that make Brady so good.
- As much as I loved that long Vereen out route for a touchdown, I must admit that I like it much better when it's over 80 yards, it comes against the Jets on national television after a huge turkey dinner, and is followed up almost immediately with the Jets quarterback slamming face first into his lineman's behind and putting the ball on the ground.
- I'd be lying if I said I wasn't going to miss Christian Fauria in the booth. I understand that he's way too incompetent to broadcast any real games...but then again, we do have Scott Zolak calling the radio. So maybe Fauria could be a candidate to replace Dierdorf.
- Perhaps what I enjoyed the most about last night's game were the long, sustained drives that ended in touchdowns instead of field goals. The drive that ended in Vereen's first TD of the day was 91 yards, 14 plays, and over seven minutes off the clock. Those are all numbers to be excited about.
- There's currently an offensive lineman on the team named Braxton Cave. And while he's a massive longshot to make the final roster and will likely be spending another year on the practice squad, he probably has the offensive lineiest name I've ever heard.
- Very excited to watch Kelvin Benjamin this season. Didn't know a whole lot about him until last night, and left that game incredibly impressed.
- When Tommy B sat down and Ryan Mallet came in in the first quarter, I thought two things. First, I thought that once again Bill Belichick has decided to zig while the rest of the league zags and pull all of his starters early in the game where they are supposed to see action into the third quarter, thus completely redefining how we experience the preseason and forcing every coach in the NFL to rethink how they approach these games. Second, I thought that Belichick wanted to give Mallett first-team reps so other teams could see his abilities with a full offense surrounding him in case a trade might still be in the works. But then I realized it was just good situational football, the backup QB never knows when he might have to go in, and Tommy B was right back out there on the ensuing drive.
- Plus, Mallett didn't look all that great, and only finished the day with seven snaps. It seems that he's more or less a lock for the backup job with Jimmy G at #3, but that lock is a rusty one. And some idiot left the key in it.
- I have absolutely no clue what the team is going to do with Brian Tyms. His suspension greatly reduces his chances of making the team, but he has outperformed every other non-lock receiver on the squad and deserves a roster spot somewhere.
- I hope that Jonas Gray clears waivers and we can sneak him on the practice squad. He has good size and a nice burst - just not quite NFL ready yet.
- Nice knowing you, Jake Bequette. Enjoy your life as a strength coach somewhere.
- Extremely impressed with Jimmy Garoppolo's poise in the pocket and ability to evade pressure while continuing to look downfield. On his TD drive, several times there were Panthers right in his grill and grasping at his feet, and other than one poor decision where he threw it instead of taking a sack, he showed great mobility, awareness, and ability to extend the play. And whenever a drive ends with a big, doofy, uncoordinated white guy making a catch and lumbering into the end zone, I'm a happy man. Makes me think that there's hope for me yet.
On to the Giants - again - for what is basically little more than a final tryout for bubble players hoping to make the team. With the first round of roster cuts just a few days away, it's going to be busy around here, so be sure to check back early and often for any updates.