Earlier this week, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said that the Patriots had a long way to go. Based on the results of the team's preseason opener, he was absolutely right.
Granted, the Patriots only played a few of their starters, and deployed a very vanilla game plan. That being said, there were a few reasons for concern, and a few strong performances to highlight. Here are a few of my quick thoughts (I'm starting with the bad stuff):
- Very rough preseason debut for Ryan Mallett. He was under the national spotlight this week, and the game was expected to be a showcase. He had a few nice throws, but struggled when under pressure, and failed to show touch and accuracy in the short passing game.
- Not a strong showing from the Patriots' running backs. A 30,000 ft overview: Stephen Houston fumbled on his first attempt, Jonas Gray looked tentative, Roy Finch fumbled both a kickoff and punt return.
- The Patriots offensive line lost a lot of one on one battles. Left tackle Nate Solder, in particular, struggled in limited snaps. He had a hold and allowed a sack.
- The defensive end depth for the Patriots is an area of concern. Veteran Will Smith didn't do much to impress, and neither did rookie Zach Moore or second year pro Michael Buchanan. Both Moore and Buchanan struggled with gap containment.
- The Patriots didn't start any of their regular linebackers, and their reserves struggled. Darius Fleming made a few nice plays in open space, but players such as Steve Beauharnais and James Anderson looked overpowered at times.
- Safety Travis Hawkins is a longshot to make the roster, but he didn't help himself with multiple bad angles. Duron Harmon is a virtual lock for the roster, but he also struggled in this area.
- Malcolm Butler simply looked like he belonged at cornerback. He showed good fluidity, awareness, and ball skills. Even when he allowed completions, his coverage was excellent. The rookie free agent out of West Alabama had been building momentum with a strong training camp, and capitalized on the extended playing time he saw tonight.
- Jimmy Garoppolo was simply fantastic in his debut, despite some shaky performances in training camp. He was the clear bright spot for the Patriots in tonight's game. He made quick reads, showcased enough arm strength to make the sideline throws, and his touch was terrific at all levels of the field. He also showed mobility in and out of the pocket, as well as tremendous poise for a player who was not only playing in - but attending - his first NFL game. If it sounds like I'm gushing, I am. He's a fantastic fit for this Patriots' offense.
- Garoppolo's favorite target tonight was second year receiver Brian Tyms. Tyms has excellent size at 6'3" and 210 lbs, and was a consistent downfield threat. He caught the Patriots' lone touchdown of the night from Garoppolo, and also had an acrobatic touchdown incorrectly called incomplete in the 3rd quarter on a play in which a pass interference was called against the defender covering him.
What were your initial thoughts from the game?