The preseason is, in general, the time when a lot of questions get answered; who is going to make the team, what the depth chart will look like, who the contributors will be, how the personnel gets evaluated...all that good stuff. And as much fun as those questions are to think about and discuss, two additional questions came to mind last night that I'm going to have to deal with before I get too much further into the season:
- Who the hell are you?
- What am I doing with my life?
Now the former question will likely be addressed with a bit more time; the Patriots team that took the field against the Green Bay Packers last night featured more strangers than familiar faces, numbers I didn't recognize, and players I wasn't accustomed to. And because of that, I often found myself saying "who the hell was that?" when somebody made a play or made a mistake. I know that I'll get there, but it's amazing how quickly football teams change from year to year and how much work it can be to keep up with it all.
As for the latter question...that's likely going to take some time. But let me tell you that spending three straight hours on a beautiful summer night watching a bunch of backups bumble around the field against another group of backups, meanwhile expressing nothing but pure joy over how happy you are and how there is nowhere else you'd rather be and nothing else you'd rather be doing, makes a man wonder if he should maybe alter his priorities a bit.
But there's no time for a therapy session right now; I haven't written one of these articles since February and I'm more than a little rusty. So much like the Patriots who were a little gassed last night and not yet ready for the rigors of the regular season, don't expect too much from me as I get myself back into form.
- Not sure if anyone saw any of the pregame coverage on NFL Network, but if you didn't, check out the preview for "Do Your Job: Bill Belichick and the 2014 New England Patriots." It airs September 9th. Must must must watch TV.
- Very respectable showing from the Foxboro Faithful last night. For a full price ticket to a Thursday game that means absolutely nothing, that stadium was the equivalent of Japan at rush hour.
- MEAN. That's how the mug shorts from the starting front four - Sheard, Brown, Johnson, Jones - looked.
- New England started the game, as expected, in a very vanilla 4-3 with a straightforward four edge pass rush, but then moved Rob Ninkovich up to the line as a perimeter guy. With the depth along the front line, how Nink gets utilized this preseason will be something to pay attention to.
- Darryl Roberts got the start last night. Make of that what you will.
- And his first real chance at covering a receiver? Jordy Nelson. Welcome to the NFL, guy who kind of looks like the lovechild of LLudacris and Darryl Jenks.
- In case you were wondering how long it took me to reaffirm my strong desire to not see Pat Chung in a coverage safety role in any capacity, the answer to that question is 1:20 into the very first game of preseason.
- The first completion that Malcolm Butler gave up this season was a quick little slant route to Adams. Oh, sweet irony.
- But to their credit, pretty much any time Butler did anything, instant standing O from the crowd. That guy won't be buying any drinks for a very long time.
- If anyone wants to start a running tally of the number of times this season that announcers will be making a reference to Deflategate, let me know.
- If I was to ask Tommy B what the absolute last way he wanted to start off the 2015 campaign was, I feel pretty comfortable that on his own two behind a line made up entirely of rookies would be relatively high up there.
- That 3rd down throw to Boyce that bounced right off his hands was one of the hardest thrown passes I've seen Tommy B throw. I was willing to forgive Boyce for letting that one bounce right off his hands at first, but then quickly realized that pretty much everything bounces off his hands.
- Jabaal Sheard saw time on both edges. I think that Jones is at his best when he can play seven technique along the left side of the line, but it's nice to see that versatility. He also had a great run stuff on 4th and short where he crashed all the way from the edge on the dive play. Great first step, good burst, and faster than I thought.
- And speaking of great first step and good burst - loved what I saw from Trey Flowers. He gets low on the linemen and seems to have a lot of lower body strength. His sack on Aaron Rodgers was a straight up two fisted Hulk Smash.
- Although I guess when you're last name is Flowers and when you find yourself in a situation where it's last name, first name for whatever reason and people likely started calling you Flower Tray, you learned how to smash things very quickly.
- I have no idea who Zach D'Orazio is...but I'm not entirely unconvinced that Ross Ventrone has changed his name and put on a few more pounds in another attempt to get back on the roster.
- Very little to be gleaned from a first team offensive standpoint; Tommy B threw all of four passes last night to mostly backups.
- Good for both teams going for it on most fourth downs. I don't know why anyone punts at all in the preseason; odds are a fourth down conversion is going to come up bigger when the points matter than a punt on 4th and 4.
- My initial scouting report on Bradley Fletcher was that he's a good finisher, and solid tackler, but gets burned deep all the time and doesn't have the best awareness. Report unchanged. The most memorable part of his night was a Three Stooges-esque collision that sprung Harris for the TD in the third quarter.
- I'm very happy to say that I can FINALLY say something positive about James White: great blitz pickup on Jimmy G's first pass of the game. I don't remember who crashed the line and don't care enough to look it up, but White read the blitz correctly and threw a solid block.
- White also had some nice moves in the open field to make guys miss and move the chains. I'm still not all that sold on him, but he made good use of his reps. He doesn't have breakaway speed, but he's shifty and caught the ball well. Hopefully Tavaris Cadet will get back on the field soon, as it's going to be one of those two guys embracing the 3rd down role.
- I don't want to overstep my bounds here...but I think Jonas Gray is right up there with Gronk in terms of spike ability. Going back to last night and the Colts game, every single Gray spike ends up about 15 feet in the air. Granted, Gronk has a much more extensive body of work, but in terms of consistency, I'm going to give Gray the edge.
- Absolute carousel at DB last night. Not sure what any of us can take away from what we saw - but I doubt that's going to stop folks from breaking it down. Relentlessly.
- Geneo Grissom comes as advertised. Had an edge tackle, a QB pressure, was all over the defensive line and even drew a few double teams before spending some time in coverage. Way too early to make any kind of real judgment, but one thing that we can for sure take away from last night's game is the potential for all kinds of versatility.
- "Looks like Logan Ryan got beat on that play." We heard that a decent amount last season and it's already starting again. It's like a zit that just keeps coming back in the exact same spot.
- They really need to change Illegal Contact to a five yard penalty and nothing more. New England got a new set of downs on third and long because of that garbage penalty and it needs to stop. They call that play so much now it shouldn't carry so much weight.
- Jimmy G needs to learn to sell the playaction a little better, and he also needs to learn that there are receivers not named Josh Boyce on the field.
- And speaking of Boyce: didn't do himself any favors in what is already a highly competitive position. His statline for the night: two catches on 11 attempts for 19 yards, including a few drops and an interception where he fought for the ball about as hard as Loki did.
- I'm always amused when DBs celebrate an incomplete pass that was very clearly a drop by the receiver.
- If nobody else is going to say it, then I will: screw the Vikings family that became a Vikings Eagles Bengals Cowboys Steelers family. So you move to a different town and run into a player in an airport and eat a sandwich suddenly you just up and switch teams? Nuts to that. If you start off as a Vikings family, you stay a Vikings family, dammit. And if your son has the nerve to marry a fan of a different team, then you set the ground rules early on in that relationship.
- Some good takeaways from Jimmy G's night: he throws a beautiful deep ball, he progresses down his reads, and he looks off the safeties well.
- He's also one to learn from his mistakes: as soon as he stopped trying to throw the ball to Boyce, he actually looked alright. And by "alright," I mean 10 straight completions. And this was behind a line comprised of guys who might be better off looking towards a career as actors in those Farmer's Only commercials.
- And for the record, the incompletion that broke the streak was an attempt to Boyce. Time to go, bud.
- Watching Boyce struggle last night made me feel bad for Aaron Dobson. Hurt, yet again, and missed a primo opportunity to prove his worth to the team. If he doesn't get healthy right now, it might be time to close the book on him - just too many bodies at the position, and Brandon Gibson had a solid outing.
- Surprised we didn't see any running plays designed for Garoppolo specifically. He's one of the more mobile QBs this team has had in some time, and I imagine there would be plays designed to capitalize on that.
- Although I should say, when the past two quarterbacks on your team have been Drew Bledsoe and Tom Brady, saying "more mobile" is kind of like saying "less obese."
- I hope you make the team, Rufus Johnson. I really want to be able to write about a guy named Rufus this season.
- I'm hands down the biggest Pats fan that I know - but watching the 2nd half of a Patriots preseason game is a true exercise in dedication and patience. Trying to analyze and learn the names of guys who have only a slightly better chance of making the final 53 than I do makes me wonder if I made some bad life choices at some point in the past.
- Please please PLEASE tell me someone out there knows who this guy is. I want to be friends with this guy in the worst way. Zero chance that he isn't awesome.
- And if anybody knows the brunette by any chance, feel free to introduce me as well.
- Get ready for a whole lot of talk about how bad the backup O-Line is. Yuck. Garoppolo sacked seven times last night.
- My early standouts: Trey Flowers, Geneo Grissom. Flowers gets low on his blockers and has a lot of lower body strength. Grissom's versatility was on full display and he has good instincts. He struggled a bit in coverage, but that's to be expected.
- Early offensive standout: Shaq Mason. He had an absolute pancake block and took out two additional guys on the Jonas Gray TD run. I'll give Jimmy G honorable mention, but it was hard to get a real read on him with the offensive line he was dealing with for much of the game and he didn't look great.
The NFL Network left the Pats game in favor of the Cowboys/Chargers game just after a New England 4th down conversion got overturned, which was alright by me. I don't have the acumen to get too much out of anything that goes down late in the 4th quarter of a Week 1 Preseason game. But I will say this; it's good to be covering football again.