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Patriots vs. Saints: Fan Notes from the Preseason

Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots' 34-22 victory over the New Orleans Saints.

Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Hello there, Fan Notes. Oh how I've missed you.

There's something great about the preseason; while I still get way more nervous for these games than I'll ever truly admit to anyone, for a blissful four weeks a year, I get a delicious taste of what it's like to be a normal, well-adjusted sports fan. I get to watch a Pats game, enjoy it, not care too much about the outcome, and then move on with my life almost immediately after the game is over. If the Patriots lose, so what? There's tons of reasons to be happy! Time to enjoy something else for a while. It must be so, so nice to be able to take that attitude into the regular season. But as we have all established a long time ago, the time for me to come out from this rabbit hole passed decades ago. Nothing to do now but forge ahead. I'm not in game-shape yet, so these are more a series of inane ramblings as opposed to actual Fan Notes, but that's what contests like last night's are for - shaking the rust off.

  • I know it's preseason, and I know that there's no reason to read into anything - but it's hard not to get excited about the potential of this defense. There's just so much talent at every level, and it showed right from the opening drive of yesterday's game.
  • Didn't the Patriots trade away Chandler Jones? I saw a long, rangy defensive end out there yesterday wearing $95. The resemblance between Jones and Chris Long is uncanny.
  • Not a bad debut for Cyrus Jones, who got the start. Especially impressed with his tackling; he stands guys up and doesn't allow them to fall forward.=
  • Christian Fauria on Blount;'s first run of 2016: "You want to get better at football, that's not the best way to get going." That kind of sharp wit and lightning fast insight is was makes preseason football so special.
  • Nate Solder had no business getting slapped around on Jimmy G's first sack of the game. He was slower with his hands than...I don't know. Me reaching for the last rib? A narcoleptic masseuse? I'll have better lines once the season gets going.
  • Welcome to the NFL, Garrett Grayson. I find that fact that 2016 is actually your 2nd year in the NFL irrelevant. Not the best confidence booster to have your first pass of the game returned for a pick-6.
  • That said, the legend of Jamie Collins grows.
  • For the record, Garrett Grayon is either the name of a nerd before he gains super powers or the name of the guy the woman in a romantic comedy is dating at the start of the movie before she ends up with her love interest.
  • How does one get the job of sideline Gatorade stirrer? I feel like I could absolutely crush that position.
  • A lot of promising push from the D-line, particularly along the interior. Zero gains from the running game and the linebackers were able to occupy all gaps. And as a white guy who grew up in Connecticut I know a thing or two about occupying Gaps in August - it's where I did most of my back to school shopping.
  • If you're a cornerback with a single number on the back of your jersey, you're probably not going to be around come September unless you have a solid night elsewhere. Sorry, V'Angelo Bentley.
  • Liking what I'm seeing from Martellus Bennett. He was Jimmy G's guy early on, got open often, and looked incredibly mobile.
  • Marcus Cannon gets smoked and the quarterback takes a huge sack. I hope I'm not cutting and pasting that line over and over this season.
  • I also hope I won't be typing "Justin Coleman got burned on a deep out route" too much either.
  • David Andrews got the start at center, with Stork on the sidelines taking snaps for the entire first quarter before coming in in the second. Not sure how much to read into that, based on Stork's injury history.
  • I think my favorite play of the entire game was Shaq Mason on the 56 yard James White screen that set up the Blount TD. He easily could have gotten caught up in a crowded interioir line, but passed the initial bump off before pulling to the sideline and throwing the block that sprung White for a big gain. For a lineman whose biggest weakness last year was pass blocking, that's great to see.
  • To that end, I wonder if Gronk giggles every time Shaq Mason walks by with his jersey on.
  • Also impressed with Chris Long's closing speed on screens and hitch routes. I figured his role on the team would be situational edge rusher with a fairly linear objective, he might prove more of a factor than initially anticipated.
  • There just aren't words to express the depths of my hatred for that Kars 4 Kids commercial. I despise every second of it so deeply that it's kind of scary, to be honest. Nor can I express my dislike of that smug grin on that guitar playing lead singer. If I found out that that kid bought an ice cream and it immediately fell off the cone and onto the pavement, I think it would make my summer.
  • On the flip side, every time I see an ad for the Rodney Harrison "A Football Life," I get all tingly.
  • Certain boxers and MMA fighters find that they don't really wake up and get into the fight until they get their bell rung a little. I feel like Jimmy Garoppolo might be in a similar boat. He was shaky and inaccurate at first, but settled as the game wore on. The only play he made that I really hated was when he threw it up for Malcolm Mitchell right into a pile of Saints that ended up falling incomplete.
  • Jordan Richards was another standout yesterday as a special teams coverage gunner and as a punt protector. The latter position will likely return to Nate Ebner once he comes back from the Olympics, but Richards is making a case for sticking around in what is a very top-heavy safety grouping.
  • The girlfriend watched the game with me last night, and her contribution to the evening was the line, "Fleener? What kind of last name is that? I bet they called him Fleener Weiner when he was a kid." I may have to rethink my plan to kick her out of the house once the games start to matter.
  • Absolutely BRUTAL injury to Malcolm Mitchell - not sure if it was just a straight-up dislocation or a really bad break, but that's likely the last we'll see of him this year. That's a real shame; he wasn't likely to be too much of a factor this year anyway, but he was having a great game until that injury.
  • Glad to see that Blount is already in midseason form when it comes to short yardage.
  • I wish the coaches had dialed up a few QB run plays for Jimmy G. I know he's going to be spending the bulk of his reps in the pocket, but he's pretty mobile. Would have liked to see what he can do as a free runner.
  • Rich Hill must have been happy to see that his boy Kamu Grugier-Hill was wearing the green dot in the second half.
  • 2nd half standout: Jonathan Jones. Great in run support, good closing speed, a handful of nice pass breakups. Cre'Von LeBlanc gets honorable mention, as does Tre Flowers. Straight up power push to force the strip sack and fumble recovery. He's going to get his chances with Nink out.
  • I hate to say it, but I kind of hope LeBlanc doesn't make the team, strictly for selfish reasons, as his name is kind of a pain to type.
  • Not the best outing from Brissett - but at the same time, he's more or less where he should be. That said, he needs to work on his throwing mechanics a bit and get a little quicker in his release. You have to like what you saw out of him as a runner, though.
  • Speaking of runners - congrats on finally making it onto the field, Tyler Gaffney. Could have gone a lot worse.

Lots to like about last night's game, lots of room for improvement, and lots to talk about going forward. And based on the quality of this article, I have lots of work to do to get myself back up to speed. But don't worry, folks; I'll get it together.