The Patriots defeated the Chicago Bears 23-22 in their second preseason game of 2016. Overall there was a lot to like from the game, even though the margin wound up being one point. The Bears took an 11-0 lead early on as the Patriots offense looked sluggish out of the gate. Once the 2nd quarter started, the Patriots offense started developing a rhythm and Garoppolo lead to 2 TD drives to end the quarter, the last one coming in a 2-minute situation.
Jimmy Garoppolo starts slow, picks it up in 2nd quarter: The Patriots backup QB, who will be starting the first four games of the season started off the game slow as the Patriots wanted to get their running game started early. As the game progressed, Jimmy G developed a rhythm out there and was able to move the ball in the 2nd quarter. Most impressively, he was able to lead a TD drive in a 2-minute situation. The last throw of the first half was a dime to TE AJ Derby between two defenders while getting pressured on a TE stunt. Hopefully this one continues to develop confidence for the young QB as the team will need him to carry the team a bit through Week 4. There were a couple questionable throws that could have been intercepted, but overall no turnovers from the young QB is always a positive.
AJ Derby makes highlight reel grabs: I always liked the Patriots 2nd year TE as an ex-QB with very good movement skills for a TE. In a TE class that was below average, the Patriots may have found a gem. Derby is still a work in progress for his overall game, but flashed his ability to wham block off of motion and make difficult catches between defenders. The first notable grab came at the end of the first half, when he split a linebacker and a safety in the end zone with Garoppolo throwing a money pass for a touchdown. The 2nd one came in the 2nd half when Derby made a difficult catch on the sideline while getting his bell rung, the defender that hit him had to leave the game with concussion symptoms. The battle for the #3 TE role between Derby and offseason signing Clay Harbor is getting real interesting, especially with the former 6th rounder making plays this preseason.
Chris Hogan shows why the Patriots signed him: The Patriots invested a significant amount of cap space this year to sign him away from the Buffalo Bills, and he showcased why the team targeted him in this game. Hogan had a couple nifty catches for the Patriots and developed a nice chemistry with Jimmy G. Hogan is going to likely be the Patriots starting X receiver in Week 1 and having that chemistry with Garoppolo is important.
Anthony Johnson impresses: Before tonight’s game, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone outside the state of Louisiana that knew who Anthony Johnson was. The former top recruit flashed tonight with a string of impressive plays in the 2nd quarter, showcasing why he was considered the top recruit out of high school just a few years ago. The Patriots DT depth chart mostly features space eater types that you can’t move with a dump truck, but lacks a bit in the pass rush department. Johnson reportedly slimmed down to 280 from his combine weight of 308 and his quickness showed in the game. Even though he has an uphill battle for a roster spot, I don’t think this performance gets unnoticed by the coaching staff.
OL has better outing, Joe Thuney is the best of the group again: Most Patriots fans probably didn’t know who Joe Thuney was before the draft, which I take full responsibility for not informing the masses. However, two preseason games in and he looks like the Patriots best lineman. His ability to pull, redirect to the 2nd level, and set up screens is on par with a 5-year veteran in the game. With the upgrade from Josh Kline to Joe Thuney, the Patriots OL is starting to round into shape and hopefully play a lot better than the 2nd half of last season.
Trey Flowers builds upon strong first week: The Patriots 2nd year defensive end is having a memorable preseason after having a rookie year wiped by an injury combined with being buried on the roster. With an opportunity to not only win a roster spot, but also potentially significant playing time he is performing well. Whether or not he forces himself into the rotation remains to be seen, but he should get reps with the starting defense next week.