Here are our instant observations from the Patriots 19-17 victory over the Panthers.
Jimmy Garoppolo does not impress against the Panthers defense
Garoppolo was given a chance to shine against one of the top defenses in the league, but he fell flat. His first instinct when he feels pressure is to run away and that led to multiple awful decisions. Tom Brady and Jacoby Brissett both showed a little more poise under pressure. Garoppolo did not do much to make anyone think he can upset the Cardinals in week 1.
D.J. Foster took the field and earned extra time
While LeGarrette Blount and Tyler Gaffney looked great against the top Panthers defensive unit, Foster had to play against the back-ups and was so much better than the competition. He picked up 42 yards on 5 touches and the coaching staff really knew how to use him on the field. I wouldn’t be shocked if he were a stronger runner between the tackles than James White. Maybe we’ll find out next week.
Chris Hogan was the only wide offensive receiver to stand out
Hogan grabbed 5 catches for 62 yards and a touchdown on 6 targets. He was stellar and should be a big part of the offense moving forward. But everyone else was disappointing. We didn’t see much from Julian Edelman, Aaron Dobson, or Keshawn Martin. We didn’t see much from Martellus Bennett, AJ Derby, or Clay Harbor. It was really disappointing.
The offensive line struggled against the Panthers pass rush
It shouldn’t have been a surprise, but the Panthers top tier pass rush got the better of the Patriots offensive line. Marcus Cannon might have been the best offensive lineman for the Patriots, while Joe Thuney looked mortal at times. Thuney is still adjusting to the combination moves of pass rushers. Ted Karras started at right guard, but he was outplayed by Chris Barker, who has spent the better part of the past three seasons on the Patriots practice squad.
Vincent Valentine looks like he is ready for the show
While the offense struggled at times, the defense really stood out and the rookie Valentine looked comfortable on the first team defense next to Malcom Brown. Valentine held his own against double teams and he showed an ability to shed blockers and to make tackles. Terrance Knighton is likely off the squad based on Valentine’s emergence and Knighton’s own inability to get on the field.
Jonathan Freeny still struggles, while Elandon Roberts might be the solution
Freeny struggled to set the edge against the run and he was picked on in coverage. Roberts was by no means perfect, but he flashed potential as a run stuffer and was not a liability in the passing game. Freeny should be behind Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Shea McClellin, Roberts, Kamu Grugier-Hill, and Ramon Humber in the depth chart, but the coaching staff likes him. We’ll see.
It was a good day for Rutgers defensive backs
Patriots safeties Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon, and cornerback Logan Ryan all collected interceptions on the day. All three are graduates from Rutgers and you can be certain they’ll be rubbing that in the faces of the defensive backs all week. The Patriots coverage was pretty good all day.