Welcome back to the Fan Notes, everyone!
Yeah, it’s just the preseason, but that’s OK; I haven’t written one of these since February, so I need to get myself back into football shape. Luckily for me, my version of football shape is NOTHING like what any of the men on the field last night are seeking to achieve - but I believe it was Einstein who said, “everything is relative. So you go ahead and have another beer, Alec. You deserve it.”
As far as preseason Week Ones go, the contest between the Patriots and Redskins was about as preseasony and Week Oney as it gets - but there are still some things we can take away from last night’s game, and there were a few surprises, and disappointments, that led me to believe that things are about to get exciting around here over the next few weeks.
As always, preseason Fan Notes consist of me mildly paying attention to the game, not going back and adjusting much of what I wrote while it was going on, and just kind of throwing it up there for you all to do with as you see fit. I’ll be ready to go though come September. I promise.
- The first week of the preseason is always an odd one. I’m excited about the return to football, and it’s hard not to get pumped about a Patriots game...but then it starts, and the whole this is just completely underwhelming. An underserved amount of hype followed by an underwhelming delivery.
- I don’t even want to know how many of my ex-girlfriends have the exact same thing to say about me.
- I had to watch this game on my tablet, courtesy of a seven day free trial of NFL Game Pass that I immediately canceled as soon as it was over. One real downside of watching on an iPad is how small the screen is. But perhaps even bigger of a downside is I miss what is sneaky the best part of the preseason: Boston-area commercials from small businesses. There’s something beautiful and pure about a mid-range car dealership or pawn shop purchasing 30 seconds of airtime during a game where at least half the guys playing it won’t have a job in a few weeks and all the guys watching it are lucky to even have a job at all.
- That Scott Zolak, man. You have to love what he brings to the table as the NFL equivalent of the drunk uncle who makes everyone uncomfortable at holiday dinners. When it comes to parlaying a mediocre career into...well, another mediocre career, Scott Zolak wrote the book.
- Perhaps my favorite Zolak moment was watching him fiddle around with the telestrator like a toddler with a new ball. You could almost hear him saying “hey, wow, neat! You seeing this, Bob? Bob? Bob, are you seeing this? Bob! Look at me!”
- The lucky recipient of the first ever “who the hell is that guy?” remark from me this preseason: #58, rookie Keionta Davis, as the camera panned over the New England sideline just before kickoff. I don’t think I saw him at all after that moment, but rules are rules.
- The second recipient? #22, Jomal Wiltz out of Iowa, who subbed in on 3rd down. His stat sheet has him at 5’10”, 190bs...but if he’s an inch over 5’8” and an ounce over 170 I’ll be amazed.
- After that, I basically lost track. Names like Lewis, Travis, and multiple players wearing the same number.
- Which is to say, don’t let yourself be confused by the other #22, Ralph Webb, who may have been the star of the night. Granted, the bulk of his carries came against the threes, but I don’t know what else he could have done last night to show he’s worth a roster spot.
- Webb now makes what has already been an intriguing camp storyline even more so. Coming into last night I would have bet the RBs for this team come Week 1 would be Michel, Burkhead, Gillislee, and Bolden. But now I’m not so sure.
- Enter Jeremy Hill. Jeremy Hill made a nice case for himself yesterday. Good lateral movement, strong blitz pickup, contributes on special teams, and makes guys miss in the open field. He came into camp leaner than last year, and it’s helping. Between Hill and Gilislee, I’m taking Hill right now.
- New England came out defensively with more or less the starting lineup we were all projecting. Not sure whether I should be happy or terrified about that.
- Great to see Derek Rivers open up his 2018 campaign with a tackle for a loss. Looking for big things from him this season.
- Not so great, however, to see Riley McCarron field the first punt of the day. I’m going to take that as boding so well for Braxton Berrios that they didn’t need to see what he could do out there last night.
- Berrios basically did nothing last night, even with his limited reps. I was hoping to see him receive a lot of targets and maybe break a punt for a nice gain, but nothing. Hopefully he steps it up against the Eagles next week.
- Speaking of receivers - it was Edelman, Dorsett, and Hogan on the opening drive. I take absolutely nothing away from that.
- And it’s that kind of hard-hitting analysis that keeps you all coming back to Pats Pulpit.
- The preseason is literally the only time when you can say “man, Colt McCoy really picked on Stephon Gilmore all night!” without coming across as a complete idiot.
- I’m not worried about Gilmore at all...but still, it’s never the best feeling when your #1 corner is the one giving up all the completions.
- Duron Harmon has decided to wear #21 this year, with Jason McCourty taking #30. That took me a while to figure out.
- The biggest plus I’m taking away from the defensive side of the ball is intial push and run stuffing. Redskins backs couldn’t really get into space; Patriots linemen maintainted their gap discipline and were able to penetrate the backfield and force McCoy to make quick reads - which McCoy did incredibly well, to his credit.
- Brian Hoyer, not so much. The New England offense did jack squat last night, particularly against the ones. Dorsett should have caught what was more or less Hoyer’s only decent throw of the night, but other than that there just wasn’t anything to instill confidence.
- When Bob Socci, Zolak, and Rob Ninkovich decided to stop paying attention to the game right at the start of the 2nd quarter and started talking about Tommy B’s handshake technique and Nink’s outfit and where his family was sitting, it really started to sink in how completely meaningless these games are.
- How can a player’s forward progress be stopped when he’s still in the process of falling forward? I guess it’s preseason for everyone - including the refs.
- I already miss Dion Lewis - if for no other reason than to watch him stand next to Trent Brown in the huddle.
- 8 minutes left in the 1st half. That’s when New England got their first 1st down of the night. Not great - especially seeing as how that was their only 1st down of the entire half until there was less than 30 seconds left to play.
- If somebody wants to keep track of how many time the Patriots get burned by a playaction bootleg this season, I’d be curious to know. It looks like they picked up right where they left off last year. Losing contain continues to be an issue.
- When it became obvious that the offense wasn’t going to be able to do anything at all, they went 1970s football on it and just went run, run, pass, punt.
- The total lack of production doesn’t concern me in the slightest - but what I don’t like are some of the decisions that Hoyer made. Threw directly into coverage on multiple occasions and missed his third reads, who were often open.
- Keep your eye on Ja’Whaun Bentley, folks. He exhibits great patience at the line and knows how to square his shoulders on the tackle. And as a linebacker, the rookie will have a legit shot to make an impact this year.
- Eric Decker and Cordarrelle Patterson out there with the twos late in the first half...hmmm.
- I like the use of hurry-up to start the 3rd quarter. It was a good opportunity to look at different combinations of players in a situational...um...situation. The first drive of the half was New England’s best of the game.
- I’m very much looking forward to next week, when Tommy B will likely be out there for at least a little bit, hopefully with Patterson on the field at the same time. If preseason and training camp is any indicator (note: it isn’t. Not even a little bit), then that could be a combination worth watching this year.
- I’d be lying if I said I was paying all that much attention after that Hill touchdown. I was trying to hold out long enough to see Danny Etling, but I guess Hoyer was lousy enough in the first half to keep him in there a little longer. Oh well. Maybe the plan is to give Tommy B a few drives next week, and then let Etling take it from there.
- I’ll say this right now - if I’m interpreting this new lowering the helmet rule correctly, football as I know it is over and I may have to just stop watching altogether. I really hope I’m reading it wrong. I really, really hope that.
- If I had to pick a sleeper player who put on a great showing that most people won’t remember, I’m going with rookie TE Ryan Izzo. Caught all three of the balls thrown his way and really showed up as a blocker, particularly to spring Webb for his 2nd TD of the day. I’m not sure if the Patriots will keep four tight ends, but if they do, Izzo seems to be in line for that fourth spot.
- Until of course they cut Dwayne Allen in late August because it’s the Patriots and that’s what they do.
- You know what’s really sad? This probably isn’t even the worst game the Patriots will play on Thursday night this season. That honor will undoubtedly go to the Pats/Colts game on Thursday, October 4th. I can also say the exact same thing about any game played by any team on Thursday Night Football.
New England hosts the Eagles this coming Thursday night, hoping to build off any momentum gained from last night’s game. Since it’s Philly, there will undoubtedly be some talk about the Super Bowl...and you know what? That’s fine with me. It’s absolutely amazing how little I care about that loss. Just excited that football is back and I get to break down another game instead of enjoy these waning days of summer.