The New England Patriots fought back from a 17-0 deficit to defeat Washington 26-17 and there’s a lot to break down. Keep in mind that this is the first game of the preseason so we can’t make any big judgments on the team, but we can still raise some questions.
1. Crossing routes and in-patterns are still a question mark.
The Patriots first team secondary struggled with crossing routes in 2017- a staple of the Andy Reid-style Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles offenses- because it’s a difficult route to cover when the receiver gets the defensive back in isolation. As soon as the receiver breaks, they have the edge on the defensive back until either the coverage closes the gap or another player takes away the advantage.
We saw Stephon Gilmore get beaten pretty easily on a 25-yard gain by a fellow named Robert Davis, who was a sixth round pick out of Georgia State in 2017 that spent his rookie season on the practice squad. That wasn’t Julio Jones.
But these are the routes that teams will be using more frequently against the Patriots because of their success last season. We’ll want to see some progress in execution ability over the next three games.
2. My cousin Jeremy Hill is a monster and Ralph Webb looks like he has real potential.
Hill and Webb combined for 97 yards and 3 touchdowns on 25 carries. Webb also contributed two 2-point conversions, while Hill added in 14 yards on 2 catches and some very nice pass blocking. Hill is a powerful one-cut runner that reminds a little of Stevan Ridley. He rotated with Mike Gillislee over the first three quarters and Hill had the clear advantage. Gillislee was also the running back on the failed exchange with Danny Etling that resulted in a fumble.
Webb showed incredible burst at the line of scrimmage and in the hole to either avoid defenders or pick up yards after contact. He’ll have to do more to show if he can break tackles, but it was a fantastic first performance.
My only complaint is that Hill (wearing #33) and Webb (wearing #22) should swap numbers. It just has to happen..
3. Brian Hoyer didn’t do much for the receivers in the first half.
Hoyer appeared to have a great rapport with Devin Lucien (4 catches, 71 yards), but he did no favors for Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson. Both of Patterson’s receptions were very contested, while Dorsett wasn’t given a chance to catch either of his targets. Hogan only play 7 snaps and picked up a penalty and a drop, but he wasn’t given much of a chance to catch the ball, either.
There was just a lack of velocity on some passes, and then an elongated wind-up on others.
3. Can any linebacker cover a running back?
Kyle Van Noy allowed a 25-yard touchdown dump-off to running back Byron Marshall and the question remains of whether the Patriots can cover running backs. On a similar note, Geneo Grissom did well as a linebacker, while Elandon Roberts is ahead of Marquis Flowers in the depth chart. Ja’Whaun Bentley had a good game and could earn more time with the top unit.
4. It was great to see injured players back on the field.
We saw Dont’a Hightower, Derek Rivers, and Vincent Valentine on defense, along with Julian Edelman on offense. Hightower was active, while Edelman looked very quick. Rivers has some potential that he’ll work to unlock.
5. Trent Brown did a good job at left tackle.
Brown earned the start with Joe Thuney at left guard. Rookie Isaiah Wynn was a back-up, but I would be interested in his capabilities at right tackle because LaAdrian Waddle did not have a great game.
6. The Patriots have great depth on their defensive front.
While the pass coverage struggled early on, the Patriots defensive front did a good job of stopping the run and forcing McCoy to go on the move. The Patriots held Washington running backs to 47 yards on 16 carries (2.9 yards per carry) in the first half and racked up 8 quarterback hits on the day.