Forget whatever happened last February between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles during Super Bowl LII, that’s all in the past. This year’s Patriots roared out to a 34-7 lead in the second week of the preseason against the Eagles and really reinforced what we all knew all along.
The playoffs don’t matter, it’s what happens in the preseason that really matters the most. Who needs Super Bowl trophies when you can experience Ja’Whaun Bentley returning a fumble 54 yards for a touchdown? Some performances really transcend football and become art- and Tom Brady and the Patriots just Picasso’d their way all over the Eagles and that means that Philadelphia has to vacate their Lombardi Trophy victory and hand it over to the Patriots.
Okay. Fine. Whatever. Watching the Patriots first team trounce the Eagles brought me no joy. It was like we watched what should have happened in Super Bowl LII, as opposed to what actually happened.
Where was the Nick Foles that completed a mere 3 of 9 passes for 44 yards last year? Where was the Patriots pass rush that racked up a ridiculous eight sacks last night? Where was the Stephen Gostkowski that hit all seven of his kicks, including a 49-yarder?
Oh well. C’est la vie.
It’s easy to overreact to a preseason game, but there are real takeaways from this performance.
First, Tom Brady is still Tom Brady. He looks as fantastic as ever, moving around the pocket to avoid pressure better than ever before. He still has zip with the ball and while he didn’t really hit on any of his deep passes (he went 1 for 5 on passes further than 15 yards down the field), he wasn’t presented with too many opportunities. I don’t expect any decline from him this year.
Second, Cordarrelle Patterson is the easy favorite to be the team’s #3 receiver behind Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan. Patterson racked up 4 catches for 51 yards and a touchdown and he was electric after the catch. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is going to have a blast coming up with ways to get Patterson in the open field.
Third, Jeremy Hill further cemented his place ahead of Mike Gillislee on the depth chart. Over the first two preseason games, Hill has 82 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries (4.8 yards per carry). Gillislee has 65 yards on 23 carries (2.8 yards per carry). It’s a pretty straightforward decision for the Patriots coaching staff.
Fourth, the Patriots have depth all across their defensive front seven. Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, Danny Shelton, and Vincent Valentine are a great quartet in the middle, while Trey Flowers, Adrian Clayborn, Deatrich Wise, Adam Butler, Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis, and Trent Harris are all valuable options on the edge. The Patriots clearly can’t keep seven edge rushers, but that’s an infinitely better problem to have compared to last year’s dearth of talent.
And at linebacker, Ja’Whaun Bentley has been a revelation and he joins Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, and probably Marquis Flowers to form the top five players. Christian Sam has also showed promise, while Geneo Grissom remains a perfectly fine end-of-the-depth-chart option.
I expect to see Butler, Davis, Harris, and Sam all competing for one or two of the final roster spots over the next couple weeks.
Beating the Eagles means nothing whatsoever for the Patriots. But it’s how the Patriots won that makes me excited for the upcoming season.