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Patriots vs. Panthers: Fan Notes from the Preseason

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Notes, musings, and observations from Week 3 of the preseason

New England Patriots v Carolina Panthers Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

So...how about that Week 3, eh?

Not going to lie - I straight up fell asleep last night during the game. I watched the first half, then I figured I’d rest my eyes for a few minutes during halftime, and when I opened them up again Brian Hoyer was overthrowing Cordarrelle Patterson late in the fourth quarter.

Now this is pathetic for two reasons. One, I should never fall asleep during a Pats game. And two, it was Friday night, pre-10PM, and I was out like a light. Getting old sucks.

But the good news is it doesn’t seem like I missed anything at all. Of all the preseason games I’ve watched over the years, that one was undoubtedly one of the preseasoniest. So you’ll forgive me for putting as much effort into today’s Fan Notes as the Patriots put into last night’s matchup.

  • Rob Gronkowski played, last night. Screw Lawyer Milloy, Richard Seymour, Logan Mankins, and Malcolm Butler...that was the single most controversial coaching decision of Belichick’s career.
  • The highlight of last night’s game was New England winning the coin toss and deferring for the third straight week. Not too shabby.
  • The more I watch this defensive line, the more excited I get. There’s a lot of versatility, different body types, and each has his own unique skillset to bring to the table. If our D line was Tinder, there’d be something for everyone to swipe right on.
  • That said...absolutely nobody could set the edge last night, from the starters all the way on down. Cam Newton represents a very unique quarterback challenge, but New England has a lot of mobile quarterbacks on the schedule this season, all of whom are very capable of rolling out.
  • If any of you have experience coaching, I’d love to know: you’re a linebacker covering a back/fullback/tight end in the shallow middle zone. A quarterback rolls out of contain and starts to move upfield, with space in front of him. Is the right move abandoning your man and going for the QB, knowing full well he’s just going to lob it over your head and connect with the now open receiver you were supposed to be covering? I guess that makes sense, as it’s guaranteed rushing yards as opposed to a possible drop/another teammate picks up the slack. But man is that frustrating to watch.
  • Glad to see Cam Newton still leading with his face. Diving headfirst into the ground is only a good idea..well, it’s never a good idea.
  • There are still few things more intimidating than watching that blue tent engulf a key player on your team. Every time it happens, this is all I can think of.
  • My personal highlight of the night? This was my last Zolak-called Patriots game. I get to watch the New York feed for the Giants game, and as much as I can’t believe I’m saying it, Carl Banks is millions of times better than Zolak.
  • Last thing I’ll say about him before moving on for good: I genuinely do appreciate him trying to keep it light, making some jokes, and finding ways to make a very boring game more interesting to the casual fan. But the reality is that if you’re watching a Patriots preseason game, especially the second half of one, you aren’t a casual fan. You’re a diehard fan. You’re interested in the guys on the back end of the roster fighting for a spot. You’re curious as to various combination and schemes and looking for some sleeper picks to make the team. So if we’re taking it seriously, you should as well.
  • Carolina’s opening drive was exactly the kind of thing that ruined the Patriots early last season. The read-option gave this team a ton of trouble last year, and it gave them trouble last night. And, just like last season, it ended in a field goal instead of a TD.
  • The good things about long scoring drives are a) it keeps the defense on the field for an extended period and thus represents a good test of fitness at this point in the preseason, and b) gives the coaching staff more film to go over next week.
  • The bad thing about long scoring drives like that Panthers first one is is reminded me how glacially slow football games move now.
  • I don’t know why it took me so long to realize/come to grips with this...but I was a sophomore in high school when most of New England’s 2018 draft picks were born. I guess I won’t be getting selected in a supplemental draft after all.
  • Good for the Panthers fans for loudly booing Tommy B when he first came out.
  • Hmmm...Cam Newton has all day to throw, Panthers receivers wide open, offense has no problem moving down the field. I feel like I’ve seen this Carolina/New England game before.
  • New England’s second drive of the game, which stalled due to a stupid LaAdrian Waddle penalty, was what I believe will be how the Patriots will move the ball a lot this season. Runs to the outside, screens, short passes that rely on receivers to generate yards after the catch, and multilayers receiving routes that help to open up the middle of the field.
  • And the legend of Ja’Whaun Bentley grows. What I like most about him is his lateral movement. Very quick to diagnose run vs. pass and react accordingly.
  • I don’t think I saw any of those stupid helmet rule penalties before I fell asleep, which is nice.
  • If this was the regular season, I’d watch the replay of this game and see what happened on A-gap runs that caused the back to get blown up two yards behind the line every single time. Runs up the middle are the beating heart of any playaction-based scheme. But since it’s preseason, who cares.
  • Edelman looked like a 32 year old receiver coming off an AC injury who missed an entire season last night.
  • Philip Dorsett, on the other hand, looked like he was drafted in the first round by a team that made it all the way to the AFC Finals!
  • I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping that the whole Bud Light Dilly Dilly thing was kind of a 2017 fad...but I guess not.
  • I’d also be lying if I said I thought that Will Tye has any real shot of making this squad.
  • The highlight of Eric Decker’s night was late in the first half when he sprinted out into the huddle, but was promptly told to head back the way he came. For some reason, it gave me flashbacks to ever high school party I ever attended.
  • Was Cyrus Jones always #41? I know that’s a question that can be answered in a Google search that would take less time than it takes me to write this sentence, but at this point Ive already written all these words and the longer this sentence goes on, the more I have to commit to writing it rather than do that Google search.
  • I don’t know if it’s time to officially pull the plug on...oh who am I kidding. Yes I am. So long, Cyrus. Nobody makes the team just because they might possibly regain their value as a return man.
  • So...Patterson is a roster lock, right? He just keeps playing deep into these preseason games, which has me worried that he’s going to be that surprise cut that nobody sees coming.
  • The good news is that, if Patterson does get cut, there is plenty of wide receiver depth behind him so that it won’t be a problem.
  • Beyond all this, the only think I can really remember from what little I saw of the second half was Hoyer looking a little sharper on his throws, and Riley McCarron having what looked like a nice day. Anything good happen with Ryan Izzo? I’ve always liked that kid.

Just one more to go. Then we can all start to care again.