Football is back!
Yeah, I know - it’s just the preseason. And more than that, it’s just Week 1 of the preseason. The first of four completely meaningless games in which we’ll see no gameplanning, vanilla formations, a marked lack of starters, and a bunch of guys all vying for a spot on a roster somewhere in this league. But still - football is back! There will be one Patriots game a week from now until their Week 11 bye, and that’s just fine with me.
When it comes to watching a preseason game as a fan, if you’re not planning on tuning in tonight, I certainly don’t blame you. There won’t be too much action relative to what’s going to be taking place a month from now. We don’t know who will even play, there really isn’t any strategy involved, and there is very little we’ll be able to take away from this one in terms of definitive analysis. So if there’s something you’d rather be doing with this precious summer night, more power to you.
However, if you’re like me and have no friends and thus have nothing better to do and are way more excited about tonight’s game between the Patriots and Redskins than you should be, here are five questions you can ask yourself as we start to see this 2018 team take shape.
Which receivers will see the field? The receiver position remains one of the most intriguing on the team right now, and the one with the most questions. And while I don’t expect the players that see a lot of time tonight to be any indicator of who will be on the final 53 come September, I am curious as to who will be playing and how they’ll fare. Will Julian Edelman see the field to shake off some rust? Will Cordarrelle Patterson run any deep routes? Which of the back-end guys will show up? If you’re looking for a receiver in particular to keep your eye on, I recommend Braxton Berrios, New England’s sixth round pick out of Miami. He has turned some heads in training camp, particularly as a punt returner, and there always seems to be one player who crushes it in these games and works his way onto the team. Regardless, I’ll be paying extra close attention to the receiving corps tonight.
Where will Isaiah Wynn line up? I’m not sure if he’ll even suit up tonight, but if he does, where will the Patriots play him? Guard? Tackle? Versatility is one of the main reasons the Pats used their first pick of the draft on Wynn, and I’ll be curious to see what they do with him. Offensive and defensive line are the two areas where you can actually glean something from these games - not so much from the lines as a whole, but from individual skillsets. Can a guy stick his blocks? Does he get good penetration? These are pretty cut and dry aspects of the game, and I’m hoping to see Wynn see snaps at both guard and tackle, to be honest - but let’s see where he lines up first.
Will QB Danny Etling make any strides? Tommy B rarely plays in the first game of the preseason, and when he does, it’s never for more than a series or two. So that means we’ll be getting a heavy dose of Brian Hoyer and 7th rounder Danny Etling tonight. The Patriots know what they have in Hoyer; he has held Brady’s clipboard before and has a decent amount of experience as a quarterback. But Etling has been struggling in camp so far, and I would imagine the coaching staff wants to get him into a game situation so they can measure what, if any, progress he has made so far. In a perfect world, Etling won’t be seeing the field at any point for the next several years...but it’s always good to see what you have in a young QB. Hopefully he can make the most of his reps tonight.
How does Jacob Hollister look? Hollister is one of the players that drew praise from Bill Belichick during training camp, and at the moment he looks poised to be the third tight end behind Gronk and Dwayne Allen. Allen is little more than a glorified lineman, and Hollister could represent the move tight end that can motion out into the receiver position that the Patriots have been looking for. Hollister will be catching balls from Hoyer and Etling, so it isn’t so much his numbers that we should be paying attention to; it’s more how they decide to use him. Will he be blocking a lot? Running a lot of routes? Are his blocks solid and his routes crisp? If you’re a total maniac and plan on rewatching the All-22 of this contest, I recommend paying particular attention to Hollister and his on-field awareness.
Who the hell is that guy? One of the most fun parts of the preseason, if you’re a die-hard fan at least, is watching a Patriots game with absolutely no clue who a third to half of the players on the field are. Random last names, confusing numbers, odd combinations of players...I’m always completely lost out there. The roster will begin to take shape as the preseason goes on, but tonight’s game will be a fun opportunity to have no idea who anyone is and watch guys with strange numbers - sometimes two guys wearing the same number - do their thing. It allows us to watch guys with little to no expectations of how they’re supposed to perform, and gives us the opportunity to pick some early camp favorites.
Bonus question: How long before I can correctly spell Cordarrelle Patterson on the first try? I’m zero for life thus far. Every year there’s a player whose name I just can’t seem to get, and it looks like Patterson is the frontrunner this year. If Corey Bojorquez makes the roster, I might be in a lot of trouble.