Another preseason game, another preseason victory for the New England Patriots. With almost the entire starting lineup on both sides of the ball sitting the contest out, the team defeated the Tennessee Titans 22-17. Along the way, some of the Patriots’ players delivered particularly noteworthy performances — for better or for worse. Let’s take a look at some of them, without the benefit of a film review of course.
Winner: DE Chase Winovich
Another preseason game, another strong outing from Chase Winovich. The Patriots’ third-round rookie was again terrific as a pass rusher, finishing the day with a sack and two quarterback hits and consistently challenging the players in front of him. Furthermore, his high motor shined through again on a regular basis. While still going primarily against second and third stringers, Winovich is doing what is expected of him: standing out against his competition.
Winner: SS Terrence Brooks
When the Patriots signed Terrence Brooks in free agency, the belief was that he would again play primarily on special teams and only see little actual action on defense. While this could still very much turn out to be the case, Brooks is making a strong statement for a regular role on defense as well. Against Tennessee, for example, he was all over the field as both a deep and a box safety at times. While the stat sheet reads only three tackles and a pass deflection, the 27-year-old played a solid game.
Winner: RB Damien Harris
After sitting out last week’s preseason opener against the Detroit Lions and receiving only irregular reps during practice lately, Damien Harris burst onto the scene against the Titans on Saturday. He finished the game as the most productive offensive skill player on either side, registering 80 rushing yards on 14 carries and 23 receiving yards on 4 catches. The third-round rookie saw a heavy workload but he responded well no matter his usage.
Loser: CB J.C. Jackson
During joint practices this week, J.C. Jackson looked like the Patriots’ number two cornerback behind Stephon Gilmore. However, his performance did not quite translate to the game. Starting the game, the second-year man surrendered a 20-yard reception on a 3rd and 10 and later was flagged for defensive pass interference resulting in 27 more yards lost. While the catch can happen, the penalty is certainly something Jackson needs to work on considering that he was flagged a team-high nine times last season.
Winner: CB Joejuan Williams
After a slow start into his first ever NFL training camp, Joejuan Williams has come around as of late. The second-round pick, who is projected to primarily play a rotational matchup-specific role this season, looked solid during joint practices with the Titans and capped his week with a good outing during Saturday’s game. He led both teams with two pass-breakups and provided some tight coverage. Williams appears to be improving at a steady rate.
Losers: DE Derek Rivers & DE Shilique Calhoun
Both Derek Rivers and Shilique Calhoun seem to be in make-or-break seasons considering their respective careers so far. This summer, however, the two former third-round draft choices looked very good at times — which is exactly why yesterday’s developments are rather discouraging: after Rivers went down with an injury, Calhoun followed him. And while the initial reports about the latter sound cautiously optimistic, any time lost because of injury could snap the momentum the two built over the course of the summer so far.
Winner: OT Isaiah Wynn
Anything but Isaiah Wynn being the Patriots’ starting left tackle on opening day would be a major surprise at this point: coming off his most active week of the summer, the 23-year-old also saw in-game action for the first time since his Achilles injury last August. He looked as advertised in his 18 snaps and appeared to be comfortable as a pass protector and run blocker, showing his near-flawless technique on a consistent basis.
Winner: LB Calvin Munson
The Patriots are very deep at linebacker, which does not bode well for the depth players at the position. Calvin Munson, however, is not going down without a fight as he proved on Saturday: the third-year man started the game alongside roster lock Ja’Whaun Bentley and took over signal-calling duties when Bentley left the field. In general, he was very active and finished the contest as the team-leader in tackles with eight.
Losers: OG James Ferentz & OG Hjalte Froholdt
New England struggled with penalties yesterday, and three of the twelve flags thrown against the team were produced by James Ferentz and Hjalte Froholdt. While the rookie was flagged twice, Ferentz was penalized once (almost getting a second flag when he shoved a Titans defender after the whistle). Flags were not the only problem, however, as the two linemen also were unable to hold their blocks on a 3rd and 1 rushing attempt in the first quarter. Ferentz later also gave up a sack.
Winner: FB Jakob Johnson
First things first: unless James Develin suffers a serious injury, there is no chance Jakob Johnson makes the 53-man roster — at least in New England. Yesterday, at least, the fullback had a good performance as a lead-blocker and made crucial blocks on two of the Patriots’ touchdown runs. While his spot as an eleventh practice squad player is secure given that he entered the NFL through the league’s international support program, but another team might just scoop him up on waivers if he keeps up his solid performances. It’s a long-shot but not unrealistic.
Winner: WR Jakobi Meyers
In case you may not have heard, Jakobi Meyers is pretty good at football. Yesterday was more proof of that as the undrafted rookie pickup again looked strong against inferior competition: playing deep into the fourth quarter this time around, he was the Patriots’ most productive receiver and finished the game with six catches on six targets for 82 yards. While he briefly left the game because of an apparent issue with his shoulder, Meyers looked comfortable on the field throughout the contest and showed once more that he deserves to make the team.