Before the New England Patriots’ 2019 preseason opens Thursday night at Ford Field against the Detroit Lions, let’s revisit how last year’s August slate began.
And, more so, how New England handled its personnel in what was a 26-17 win over the Washington Redskins.
“We played a lot of people,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said during his postgame press conference. “Obviously, we’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’ll evaluate how things went tonight and just move on to the next week.”
Between injuries and coaching decisions, 19 members of New England’s roster did not see the field in last year’s preseason opener.
Of whom, 11 would reside on the initial active roster by September. That list included quarterback Tom Brady, running backs Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead, de-facto wideout Matthew Slater, tight end Rob Gronkowski, offensive linemen Marcus Cannon and Brian Schwenke, defensive end Trey Flowers, plus defensive backs Devin McCourty, Jason McCourty and Jonathan Jones.
The lone Patriots starter that night at Gillette Stadium who’d be released on Labor Day weekend was former restricted free-agent acquisition Mike Gillislee.
Brian Hoyer got the nod under center in the offensive company of Phillip Dorsett, Julian Edelman, Dwayne Allen and fullback James Develin. The top line in front of the QB resembled its eventual regular-season self, only with swingman LaAdrian Waddle starting at right tackle in the absence of the injured Cannon. And on defense, the most notable starter was 2017 third-round pick Derek Rivers, who’d lost all of his rookie year due to a torn ACL.
Hoyer went on to play 60 snaps to lead the Patriots’ offense, while safety Damarius Travis saw a team-high 46 on defense and linebacker Marquis Flowers topped the kicking game with 21 snaps.
On the opposite end of the spectrum were the Patriots who played single-digit snaps from scrimmage. That list included tenured veterans in Develin, Brandon Bolden, James White and Chris Hogan, but also undrafted rookies and late signings ranging from defensive tackles Frank Herron and John Atkins to wide receivers Eric Decker and Paul Turner.
New England’s trips to the end zone versus Washington came via the backfield.
Ex-Cincinnati Bengal Jeremy Hill and Vanderbilt product Ralph Webb combined for three touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions. Hill would secure a spot on the 53-man roster before falling to injured reserve, while Webb began his rookie year on the practice squad and made subsequent stops with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Pittsburgh Steelers.
There were nine Patriots to catch passes in last year’s August opener. Wideout Devin Lucien, who’d returned to the organization that drafted him shortly before training camp, led the way with four receptions for 71 yards.
Tight ends Ryan Izzo, Jacob Hollister and Will Tye also turned targets into completions. As did Hill and Bolden at running back, Henry Poggi at fullback, and Cordarrelle Patterson and sixth-round pick Braxton Berrios at receiver. Three of the nine went on to appear in a game for New England beyond the preseason.
The Patriots registered three sacks against Washington’s Colt McCoy and Kevin Hogan. They arrived courtesy of starting defensive tackle Lawrence Guy and fringe edge-rushers Eric Lee and Trent Harris. Harris, who forced a fumble that Geneo Grissom scooped for 53 yards, proceeded to lead the team in sacks by the end of the preseason and spent all of 2018 on the practice squad.
Seven Patriots notched quarterback hits that evening, including rookie draft choices in linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley and corner Keion Crossen.
LAST ON THE FIELD
A five-yard run by Washington tailback Byron Marshall marked the final play of the exhibition.
The aforementioned Eric Lee, Frank Herron, Trent Harris, Marquis Flowers and Damarius Travis were on the field for it. The same went for Keionta Davis, Nicholas Grigsby, Jomal Wiltz, second-rounder Duke Dawson and rookie free agents J.C. Jackson and A.J. Moore. More than half of whom would play downs in the NFL this past regular season. Four from the defense’s final 11 are still in the Patriots’ fold an August later.