The New England Patriots never left the Detroit Lions a chance in the two teams’ preseason opener on Thursday night: with both team resting multiple core players, the world champions’ depth reigned supreme and ran away with a decisive 31-3 victory. Along the way, some of the team’s 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: WR Braxton Berrios
Second-year wide receiver Braxton Berrios capped his best week of training camp with a very good outing in the preseason opener. While his stat-line does not exactly jump off the page — he caught three passes for 45 and had four punt returns for 35 — he looked comfortable out there as a route runner and when it came to getting open quickly. His whip route on a 4th and 2 conversion in the second quarter surely made Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola proud.
Winner: The Pass Rush
New England dominated up front from start to finish, and never let the overwhelmed Lions’ offensive line much of a chance. Led by Derek Rivers and Chase Winovich, who registered 2.0 and 1.5 sacks, respectively, the Patriots’ pass rush was ferocious and finished with a total of 9.0 quarterback takedowns. Whether it was through a somewhat watered-down scheme or players simply winning their one-on-one mathchups, Detroit had a tough time keeping rushers at bay — which in turn destroyed the team’s offensive rhythm essentially from the get-go.
Winner: WR Gunner Olszewski
While he was only the second option as the Patriots’ slot receiver and returnman — he lined up for both kickoffs and punts — Gunner Olszewski showed that he certainly belonged on the field. All in all, the undrafted rookie out of Bemidji State who played defensive back in college finished with one catch for 13 yards, one carry for 7, and 3 punt returns for a combined 35. It will be hard for him to make the team this year, but his developmental upside sure was on display on Thursday.
Loser: OC James Ferentz
New England had a pretty good all-around outing against the Lions, but not all was perfect: penalties were a problem as the the team was flagged twelve times for a loss of 135 yards. Two of the infractions were committed by offensive lineman James Ferentz, who cost the Patriots 15 yards for tripping an opponent and later 10 more because of a hold. From a player on the roster bubble, this is certainly not what you want to see.
Winner: The Backup Quarterbacks (Brian Hoyer & Jarrett Stidham)
Between Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham, the Patriots’ backup quarterback situation seems to be in good hands — just like colleague Pat Lane noted earlier today. Hoyer had a terrific outing and finished the contest with 12 completions on 14 attempts for 147 yards and a pair of touchdowns; he was in total control for all of his three drives. Stidham, meanwhile, was no less impressive. Going 14 of 24 for 179 yards and another score, he looked comfortable in the pocket and made good decisions and accurate passes. And even though both went against second and third string defenders, New England has a lot to feel good about at QB.
Loser: CB Duke Dawson Jr.
Duke Dawson’s second year in the NFL continues to be a disappointing one. After already struggling for most of training camp, the 56th overall selection of last year’s draft also failed to inspire any confidence against the Lions. Playing from start to finish, he surrendered multiple receptions and also was flagged for a defensive hold on one of them. The Patriots need to find a way to get his confidence back up or there is a realistic chance their former second-round investment finds himself among the roster cuts on an incredibly deep cornerback depth chart.
Winner: WR Jakobi Meyers
Undrafted rookie signing Jakobi Meyers continues to show that he has a realistic shot at making the Patriots’ 53-man roster: the training camp standout was the team’s most prolific wide receiver on Thursday despite playing only a little more than two quarters. During his time on the field, however, he was terrific and finished with 6 catches for 69 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The numbers do not tell the whole story, though, as Meyers also looked confidence in his routes and when catching footballs in traffic. The hype is real, folks.
Winners: OT Dan Skipper & OG Hjalte Froholdt
The Patriots’ offensive line as a whole looked very good, especially in pass protection. Two players stood out among the group, though, for positive reasons: offensive tackle Dan Skipper and guard Hjalte Froholdt, who both saw considerable action at their respective positions. After showing inconsistencies during practice, the duo was able to flip the switch on game day and looked as good as it did all summer.
Loser: TE Matt LaCosse
Matt LaCosse had an up-and-down day on Thursday. The number one tight end — at least against Detroit — was flagged for a hold on New England’s first possession that put the team behind the chains and ultimately led to a punt, before catching two passes for 37 yards. However, his night ended when he got rolled up while blocking on a running play. While his roster spot appears to be safe, it is always tough for a player to end his night because of injury. LaCosse being classified as a ‘loser’ therefore has more to do about his injury and how it could impact the Patriots’ roster than his actual performance, which was fine.