The Patriots wrapped up their week in Philadelphia with a 35-0 thumping of the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night. Despite the Eagles not playing any of their starters, there was a lot to like on both sides of the ball for New England.
The Patriots rushing attack picked up right where it left off, rushing for 207 yards and four touchdowns. Rhamondre Stevenson and JJ Taylor led the way with 159 rushing yards and three touchdowns while Harvey Langi, Chase Winovich, and Ja’whaun Bentley led the way on defense. The Patriots showed for the second straight week that they’ll be a team that’s going to win up front — and they’ll be difficult to push around once the regular season begins.
With that said, let’s take a look at those who stood out on Thursday night.
Winner: QB Cam Newton
Newton only played three series on Thursday night but it was arguably the sharpest he’s looked throwing the ball since week-2 in Seattle last season. Newton went 8 of 9 for 103 yards that was highlighted by Jakobi Meyers 28 yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter. Newton looked comfortable and confident in the pocket, stepping up nicely and delivering the ball on time to his receivers. It was a glimpse of the improvements we have seen Newton make from last year to now. Once the Patriots really start to open up the playbook come week-1 and Newton’s legs become involved, the Patriots offense will be tough to stop — especially if he throws as efficiently as he did on Thursday night.
Winner: QB Mac Jones
Like Newton, Jones also showed poise and precision throwing the football in Thursday nights win. In his first series, Jones help lead a 17-play, 94-yard drive that ended in a JJ Taylor touchdown that started with Jones’s 19-yard strike to N’Keal Harry on 3rd and 13 with the Patriots backed up inside their own ten. He finished the night 13 of 19 for 146 yards and continued to show a comfort in the scheme. The Patriots then opened up in their two-minute attack to start the second half for the second straight week. Jones was 7 of 7 for 66 yards on a drive that finished with a highlight reel touchdown run from JJ Taylor. Jones best ball of the night was a dime up the left sideline on a ball that traveled 50+ yards in the air that led N’Keal Harry for what should have been an easy touchdown. Harry, unfortunately dropped it while diving for the ball, was shaken up on the play and did not return. There’s no question that the Patriots opening day starter will be Cam Newton, but if you’re a Patriots fan, you have to be pretty happy with where Mac is at in his development.
Winner: RB Rhamondre Stevenson
For the second straight week, Rhamondre Stevenson may have been the Patriots best offensive player on the field. Coming off his 127-yard, two-score performance a week ago, Stevenson followed it up with 66 yards on the ground and two more touchdowns in Thursday night’s win. Despite fumbling late in the fourth quarter, Stevenson has shown that he is in the mix to be the Patriots change of pace back (something we saw Rex Burkhead master during his time in Foxborough). His ability to run inside and outside, bouncing off defenders while maintaining his balance has certainly stood out. Whether Stevenson has a big role in 2021 or not, the Patriots running back room has a ton of versatility and depth heading into the future.
Winner: RB JJ Taylor
Taylor was the Patriots’ most efficient runner on Thursday night leading the team with 93 yards on just 12 carries. The second year man out of Arizona, who at one point was looked at as a bubble player, is slowly playing himself a role due to his strong training camp and pre-season. Taylor’s speed and shiftiness make him tough to bring down in the open field. He ripped off a nifty spin move on the way to his 3-yard touchdown run to open up the second half while also catching 3 balls for 18 yards as well. With Harris and White primarily handling the run and passing game situations, the Patriots have solid depth and a special-teamer for the future in JJ Taylor.
Winner: LB Matthew Judon
One of the Patriots’ big-money free agent acquisitions in the offseason was all over the field once again. On the opening series, Judon chased down Joe Flacco after a poor snap, knocked the ball loose, and Jalen Mills recovered the fumble which helped set up the Patriots’ opening score. Judon’s motor and energy has shined all tgrough training camp and the first two preseason games. He is quickly showing why he is the X-factor for a Patriots defense that looks to improve mightily in 2021.
Loser: K Quinn Nordin
There had been nothing but positive things surrounding Quinn Nordin’s training camp unit; Thursday night. The Patriots lone undrafted free agent had been automatic and looked to be gaining ground in the Patriots kicking competition with Nick Folk still out. However, Nordin’s perfect start ended on Thursday night as he missed a 36-yard field goal as well as two extra points. Nordin bounced back hitting a field goal and back-to-back extra points after missing his first three kicks. Bill Belichick talked about consistency being the most important thing at the kicking position last week and with Nordin struggling to find his groove on Thursday night, it looks as if the Quinn Nordin era may have to wait.
Winner: LB Harvey Langi
After a rough game last week, Langi bounced back and may have had the best game of any Patriots defender on Thursday night. Chipping in with a sack, a tackle for loss, two QB hits and an interception, Langi stood out on defense. Langi is a long shot to make the initial 53-man roster, however, Bill Belichick values depth at the linebacker position and with Langi being a contributor on special teams, he may be able to find his way onto the field in 2021 if guys were to go down over the course of the season. After signing with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2019, having a tough recovery back after a car accident followed by a brief stint with the Jets in 2020, Langi is one of the ‘feel good’ stories of training camp.
Winner: CB Joejuan Williams
Williams had a big opportunity on Thursday night starting at outside corner across from JC Jackson. With Stephon Gilmore still out and Jalen Mills struggling on the outside, Williams got the chance to shadow 2021 Heisman winner Devonta Smith for most of the first quarter. Smith didn’t register a catch as Williams was consistently in his back pocket in the times he lined up across him. After being buried on the depth chart due to depth at the secondary position his first two years in New England, Joejuan Williams is playing himself into the conversation to being one of the Patriots more versatile defensive backs in 2021. He can contribute on special teams, play safety, lock down tight ends and even got his shot at playing outside corner on Thursday night. At 6’3, 225 lbs , Williams has the size and length to be able to play anywhere in the secondary when given a fair opportunity.
Loser: WR N’Keal Harry
I don’t mean to kick a man while he’s down, as N’Keal Harry left the stadium in a sling after he hurt his shoulder diving for a Mac Jones deep ball at the end of the first half, but Harry was a non-factor once again. With Devin Asiasi the lone tight end active for the Patriots on Thursday night, many saw it as an opportunity for Harry to thrive given his 6’4 frame and the ability to add some much needed size on the outside. Harry registered just one catch for thirteen yards prior to leaving the game due to injury. On the play he got hurt, Harry beat the cornerback deep on a nicely ran go-route, but struggled to catch the ball in stride for what should have been an easy 50-yard touchdown. Once again, it’s hard to judge him based on one half after leaving due to injury, but as a bubble player with limited targets, Harry wasn’t able to stand out on Thursday night, which makes his status for the team’s initial 53-man roster up in the air.
Winner: Edge Chase Winovich
Fresh off the PUP list this week, Chase Winovich made his presence felt along the Patriots defensive front. After a rough opening series where he picked up a roughing the passer penalty, Winovich bounced back and finished the game strong finishing with a tackle for loss and two sacks in the win. On play saw him knocked down trying to get to Mullens, getting back up, beating his man, and chasing down the QB for the sack. It was a high-motor play and something that Winovich will need to continue to do in order to earn consistent snaps at a positional group that is loaded with talent.