The New England Patriots shut out the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night. There were a lot of positives, and some negatives as well. Not many starters from the Eagles played, but most of New England’s starters did. That leaves us with a bunch to talk about, so let’s get into it.
All three QB’s played, but we’re going to leave Hoyer out of this conversation. Cam Newton looked as good as he ever has in a Patriots uniform throwing the football, and Mac Jones also impressed. Cam showed an ability to move his feet around the pocket and still make good, accurate throws. He hit Jakobi Meyers on a great touchdown strike. It was a pass that we didn’t see much last season. He also did it without running the ball at all. If he can throw the ball this effectively during the season, he’s going to be the starter, and the Patriots are going to be tough to beat.
Mac Jones also played great. He made a risky throw on his first pass of the game, and then was surgical after that. He led a long, methodical drive late in the first half, and also led an up-tempo, no-huddle drive to start the second half. Both drives ended in touchdowns. If this is what the QB battle is going to look like for the rest of camp, Cam Newton is going to be the starter, but Mac Jones is going to be very good next season.
Judon is a Problem
Matthew Judon was the Patriots big defensive free agent signing this offseason. He has looked the part thus far. He has been an absolute monster, and if he keeps this up, he’s going to be a force all season. New England hasn’t had a player who can impact the defense with size, speed, and athleticism the way Judon can in a very long time, and, combined with some of the other edge players they have, they’re going to be able to get after the quarterback quite a bit this year.
Quinn Nordin’s up and down night
I went back and forth about whether to say that Nordin struggled tonight. He certainly did, but I was actually happy with the end result. Why? It’s simple: This is preseason, and preseason is all about dealing with situations that you will have to deal with in games. Nordin missed three kicks, the last oh which wasn’t even close, but then hit two more. Showing that he can fight through the issues that he was having and still make the kicks that he needed to was an extremely important step, in my opinion. Nordin definitely took a step or two back on Thursday night, but showing that he was able to fight through the adversity and finish strong helped him take a step back in the right direction.
Running backs shine again
Once again, the Patriots showed that they have one of the best running back rooms in the NFL. Rhamondre Stevenson ran extremely hard again (even though he had a bad fumble), JJ Taylor showed some real explosion (including a wicked spin move), Sony Michel continues to prove that he is healthy and deserving of carries and targets, James White is still doing ‘James White’ things, and Damien Harris continues to look like the RB1. They may not have the top-end talent, but there isn’t a player in the room that can be cut, so there are going to be some tough decisions to make. Do they trade Sony? Does one of them end up on IR? This is a position that I’ll be watching intently over the next two weeks.
Once again, Williams had an opportunity to play a ton of snaps as the outside corner, and he again showed the ability to help out in that spot. He isn’t going to be the starter necessarily, but he looks like he’ll be able to provide some depth in a position that badly needs some depth.
There are a ton of talented players up front for the Patriots. There is going to be some tough decisions coming up, and the Patriots gave a few players a good amount of money. Davis was not one of them, but he is playing his way into a roster spot anyway. Whose spot he’s going to take is still up for debate, but Davis deserves to make this team.
N’Keal Harry finally got a target! Two targets, to be exact. The first was on a third-and-long conversion that kept Mac Jones’s first drive going, which would end in a touchdown. The next target was a beautiful deep throw from Mac that was right on the money, but Harry still jumped for the ball. He dropped it, landing hard on his shoulder in the process. The separation was there, which is a great sign, but the drop was bad, and the injury even worse. He left the locker room in a sling, and if he’s hurt, they’re going to have to make a decision about what to do with him without being able to trade him. It’s a tough position for a guy who can’t seem to catch a break, and has become a source on contempt for many Patriots fans.
A rule change that benefits the Patriots
The rule change that was talked about last week the inability for defenders to take the legs out from underneath oncoming blockers. This prevents smaller defenders from being able to cause a pile by taking out pulling offensive linemen. This new rule looks like it may greatly benefit the Patriots this year. They love to run the crack toss, which puts a defensive back in space against pulling offensive linemen. With the burst that all the Patriots backs have been running with, and the size and skill of their linemen, this play is going to be nearly impossible to stop. Additionally, if you over commit to it, Cam can simply run the naked bootleg the other way, and there won’t be anyone there to stop him.
A rule change that hurts the Patriots
This change doesn’t appear to be nearly as beneficial for New England. Offensive linemen are no longer allowed to cut block downfield on screen plays. We saw Ted Karras and others (but mostly him), struggle with maintaining their blocks on screen passes Thursday night. The Patriots have always been able to run effective screens, and with the way they’re going to be able to run the ball this year, good screen game will be critical. If they’re expecting to do that, they’re going to have to learn a way to maintain their blocks without cutting the defenders.
Langi bounces back
Last week, Harvey Langi looked like he belonged no where near an NFL field, but he made some explosive plays Thursday night. He had a diving interception after a Justin Bethel deflection, and he had a sack on a blitz. Langi is still very limited in coverage, but he went a long way to making a case as the 53rd man on the roster last night. There’s a long way to go, but you can never have enough guys with good athleticism and instincts.
After a win like this one, it’s easy to get excited about the prospects for this year and the future. Try to remember that the Eagles played almost no starters, so although things looked great, it may not be an accurate representation of what we’ll see on Sundays this fall. Whether or not it means good things for the Patriots moving forward, I enjoyed watching them play a solid team game for 60 minutes again. Here’s hoping the can roll that momentum into the regular season