The New England Patriots finished out the preseason with a 22-20 win on the road against the New York Giants. And while we’re all happy that the preseason is finally over, there was quite a bit to take away from this game, so let’s get into it.
1. D’Angelo Ross makes the most of his start in the secondary: Every preseason, you have a player who comes out of nowhere and jumps onto the radar. Sunday night, it was Ross, who got the start at slot corner with Jonathan Jones being banged up. Ross played extremely well, showing his toughness and willingness to tackle, and also picking a pass off in the end zone. Ross has been on injured reserve and the practice squad and is now fighting for a 53-man roster spot. Whether or not last night was enough to earn him that spot is still unclear, but people certainly know his name after his performance.
2. New England’s pass rush looks dominant: The pass rush appears to be formidable this August. Matthew Judon and Josh Uche have both had a fantastic preseasons, but they are not alone. Chase Winovich has consistently been getting after the passer, and rookie Ronnie Perkins and Christian Barmore have flashed at times, too. The front seven is very deep for the Patriots this year, and it seems that they are going to use their athletes to get after opposing quarterbacks more than they have in past years. This defense is going to be a lot of fun to watch.
3. Why it’s Cam over Mac: The daily question in New England is: Who should the Patriots start at quarterback this season? Well, Bill Belichick may have said in his postgame press conference that there are some tough decisions to make, but for yet another week, the head coach’s actions speak much louder than his words. Once again, Cam Newton got all of the work with the first-team offense, and Mac Jones only came in with the backups. Belichick said that Cam was the starter when Mac was drafted, and nothing he has done since gives any hint that is going to change.
4. Gunner Olszewski is not yet an NFL wide receiver: Olszewski once again showed that he is simply not ready to play receiver at the NFL level. When he gets separation, he is unable to catch the passes thrown his way, and has not come through in any high-leverage situations this preseason. Is it possible that the first-team All-Pro returner doesn’t make the roster this year? I think it is. It’s unlikely, but I do think that there are other options to return punts and kickoffs.
5. At kick returner: Speaking of returning kickoffs, seeing rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson return kicks is painful. It reminded me of when Brandon Bolden would be back there for the Patriots. Interestingly enough, Stevenson is wearing the same No. 38 that Bolden wore back then. I’m not sure who is going to return kicks for New England, but I vote for anyone other than Stevenson or Bolden.
6. A near-perfect night for New England’s kicker competition: Nick Folk and Quinn Nordin both kicked on Thursday night, and it was a perfect night all around until Nordin missed a 54-yarder. The undrafted free agent has not shown the ability to be consistent this offseason, so it might be tough to justify keeping him over the veteran in Folk, who was incredibly consistent last season. I’d still love to see the rookie make the team because of his big leg — and his piercing blue eyes don’t hurt either. Belichick, who is usually unwilling to take chances with special teams, will probably end up keeping Folk. But I’m hopeful Nordin can sneak onto the practice squad.
7. Decisions are looming on the roster bubble: The preseason is a time for players to make a name for themselves. Some have made strides to do that, and others have shown that they simply don’t belong on the 53-man roster. Michael Jackson is a great example of the latter. He is constantly getting beat, and simply isn’t an NFL cornerback. There are others, however, who have made a name for themselves in a positive way. Defensive tackle Akeem Spence has gotten a ton of playing time this preseason, and overall played decent. Defensive back Joejuan Williams looks like he played well enough to lock up a roster spot. I mentioned Ross already this article, but he certainly made a push on Sunday. Yodny Cajuste went from the roster bubble to the swing tackle this offseason, as he has consistently been the best linemen in the second unit. High-priced free agent Henry Anderson looks like he might be on the D-line bubble right now, just based on snaps, so we’ll see what happens with him. And finally, Bill Murray is a guy who has done everything he can to make this team on the interior. The William & Mary product has played special teams, running down on the kickoff and the punt team. Whether it’s going to be enough for these fringe roster guys to push out someone else for a roster spot remains to be seen, but there are a handful who have at least made the decisions difficult these next few days.
8. First impression left by cornerback Shaun Wade: The Patriots acquired Wade via trade earlier this week, and the cornerback was out on the field after only one practice with the team. Wade did get pushed to the ground on the final Hail Mary, but had played pretty well up to that point. The rookie fifth-round pick from Ohio State had shown a willingness to be physical in the run game, and had done a pretty good job covering, as well. It’s unlikely that the Patriots would trade two selections for Wade and then cut him, so I expect him to make the roster. And while he certainly won’t be starting any time soon, he showed some promise last night.
9. J.J. Taylor continues to flash at running back: I feel like every week we’re talking about one or more of New England’s running backs. This week, it’s Taylor. Stevenson continued to run hard, and made some nice moves in space, but Taylor is the one who really flashed last night. He showed some real burst with the ball in his hands, and continuously made defenders miss. Taylor looks to be carving out a role for himself, and is making a case to be a Rex Burkhead-type back this season. The Patriots’ running back room is incredibly deep, and I’m confident that whoever is in the game has the ability to make a big play on every snap. The speed that Taylor showed really stuck out. He’s a guy who deserves a shot to make some of those big plays this regular season.
10. Devin Asiasi getting up to speed at tight end: Asiasi, the third-round pick from last spring, certainly wasn’t in danger of being cut. But we really hadn’t seen much from the tight this preseason. He made a few very nice plays on Sunday, including a nice back-shoulder grab thrown by Jones. Asiasi looks to be the third tight end on the roster and, if the preseason finale was any indication, he should be ready to step in and contribute whenever his number is called. The tight end position is notoriously hard to adapt to in the NFL, and Asiasi finally seems to be getting the hang of it.
Thanks for reading along, and let me know if there were any takeaways that you think I missed. I’ve enjoyed the preseason, but I’m very much looking forward to doing this for a game that counts in two weeks.