The New England Patriots played their first game since January, welcoming the New York Giants to Gillette Stadium in both teams’ preseason opener. Although almost no starters played, and they lost, it was great to see the team back out there.
Let’s get to my 10 takeaways from the game.
The backup receivers flashed. Everyone knows that my love for Tre Nixon knows no bounds. After a bad drop in the first half, had a very good second and notched two long catches, both with great adjustments. He wasn’t the only wideout who played well, though.
Kristian Wilkerson had some really nice catches, and Lil’Jordan Humphrey was open across the middle for what felt like the entire second half, showing great concentration on his nice back-shoulder touchdown catch. It’s going to be a fight for any of them to make the roster, (although you know I think Nixon makes it) but they put some real nice plays on film last night to try to make their cases.
Tyquan Thornton is the real deal. Another receiver is going to steal the headlines from last night, and that’s rookie second-round draft pick Tyquan Thornton. He only had two short catches and a touchdown, but the second one was a very nice play to get open, even through contact. He also showed some real willingness to block, which is something that people have been concerned about, especially given his size. It was a very promising start.
Rookie defensive linemen show off some impressive skills. Speaking of rookies, two rookie defensive linemen were some real bright spots. Sam Roberts and LaBryan Ray both flashed at times.
Roberts had multiple pressures, and seemed to blow up a whole drive with his pressure. Ray had a few nice run stuffs, and played almost every position on the line while holding his own no matter where he lined up. It’s an uphill climb for both to make the 53-man team, but they showed some of the skills that they can bring to the field.
Bailey Zappe finds a groove. Zappe really struggled in the first half, but came out and played pretty well in the second. He did have a bad interception, but he showed some good poise, and made nice plays moving around in the pocket. It was a little up and down, but overall, a positive debut for the rookie quarterback.
Cameron McGrone’s athleticism is elite. After he missed virtually all of his rookie season recovering from a torn ACL, we finally got to see the athletic second-year linebacker on the field. One thing that stood out: the athleticism.
McGrone almost had a few interceptions, simply because of his athletic abilities and hustle to the ball. It wasn’t perfect, but there is definitely promise there. He has a long way to go to leapfrog the guys ahead of him on the depth chart, but the Patriots haven’t seen a guy as athletic as him and fellow linebacker Mack Wilson in a very long time.
The new offense remains under wraps. Some of the storylines of training camp has been who the Patriots’ offensive play-caller is going to be and how their scheme adaptations would look on the field. Thursday nigh did not give us any real answers, though.
Both Matt Patricia and Joe Judge had a chance to call plays, and they both had touchdown drives to their name by the end of the game. There wasn’t a ton of this new offense that we’ve heard so much about, but the play-calling was pretty solid for the most part. Both coaches were fairly aggressive, giving Brian Hoyer and Bailey Zappe multiple opportunities to push the ball down the field.
Those are things that will hopefully continue when the regular season starts. For two guys who had never done it before, both Patricia and Judge looked to do a decent job.
Joejuan Williams is toast. Let’s just go ahead and assume that Williams will not be on the Patriots’ roster this year. He struggled again, and was even pulled off the field at one point. The 2019 draft, outside of Damien Harris and Jake Bailey, continues to look like a major disappointment, and Williams is a main culprit here.
The second-rounder has never lived up to his draft stock, and has consistently played poorly when given opportunities. There have been times in camp when he has played well, but he has not been able to find any consistency especially when going against other teams.
The rest of the secondary looked good. It wasn’t perfect, but there were bright spots from almost everyone else in the secondary. Jalen Elliott made quite an impression, for example. He was all over the field and had some really nice open field tackles.
Jack Jones showed the instincts and ball skills that we had heard about when he was coming out. He did a great job blanketing pretty much every receiver he covered. Even Shaun Wade, who has had an up and down camp, played pretty well, making a few nice plays to break up passes.
The secondary has shown a ton of promise in camp, and that continued, for the most part, on Thursday night.
Sometimes, it’s what you don’t see. A vast majority of the starters on both sides of the ball, other than right guard Cole Strange and linebacker Raekwon McMillan, played on Thursday night. What stands out is that neither running back Ty Montgomery nor cornerback Marcus Jones took the field either.
That sends a pretty clear message that both of them have earned what appears to be a significant amount of playing time. Jones was especially interesting, as he is still a rookie.
As for Montgomery, there were some questions about him coming into camp. However, the way he has performed thus far should have been a sign to everyone that he was not just going to make the team but actually get a good chunk of playing time as well.
It will be interesting to see how Jones especially plays this week in joint practices, and if either of them, and the rest of the starters, get any playing time next Friday night versus Carolina.
No serious injuries. The most important thing about preseason games is that you leave them fairly healthy. That was the case in this game. Both offensive tackles Yodny Cajuste and Justin Herron went down with what looked like could be serious knee injuries, but, luckily, appear to have avoided anything serious.
Bill Murray also spent some time in the injury tent, but he was fine as well. You never want to see anyone go down with an injury that is going to prevent them from competing for a roster spot, and it looks like the Patriots missed out on that last night. That is all you can really ask for, given the setting.
So, there you have it. It wasn’t perfect, but football is officially back in New England, and I think that’s freaking great. I’m already pumped and jacked about seeing the Patriots play again next week.