We’ve now reached the halfway point in the pre-season (1-1) after the Patriots defeated the New Orleans Saints 26-24 Saturday night behind Jimmy Garoppolo…and few of the Patriots questions have been answered. Let’s take a quick look at where the team stands as regular season quickly (yes, I’m smiling) approaches.
The jury is still out (oops, bad choice of words there) on Jimmy G. At times he looks like the QB of the future. Saturday night’s scramble leading to a TD pass as the 1st half wound down is an example of him at his best. Unfortunately, in the same game, his interception was an obvious mistake that hopefully he will learn from. As highlighted in the Patriots.com post game Game Notes– “When he came in to replace Tom Brady he executed a two-minute drill prior to halftime and completed 5-of-5 passes for 65 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown pass to WR Chris Harper.
Patriot fans need to take a step away from the immediacy of the team need (re: Brady possible suspension) and realize this is just his second year in the NFL. Very few QBs are instant successes and the growing pains can be frustrating for both the player and the rabid team followers.
“Last week the pressure got to me a little bit, and it’s never good to get sacked or hit that many times,”
The only things that seem certain at this stage are:
- All the worry when the Patriots lost Revis Island, Kyle Arrington and Brandon Browner was justified
- Malcolm Butler still seems like the real thing. His limited play in the pre-season games is an indication Head Coach Bill Belichick has seen enough of him in practice to feel confident in him and needs to look at others in game situations. How things have changed for Butler since “the play”, going from a question mark that others gave up on to the Patriots best corner!
- CB Tarell Brown made his Patriots debut after missing the first preseason game against Green Bay with mixed results
- Devin McCourty, an above average safety, is a below average CB. He has acknowledged he isn’t comfortable at his old position.
Commenting on his play Saturday night in New Orleans he was honest (tsk, tsk, a Patriot player actually saying something) when he said “It didn’t feel great and I don’t think it looked great.” He also acknowledged he doesn’t have much say in where he plays “You can’t control where you play. Everyone’s playing a position for the team, and overall, what’s best for the team. I don’t think what you think or feel matters.”
- Like last season at this time, the offensive line is still a work in progress. The return of Sebastion Volmer and Nate Solder to game shape will give rookies Shaq Mason and Tre’ Jackson a chance to breathe as they adapt to the speed of the NFL. Neither Mason nor Jackson has yet made that step-up expected of them, but give them time as both show promise and are still learning the game at a whole new level. The hope is that the unit jells as the season progresses, as they did in 2014.
- Saturday night rookie free agent David Andrews made his second straight start at center
- With wide receivers dropping like flies my early optimism for this year is quickly getting clouded with question marks. Brandon LaFell still hasn’t played a down, Brian Tyms may be out for the season with a foot injury, Aaron Dobson’s return to health was an illusion, Josh Boyce continues to shine in practice and disappear at game time. Key players (Julian Edelman-injury/Rob Gronkowski/Scott Chandler-injury) continue to watch from the sidelines, so it is hard to have a true evaluation of just how strong/weak the Pats are, but rookie Chris Harper has taken the ball and run with it in their absence. Seven year veteran Brandon Gibson has looked good, but also was injured late in the game.
The depth looks so bad now that Mike Reiss wrote in his Sunday column “If (Kenbrell)Thompkins doesn’t stick with the Raiders, I could see the Patriots having interest in his return” In addition the Pats reportedly brought Reggie Wayne in for a physical (read my Reggie Wayne article written just before Training Camp)
There’s more, but that’s enough for now to keep fans thinking. No panic, but concern, is in the air. Just keep thinking, Bill Belichick is the best Head Coach in the NFL and he finds ways to win. That’s a fact that can’t be denied.
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