We’ve been waiting for this ever since the Patriots lost to Denver in the Post-Season AFC Championship game last season. And no one was disappointed in the way the 1st pre-season game started with the defense forcing 4 turnovers.
PATRIOTS 33 SAINTS 22
Although it was just the first game, there was a lot to look for in deciding just how good this season could be. Questions weren’t fully answered, but there were positive signs…and some areas of concern, based on the victory.
Jimmy G: He was OK. Not great…not terrible…not ready to fill Tom Brady’s shoes. Went 11-18 for 168 yards. After a slow start he improved as the game progressed. Critics remain unconvinced, while others see enough to be comfortable that New England will survive the 1st four games without #12.
Offensive Line: Oh- Oh, looked a lot like last year. Hopefully we’re not saying this as the real games begin. The 1st quarter in particular was a disaster, but things did get better as the game progressed.
Defense: If this was a sample of what’s to come, other teams are in for trouble. Lots of forced turnovers (4), scoring (2 TDs) and aggressive play. Was surprised to see Dont’a Hightower & Jamie Collins play as much as they did, and both looked ready for the real games to start.
Martellus Bennett (TE) looked like the beast we expected. He played in the 1st half and showed all the skills we thought he had, both catching the ball and blocking. Played 37 snaps (+), was thrown to 4 times with 3 catches and a key block on a big run by James White. Fans will be happy with not only his pass catching skills, but need to watch how good this big guy is while blocking for others. Can’t wait to see him and Gronkowski paired up, but probably won’t until Game 1 against Arizona. We can dream they’ll be in against the Panthers in pre-season game 3, but don’t count on it.
Nate Washington (WR) played, but wasn’t a factor. Doubtful to make the opening roster unless more injuries occur to existing corps of wide receivers.
Cre’Von LaBlanc (CB) –what do you mean who? had the play of the game with a great end zone interception. The undrafted free agent will have a tough time sticking, but he certainly had his time in the spotlight Thursday evening at Gillette
Cyrus Jones (CB) looked like a solid 2nd round pick (1st for the Pats), but need to see more of him to get a feel for his possible impact on this year’s team. Had a fumble recovery.
Joe Thuney (LG) has been installed at left guard and it’s looking more & more like it’s his job to lose. Although the O-Line had it’s trouble, he did not look bad in his 1st real action
Jacoby Brissett (QB) showed off his arm, but has to learn there are times you need touch and times you can’t force the play. Overall, the young man was fun to watch as he played the entire 2nd half and does show promise. (7-13, 64 yards) Not about to leapfrog Jimmy G yet!
Malcolm Mitchell (WR) showed the best hands of any WR on the team before (in a gruesome looking play) he extended his elbow and won’t return for at least 3-4 weeks. Look to see the 4th round draft pick on IR, keeping him out of action for the first 8 weeks (Thanks for info from Jeff Kane).
The Good & the Bad
Good: Jamie Collins (23 snaps +), Dont’a Hightower, who is playing with a chip on his shoulder (23 snaps +), Trey Flowers (Blossoming), James White & Tyler Gaffney (9 carries, 64 yards, 1TD)
Bad: Nate Solder, in his 1st game back after an injury riddled 2015, & special teams
One down, 3 to go. Here’s a little about the watch-ability of pre-season games.
Warning: Watching preseason football can be painful.
Of the four pre-season games, only one features players that will actually be on the roster when the opening bell rings. For your enjoyment, here’s a rating of preseason games:
- 1* – “Bubble” players are on the field, as teams don’t want to get roster players hurt
- 2** – at least the 1st half should be of interest
- 3*** – Close to the 1st cut, as key players are in & out of the lineup
- 4**** – This is the only game when you see many of the regulars throughout the entire game
Game 1 vs New Orleans was **, although this year the 2nd half held interest as players that have show some skills played until the end. I believe this is the first time I have watched the entire 1st preseason game with interest.
Game 2 vs Chicago (Thursday, 8/18 8PM Home) *** More regulars playing longer period of time. A few of the walking wounded may actually see some playing time, but not much.
Game 3 vs Carolina (Friday, 8/26 7:30 Road) **** This is the closest the pre-season comes to a real game. Watch beginning to end with a sense of what the strengths & weaknesses of both teams are. Wondering how much Brady will play?
Game 4 vs NYGiants (Thursday, 9/1 7PM Road * Scratch your head while watching this one! You’re ready for the regular season and both teams are holding back and playing Plain Jane football.
It’s another year of football, and it should be outstanding in New England.
(+Snap counts courtesy of Mike Reiss, ESPN Go)