The Patriots came back from a 17 point deficit to defeat the Washington Redskins in their preseason opener in Foxboro on Thursday night. While it is essentially a meaningless victory that saw the Patriots top players Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski remain on the sidelines, there were some things to notice in the team’s first real contest of the 2018 season.
– Brady’s and Gronkowski’s absences are hardly a surprise. The team has nearly avoided playing Gronk entirely in the preseason throughout the past few years due to his injury history. At 41, Brady is also entitled to take off a night of meaningless football.
– Julian Edelman returned to the lineup for the first time since tearing his ACL last preseason. While he didn’t record a catch and left the game rather frustrated, his ability to sustain a game tempo even for a short period of time is a good sign for his recovery progress.
– The rookies showed up for the Patriots on defense. Linebacker Ju’Whaun Bentley was tied for most tackles on the team with six, while cornerback JC Jackson also added three of his own. Duke Dawson, Christian Sam, and Keion Crossen all contributed as well. These numbers are naturally inflated due to playing against the Redskins second, third, and fourth string players, and are not an indication that the Patriots rookies are going to lead a world class defense. However, their clear ability to jump right in and make an impact is a good sign for the youth and depth of the team.
– While Malcolm Brown got the start at defensive tackle, Danny Shelton appeared to make more of an impact. He plays to his size and showed an ability to either get to the runner or clog a hole and force the runner into oncoming traffic.
– Riley McCarron and Braxton Berrios each took turns returning kick offs. Berrios returned the Patriots only punt of the night. This competition will likely continue through the preseason as the Patriots determine which player provides them with better skill as both a receiver and a returner.
– The Patriots receiving corps, in general, was dismal. They couldn’t seem to get the offense into a rhythm, and only managed 165 receiving yards. Much of this is likely due to the fact that Brian Hoyer was the one throwing the ball, but it still is concerning even early on.
– Ralph Webb was the one highlight from the Patriots offense on Thursday night. The rookie out of Vanderbilt rushed the ball 14 times for 46 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught a two-point conversion. The undrafted rookie showed impressive speed and toughness and is making a name for himself. He has a serious uphill battle as he has to beat out a very crowded running back room, but performances such as the one against the Redskins could help Webb edge out both Mike Gillislee and Jeremy Hill.
Once again, not much can be determined from the first preseason game from the perspective of a fan or analyst. There are certainly some positives and negatives, but our view of the game will be vastly different than Belichick’s view, and you can guarantee that Belichick will tear apart every single play of the game in film this week. The team has a long way to go to round out their roster and determine who the best 53-players are.
Until next time – B$