Five takeaways from the Patriots’ preseason opener, an intensive, 31-3 thrashing of the Lions that implies Bill Belichick’s staff has made probably the most of its first two weeks of follow…
JAKOBI MEYERS SHINES
By most accounts, Patriots coaching camp has typically been an train dominated by the protection — however, nonetheless, undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers has managed to create a buzz among the many receiving corps. And his efficiency within the Pats’ first exhibition ought to solely improve the thrill over what he’s finished in follow.
The 6-foot-2 product of North Carolina State completed with six catches for 69 yards and two touchdowns, and as spectacular as these numbers are for a professional debut, the character of that manufacturing was arguably much more encouraging.
His first two catches have been each nifty snags amid heavy visitors, the second coming ultimately zone after he was held whereas popping out of his reduce. Despite the contact, he fought by and prolonged his arms to reel in Brian Hoyer’s throw.
His different landing got here from Jarrett Stidham on the subsequent drive, when he shook his mark on the line, created area, then sprinted throughout the aim line and caught a brief cross in stride. He confirmed quickness in tight area there, then earlier than the top of the half he went over the center of the sector to make a catch down the sector. After that, he opened the second half with a well-executed drag route that ended with the ball in his arms alongside the left sideline.
There was variety in his routes and his receptions, and completely no proof to corroborate the mix knowledge suggesting he was the second-slowest receiver on this yr’s draft. After that analysis course of, the league’s personal monitoring system rated him as a 50-50 shot to make an NFL roster.
After Thursday, the query doesn’t appear to be whether or not he belongs within the league — however moderately if he wins a distinguished function with the league’s reigning champs.
N’KEAL HARRY POPS, BUT LEAVES
While Meyers by no means heard his title known as through the draft weekend, N’Keal Harry heard his on the opening night time of the festivities, when the Patriots made him their first-round decide. To this level, Harry has reportedly appeared like extra of a venture, however he flashed some attractive abilities in his first preseason tilt — not less than till he left with an obvious leg damage.
Hoyer first went Harry’s method with the Pats dealing with a 3rd and 10, and the rookie executed completely. Working outdoors to the quarterback’s left, Harry went arduous on the cornerback, broke off his route at 12 yards, used his arms to shed the protection, then went horizontal along with his arms prolonged to squeeze the bullet Hoyer had delivered. It was a crisp exhibition of his dimension and energy.
Harry was aligned to the left the subsequent time Hoyer went to him, too. This time, the quarterback slung a cross to Harry’s again shoulder, and even with a defender throughout him he was capable of haul within the cross. Again, the energy of his arms was on show, as was his dimension, along with his 6-foot-4 wingspan simply an excessive amount of for the defender.
He scooted with the ball for a bit after the catch, selecting up 25 yards earlier than being spun down. When he fell, there was no whistle initially — so Harry acquired up and ran a number of yards farther, prompting a Detroit defender to sort out him once more. When he acquired to his toes, it was with a slight limp, and though he rejoined the huddle he was pulled off the sector earlier than the subsequent play and didn’t return.
He left underneath his personal energy, however what’s regarding is that Harry additionally exited considered one of this week’s joint practices with what gave the impression to be the same drawback. At the least, it’s one thing to watch — although it may very well be one thing that prices the rookie invaluable time getting in control with an offense that might use him.
WILL THERE BE A BATTLE FOR THE BACKUP JOB?
After per week by which a lot time and phrases have been spent speaking about the way forward for the beginning quarterback, Tom Brady’s backups acquired their probability behind heart. And each have been wonderful.
The 33-year-old Hoyer appeared a man with varsity expertise enjoying within the JV sport, flexing his command of the offense to regulate the sport and rating on two of his three collection whereas going 12-for-14 on his throws.
Hoyer’s job is presumed by most to be protected, however he performed as if he had one thing to show — and primarily based on the way in which Stidham carried out after subbing in, it might be affordable for Hoyer to be feeling some strain. Stidham completed 14-for-24, selecting up 179 yards and a rating, however the fourth-rounder appeared even higher than a 95.7 ranking would recommend.
There have been some missed throws that he’d wish to have again, certain, however he appeared comfy from begin to end. Physically, he escaped when he wanted to, he navigated the pocket, and he threw the ball extraordinarily nicely, even when underneath strain. On the psychological aspect, he dealt with the two-minute drill effectively earlier than halftime, and he commanded the huddle so successfully that the play clock by no means gave the impression to be a problem, nor did he ever look misplaced whereas surveying the opposite aspect of scrimmage.
Of course, what Stidham noticed from the Lions in Week 1 of the preseason is nothing like he would possible be seeing from a protection that had ready and put in a gameplan designed to destroy them throughout a regular-season contest. Hoyer is aware of what that’s like, which is why his job because the Pats’ major backup is probably going safe. However, if this proves to really be a place to begin for Stidham, and he can construct from right here, it may not less than make for some attention-grabbing dialog for the coaches when deciding who’ll be lively on sport day — if not main as much as roster cuts.
THE PATS’ FRONT SEVEN DOMINATES THE FIRST HALF
The Lions completed the sport with 93 yards of offense, 51 of which got here on their final reliable collection. During the primary half they’d a sequence of collection that produced 4, seven, 5, negative-seven, and negative-13 yards, that ineptitude maybe due partially to Detroit’s total lack of urgency, however definitely spurred on to a major extent by the dominance of New England’s protection entrance.
The Patriots completed with 9 sacks — with the Lions solely dropping again to cross 26 occasions, thoughts you — a telling quantification of simply how a lot their defensive linemen and linebackers had their method. The tone was set early, when a number of gamers that venture to be a part of what the Pats do when the video games depend for actual merely overpowered Detroit’s weak counter. Jamie Collins and Ja’Whaun Bentley registered sacks on back-to-back snaps. Danny Shelton ripped down Tom Savage after collapsing the pocket from the center. John Simon acquired within the combine as a tackler, then made a terrific interception in a leaping play on the line. Adam Butler repeatedly acquired a push as a part of the first-team, Derek Rivers had two sacks, and rookie Chase Winovich had 1.5.
It was a terrific first step for a rebuilt defensive teaching employees, together with former linebacker Jerod Mayo — and a reminder that as gifted because the secondary could be, the entrance seven of the Patriots’ protection can play, too.
WHO PLAYED, AND WHO DIDN’T
One factor that’s at all times attention-grabbing to see within the preseason is solely who performed, who didn’t, and when sure gamers have been deployed. Sometimes it may be telling of their roster standing — however typically, similar to with Jason McCourty a yr in the past, it proves to not matter a lot. That mentioned, Nick Brossette carried the ball 22 occasions, and Brandon Bolden 12, however not one of the Pats’ different operating backs (together with rookie Damien Harris) toted the rock.
At receiver, Maurice Harris made a incredible, one-handed catch for a landing and performed into the second half. Meanwhile, fellow veteran Dontrelle Inman wasn’t actually seen till the second half, however after intermission he made a third-down catch, practically scored a landing on a slant, and confirmed up as a blocker within the run sport. Tight finish Matt LaCosse additionally flashed within the passing sport, nonetheless he hobbled off for the night time earlier than the top of the primary half.
Along the offensive line, Dan Skipper began at left sort out, the place he has lined up at occasions with Brady behind heart throughout camp — although the remainder of the presumed starters in that group didn’t see the sector. Neither did Isaiah Wynn.
On the opposite aspect, Duron Harmon (whose function decreased as final yr progressed) began at security. JC Jackson additionally began within the secondary, manning one outdoors nook, whereas second-round decide Joejuan Williams was on the opposite aspect to begin. Williams caught his nostril in to make a few tackles close to the road, but in addition took a silly late-hit penalty. Collins, Bentley, Butler, and Shelton have been additionally among the many extra noteworthy starters.
In the kicking sport, rookie Jake Bailey dealt with kickoffs and likewise acquired the primary crack at punting. Ryan Allen took over within the second half, and maintained his function because the holder for Stephen Gostkowski (who missed considered one of his two field-goal tries). Braxton Berrios and Gunner Olszewski shared return duties on Detroit’s seven punts.