NEPD Staff Writer: Matthew Jones
Here are my initial thoughts on the Patriots vs Eagles preseason game. We’ll be back with a full film-room analysis tomorrow.
Most of New England’s top players got the night off, including QB Tom Brady, WRs Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker, TE Aaron Hernandez, OT Sebastian Vollmer, OG Logan Mankins, DT Vince Wilfork, DE Rob Ninkovich, LB Jerod Mayo, CB Devin McCourty, and CB Kyle Arrington. Other inactives included FB Spencer Larsen, WR Jabar Gaffney, TE Daniel Fells, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, OT Matt Kopa, DTs Jonathan Fanene and Gerard Warren, LB Tracy White, CB Alfonzo Dennard, FS Tavon Wilson, and SS James Ihedigbo. RB Stevan Ridley was active after missing practice time with a hamstring injury but did not start.
Ryan Mallett got the start at quarterback. Mallett looked erratic at the start of the game, missing some passes and nearly throwing an early interception. The success on the passing game depended on short screen passes early on. Mallett was intercepted by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie while targeting Deion Branch, but the Eagles were called for a roughing the passer penalty. Brian Hoyer fumbled on a blown assignment by Marcus Cannon. Immediately before the two-minute warning, Hoyer hit Donte’ Stallworth on an intermediate route while scrambling out of the pocket but ended up completing just five of 17 passes for 55 yards. The two quarterbacks both exited and re-entered the game similar to the quarterback rotation from the last week. Ryan Mallett started the second half, with Brian Hoyer rotating in later in the second half.
Shane Vereen started at halfback, and Eric Kettani was active at fullback. Vereen looked smooth running the ball despite some poor run blocking and caught four passes as well. Vereen was able to score on a two-point conversion attempt following Alex Silvestro’s second-quarter touchdown catch. Danny Woodhead was the first back to rotate in (third downs) but dropped two passes early on. Brandon Bolden entered the game in the second quarter and put together a few nice runs but struggled in the passing game; at times the undrafted free agent looked tentative behind the line. Ridley entered the game in the second half but was relatively ineffective. Poor blocking limited the effectiveness of New England’s backs; no one on the team averaged three yards per carry.
The starting wide receivers on offense were Donte’ Stallworth and Deion Branch, with Julian Edelman in the slot. Edelman caught the ball on a screen pass during the team’s second drive and gained a big chunk of yards. Deion Branch beat Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to the inside and was able to gain yards after the catch. Jeremy Ebert dropped an easy pass over the middle on the next play but made a nice play in space in the second quarter. Brian Hoyer targeted Donte’ Stallworth deep but the pass fell incomplete; later the two connected on an impressive intermediate throw. The gameplan for the week seemed more focused on targeting Donte’ Stallworth than Branch, but Branch was nonetheless more productive, grabbing three passes for 51 yards.
Alex Silvestro made the start at tight end; he caught one pass in the first quarter and a touchdown pass in the second quarter. Tyler Urban dropped a pass in the second round.
The starting offensive line from left to right was Nate Solder, Donald Thomas, Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly, and Marcus Cannon. The biggest storyline on the offensive line was how Nate Solder would rebound from his inconsistent preseason debut; he struggled early on against the speed of Philadelphia’s pass rush and was run over by Trent Cole at one point. Marcus Cannon struggled in pass protection as well. Thomas and Wendell looked athletic in the screen game. The second-team offensive line replaced Thomas with Nick McDonald, and Wendell with Dan Koppen. Darrion Weems replaced Marcus Cannon for one snap at right tackle. The line’s struggles in pass protection were matched by their ineffective blocking in the run game; backs were frequently trapped in the backfield by a number of defenders.
Defensive thoughts are on page two.