9. The acquisition of Tommy Kelly gets overlooked, but his acquisition could be the biggest of the off-season besides Amendola. The Patriots pass rush is still a big question mark and it’s important that he provides some interior pass rush. That’s exactly what he did during tonight’s game getting credit for a sack and along with Chandler Jones, forcing a fumble. Kelly is a huge upgrade over Kyle Love if he plays like he did two years ago.
10. Duron Harmon looked like a much better player than Tavon Wilson tonight. Both players were considered major reaches in the last two drafts and the Patriots need one of them to work out. Tonight I was impressed by Harmon’s range from the hash to the sideline and his overall instincts. He was communicating with teammates and looked sure of himself on the field. Tavon Wilson had a number of missed tackles, failed to get deep on two occasions and looked vulnerable most of the night. If the last week in practice and this game is any indication, then Harmon may have passed Wilson on the depth chart (technically they are playing different positions)
11. Dane Fletcher stood out among the backups for his ability to cover the tight end. His loss was understated last season as the Patriots inability to cover TE hurt them all season. Fletcher broke up at least two passes and showed very good awareness in coverage. His spot on the team should be secure and will provide badly needed depth at the position. As of right now I think it’s like the Patriots keep six linebackers – Mayo, Spikes, Hightower, Collins, Fletcher, Beauharnais.
12. Marcus Benard continued his impressive preseason by posting two sacks and getting pressure throughout the night. His sacks came against backups, but it’s encouraging that he is carrying his practice performance to the game. Early in the night we saw Benard lined up as a DT in sub-packages. He really struggled to get any sort of pressure or penetration, but does show that the team is trying to find ways to get him on the field.
13. Besides Benard, I thought Michael Buchanan was the next best backup DE. Buchanan was getting a good jump off the ball and created backside pressure on a number of occasions. Buchanan lost contain a few run plays as he bit on the inside hand-off, but overall I thought it was a decent first showing by the Illini rookie. Defensive End will be the position to watch during the next three preseason games because it’s a position battle that is very close and yet to shake out.
14. Stephen Gostkowski didn’t have a good night and he doesn’t inspire much confidence from me. He makes over 3 million dollars this year and I was very surprised they didn’t bring in any camp competition. When Gostkowski is missing he misses wide right. That’s where he was hitting the ball tonight. Maybe we see another kicker signed this week to keep him on his toes.
15. This week was a huge week for Logan Ryan. He received a vast majority of the reps at CB and got plenty of experience. Corner is the toughest position to play as a rookie and he had his ups and downs. He was beaten on the first pass of the game, but settled in. Ryan is considered a very good tackler for a CB, but missed a tackle that lead to a Greg Salas touchdown. As a whole, the secondary has a lot of work to do, but Logan Ryan provides another capable body that they didn’t have last year.