NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
After 200 days of waiting the Patriots were finally back on the field and playing tackle football. For Patriots fans that hoped to see Darrelle Revis in game action for the first time, we’ll have to wait a little bit longer.
Revis, Tom Brady and the majority of starters sat out the entire game, but there was still plenty to learn from the season’s first preseason game. Who stood out, who disappointed, and who surprised? Here are my takeaways from tonight’s game.
Ryan Mallett still inconsistent: Mallett was his normal self tonight; highly inconsistent on short, touch throws and then flashes as he rips off an impressive downfield completion to convert a 3rd and long. Some of his struggles can be attributed to a shaky offensive line, some can be attributive to the lack of true game reps, but the bottom line is he needs to be more consistent. Mallett is a weird fit in the Patriots short passing offense and I don’t see that changing.
In order for him to be successful the offense needs to be built around him and his ability to drive the ball down the field. If he is asked to make short, touch passes he’s going to struggle. Even though he hasn’t played many game reps, I think at this point Ryan Mallett “is what he is”.
Jimmy Garoppolo “Pops”: While Ryan Mallett came into the game with high expectations, Garoppolo entered with barely any after struggling through most of camp. He quickly changed the narrative showing a command of the offense, the ability to move the ball, and good touch on this passes. Forget the stats (9/13 – 157 -1), I thought Garoppolo did a lot of things well that I look for in a rookie QB. He showed poise and mobility in the pocket, got the ball out of his hand on time, great accuracy, and his ball placement was on point. Garoppolo will come into next week with higher expectations and he will have to build on this positive performance.
Malcolm Butler looks like he belongs: If there was one standout performer that improved their chances of making the roster it was Buttler. He was tested all night long and he always looked to be in tight coverage. Butler showed off strong ball skills and didn’t back down in his first NFL contest. He looked natural in coverage, recognizing routes and anticipating throws. His best attribute in college was his ball skills and that is something that can transfer to the next level. Both he and Travis Hawkins have put together solid training camps and tonight Butler moved ahead. He’s put his name in the mix for the #5 CB position.
Offensive Line Struggles: From the first play to the last play, the Offensive Line struggled to adequately do their jobs. Guards Jordan Devey and Josh Kline both gave up pressures and got blown up on run plays, which lead to a lot of 2nd, 3rd and longs. Nate Solder who is firmly entrenched as the Left Tackle had a poor night giving up multiple pressures to Brian Orakpo, as well as a QB hit. At first glance there are no positives to be taken away from this group.
Chris Jones injury is worrisome: Escaping from preseason games uninjured is the number one priority and the Patriots were unable to come away unscathed. Two days after DT Sealver Siliga was lost with a hand injury, back-up DT Chris Jones went down with an apparent Left Knee injury. The play happened when he got rolled up on my teammate Marcus Forston in the 2nd Quarter and had to be helped off the field. The injury looked pretty bad at first glance and right now we have to hope it’s just a sprain.
If the Patriots were to lose both Siliga and Jones for long stretches of time, they’d have to go outside the organization to add depth. As we saw tonight the back of the roster isn’t exactly loaded with NFL caliber run stuffers.
Defensive Front Seven Depth is a Question: With the Patriots starters sitting out the second unit played the majority of the game. One takeaway from this group is the depth leaves a lot to be desired. The OLB/DE really struggled to set the edge against the run and the Linebackers were terrible in pass coverage. Steve Beauharnais had a number of breakdowns and James Anderson missed key tackles. If injuries were to strike this group the Patriots would struggle to adequate replace any of their key front seven pieces.
Rookie Tight Ends fail to capitalize: When it was learned that Rob Gronkowski, Michael Hoomanawanui, and DJ Williams wouldn’t play I made the comment that “If Justin Jones doesn’t take advantage of this opportunity, he doesn’t deserve to be on this team”. Jones had one chance to make a someone difficult catch and dropped it. He looked stiff and slow to react on the pass. Besides that he was invisible and clearly didn’t do anything to show he deserved to make the team as the 3rd TE.
Stock Up: Jimmy Garappolo, Malcolm Butler, Brian Tyms, Darius Fleming
Stock Down: Ryan Mallett, Stephen Houston/Roy Finch/Jonas Gray, Rookie TEs, Steve Beauharnais, Jordan Devey, Josh Kline