By: Derek Havens
The New England Patriots kicked off the pre-season in Philadelphia against the Eagles Friday night.
It has been a long seven months since the Patriots took the field last and it was great to see them back in action. Throughout training camp and over the next four weeks, 90 guys will fight for 53 spots on New England’s roster.
Friday night’s game gave fans and analysts the chance to get a more in-depth look at some of these players. Here are five plays that stood out from the game. —
Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount made an impact Friday night. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
Ridley Starts Fast: On the very first play of the game, running back Stevan Ridley broke through the line for a 62-yard gain. The offense was in a two-tight end set — with Jake Ballard and Zach Sudfeld — and Ridley burst through the middle.
My biggest concern with the play was the fact Ridley could not cap off the run with a touchdown. We’ve seen his ability to make more splash plays of 20 plus yards, but it would have been nice to see him scamper into the end zone instead of being caught from behind.
On the plus side, the longest run the Patriots had last season was 47 yards by receiver Julian Edelman in week 10. Friday, the team had two runs of 62 and 51 yards. With so many new faces in the passing game, a stronger running game should make the transition easier.
Talib Gets Burned: On Philadelphia’s first drive, Michael Vick hit DeSean Jackson for a 47-yard touchdown strike over Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib. Talib, who has been one of the best players for New England in practice over the past two weeks, took the outside shade on Jackson and could not keep up as the speedster blew by him.
Safety Steve Gregory seemed out of position and was not able to give adequate help for the deep pass. For a team that was ranked 29th in pass defense last season, that’s certainly not what anyone wanted to see so early into the first action of 2013.
Vereen Split Wide: Ten minutes into the first quarter, Brady hit running back Shane Vereen for a 13-yard touchdown. Vereen was split out wide, then ran a quick fade route to the back left corner of the end zone and made a beautiful toe-tapping grab over Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks.
The Patriots have used Vereen flexed out into the receiver position before, but exploited the mismatch Friday. Based what I have seen in camp, expect more of the same this season.
Blount Force Trauma: LeGarrette Blount ran hard Friday night, his most impressive showing as a Patriot.
With five minutes to go in the second quarter, Blount took a handoff and zig-zagged his way 51-yards to pay dirt. Blount showed tremendous vision and I was impressed with his ability to finish the carry.
Throughout training camp, Blount has looked slow and did not seem to deserve a roster spot. If he can build off of his opening night performance, he’ll find a role on the team. He finished with 11 carries, 101 yards and two touchdowns.
On a side note, undrafted rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld did a great job blocking downfield during the play and helped Blount get into the end zone.
Gostkowski Misses Two: Stephen Gostkowski had a rough night Friday. The Patriots kicker hit from 34 yards, but missed from 44 and 53. New England doesn’t have another kicker on the roster, but they might after this game. A little competition never hurt anybody.
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