Eagles vs Patriots: Five Thoughts on Friday's Preseason Victory

Derek Havens
August 16, 2014 at 09:01am ET

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All three Patriots quarterbacks played well Friday night, carving up the Eagles in a 42-35 victory. (USA TODAY Images)

The New England Patriots hosted the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday night.

Friday night's game gave fans and analysts the chance to get an in-depth look at some of these players in a more competitive setting than on the practice field. Here are five takeaways from the 42-35 victory. -

1) Improved performance: Last week's game was ugly, but the Patriots put together a better outing Friday night. It wasn't perfect, but there were a lot more positives than the first exhibition contest. The offense was well-rounded and the defense made some plays. The score doesn't really matter in preseason, but you want to see improvement and development from week-to-week. No apparent injuries is one of the biggest positives from the night.

2) Quarterbacks Played Well: Tom Brady started, Jimmy Garoppolo followed and Ryan Mallett finished the game. All three signal-callers played well and put points on the board. I love what Garoppolo has shown through two contests, a lot of poise in the pocket and keeps his eyes downfield. Mallett was really impressive, putting some nice touch on his passes. The QB competition seems to be pushing all three players, even though the starter is set in stone.

3) Safety Position Still Unclear: If there's one position I wish we could have some clarity on, it would be the safety spot opposite of Devin McCourty. Throughout training camp and into the preseason there has been a rotation of several players.

Friday night wasn't much different. Pat Chung, Kyle Arrington, Logan Ryan, Nate Ebner and Jemea Thomas all saw time at safety. Tavon Wilson, whose also gotten reps at the position, did not dress for the game. If I had to pick a "starter" for week one right now, I might say Chung, but it's by no means a certainty. It makes you wonder how much of a personnel rotation we'll see in the regular season.

4) Darkhorses Make a Push for the 53: Every year there's a player or two who sneak onto New England's roster. This year cornerback, Malcolm Butler, stands out as a guy who looks like a strong candidate. He continues to make plays in practice and in the preseason, taking advantage of his opportunities.

Wide receiver, Brian Tyms, is also starting to make a case for a roster spot. Second-year wideout, Josh Boyce, has struggled and Tyms has shown the ability to make plays downfield. I would like to see him get more opportunities with the first-team offense, particularly Brady at QB, to see if he can compete with more talented players. Something to monitor moving forward.

5) Special Teams Units Struggle: One of the biggest negatives from Friday night's game was the Patriots' special teams performance. A missed blocking assignment by rookie long snapper, Tyler Ott, led to a Ryan Allen blocked punt. Stephen Gostkowski later missed a 43-yard attempt wide left. Needless to say the unit has a tough week of practice ahead of them, starting with coach Scott O'Brien in the film room.

Three Stars:

CB Malcolm Butler -- The rookie defensive back gets the start across from Darrelle Revis, forces two fumbles and recovers one of them. He continues to stand out on the practice field and in games. The undrafted cornerback has shown the willingness and ability to tackle as well as perform adequately in coverage. He looks like he belongs on an NFL field.

QB Ryan Mallett -- With rookie, Jimmy Garoppolo, getting most of the attention coming into the contest, Mallett stepped up and delivered a big performance. He went 7-11, for 92 yards and a touchdown. Mallett's touch on his intermediate - deep passes was great to see.

RB Jonas Gray -- The Patriots wanted to establish the run and Gray carried the rock well. He rushed for 98 yards on 12 attempts, finding the holes well and finishing runs with authority. Last week he looked tentative, but he displayed some nice burst and assertiveness in this contest.

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