By: Derek Havens
Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich turned up the heat Friday night, combining for three sacks in the Patriots 30-7 win over the Panthers. (USA TODAY Images)
The New England Patriots hosted the Carolina Panthers 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 30-7 victory. –
1) Strong Team Performance: It’s the preseason, so the score doesn’t really matter. What you should be looking (and hoping) for is week-to-week progression as the team gears up for the upcoming season. Overall, I thought the Patriots had a solid, well-rounded performance Friday. It wasn’t perfect, but you have to like what you saw in all three phases of the game.
2) Defense Makes a Statement: The run defense was suffocating tonight. Carolina likes to run the ball, but the Patriots were all over the ground attack. New England controlled their gaps well, set the edge and had control more often than not. The secondary was upgraded during the offseason, but the front seven could be very dangerous if healthy. The unit looks poised for a strong season and played with a lot of confidence throughout the contest.
3) Offense Without Gronk Shows Promise: Tight end Rob Gronkowski did not play Friday night, but there is still optimism he will be able to take the field when the season kicks off in Miami. Obviously, he’s a huge factor in the offense and we hope he can play a full season, but we have seen the offense struggle when he’s missed time.
Friday night showcased some of the other players offensively and offered hope if Gronk wasn’t able to suit up at any point during the upcoming season. Julian Edelman had a very productive night (8 catches, 99 yards), Danny Amendola also got into the mix. We’ve also seen Kenbrell Thompkins and Brandon LaFell make progress in development, but both struggle with consistency at times. Nevertheless, it’s a good sign Brady has several weapons to distribute the ball to during the season.
4) Preparing for Browner’s Suspension: With cornerback, Brandon Browner, suspended for the first four games of the season, it appeared the team was getting ready for his absence. While he isn’t a lock for a starting role, Browner should be in the mix at defensive back, but did not take the field for a defensive snap until the fourth quarter. Malcolm Butler started across from Darrelle Revis, with Alfonzo Dennard, Logan Ryan and Kyle Arrington getting involved as well. When active and healthy, this could be the best — and deepest — cornerback group we’ve seen from New England in many years.
5) Last Look at Some Players: The NFL’s first round of cuts is rapidly approaching. On Tuesday (Aug. 26), all 32 teams must trim their rosters to 75 players by 4 p.m EST. Right now the Patriots roster has 87 players, so at least 12 will not make it to the fourth and final preseason game next week. The coaching staff has a lot to digest and some tough decisions to make in the coming days.
Chandler Jones — The defensive end was all over the field Friday. He registered two sacks and made plays for the Pats in key situations. His continued growth going into his third season would be huge for this defense. So far this year he’s off to a nice start.
Tom Brady — The offense started slow, but the franchise QB got the unit in gear. Brady spread the ball around and put points on the board. He finished 17 of 21 for 204 yards and two touchdowns.
Shane Vereen — The tailback had a good night, highlighted by a 40-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. Vereen displayed what he can bring to the offense and Pats fans should hope to see him on the field the entire year. His playmaking ability is incredible and he adds a dynamic presence that opposing teams will struggle to defend.
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