My last article article I listed my “Five Reasons To Watch The Patriots Pre-Season Game Against The Jaguars”. The next day I like to go back and look at those reasons and find out what we learned about watching the game.

Before I do that I want mention that this was a pretty positive effort from the Patriots overall. The final score of the game was a 47-12 Patriots win, but the score is obviously pretty irrelevant in the pre-season. To me it’s still a great chance to evaluate players, and watch for the development in all 3 phases of the game.


Brady sat out last night’s game, which gave us a chance to get a look at some new faces. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

With Coach Belichick sitting many starters in this game, it gave a great opportunity to really focus on young and new players. On offense, you did not see Tom Brady play, along with many players from the starting unit. On defense, Vince Wilfork and many of the starters did not get into the game. Believe it or not, I still found the game fairly entertaining.

On offense, this Patriots unit was sloppy at the outset, and that is to be expected. However, Brian Hoyer was very sharp, and really showed he belonged to be Brady’s backup. He looked very comfortable in the pocket while playing with mostly backups on the offensive line. Hoyer threw for 1 touchdown, finishing 15-of-21 for 171 yard and was in complete control of the offense.

On defense, the front seven were pretty effective the majority of the game. The first drive, they weren’t that sharp, but as the game progressed they really settled in. The defensive line, and the linebackers also showed the ability to get after the quarterback, which was certainly nice to see. The problem in this game was the secondary. Darius Butler continued to struggle in this game, and Patrick Chung dropped a ball that he should have intercepted. Overall the defensive backs played poorly, which overshadowed a nice performance by the linebackers and the defensive line.

The special teams was certainly a mixed bag. Stephen Gostkowski converted on two field goals. However, on one extra point their was a botched attempt, when the ball sailed over Zoltan Mesko’s hands. On kickoff coverage, on a few attempts the Patriots were solid. However, on one return they got burned badly as Deji Karim had an 84 yard return. This unit was definitely inconsistent.

Overall, I think there were many positives to take away from this game. In the next game I hope to see more of the starters, and continued progress from the backups.

While watching the game I was really focused on the players and positions I had mentioned in my prior post. As I do always I go back and see what I have learned in these areas by watching the game.  Below is my analysis of my “Five Reasons To Watch the Patriots Pre- Season Game Against the Jaguars.”

1. How will Patriots Defense be aligned Thursday Night? Well, last night the defense played for the most part in a 4-3 alignment, although the majority of the players were backups. However, what I noticed was a defensive line that was aggressive, and trying to get up the field. I thought Darryl Richard had a nice game at defensive tackle with a sack and 2 tackles. Landon Cohen was another player who seemed to do a solid job at that position.

However, the standout of the defense had to be Dane Fletcher who seemed to be all over the field from his middle linebacker position. He was seen often shooting the gap, and stopping the Jaguars running game on many plays. Fletcher also had 4 tackles, and was a real force.

Overall, the defense seemed to be pretty aggressive, and intent on getting after the quarterback. We might have seen a glimpse of a change in the Patriots defense from what we have become accustomed to.

2. I want to see What Steven Ridley can bring to the table for the running backs. Ridley was definitely a huge positive in this game. He gained only 64 yards on 16 carries, but finished with 111 all purpose yards (he also had 47 yards receiving) and ran very hard with serious purpose. He also ran for 2 touchdowns, and had one touchdown reception. At times he didn’t have much room to run, and it showed early in the game. However, it will be interesting to see how he runs when he has the first team offensive line in front of him. This game was a definite positive first step for the rookie.

3. How will Nate Solder adapt quickly on the offensive line? Solder I thought did a very nice job in his first game. He did open a few holes for Ridley, and kept the quarterbacks clean in the passing game. He is young, and it will take time for him to develop. However, this was another young player who took a solid first step last night.

4. The battle for the 4th wide receiver begins. Well, if this battle was a professional boxing fight, it would have been over in the first couple of rounds. Taylor Price took a giant step forward in this game. He was very impressive, finishing with 5 catches for 105 yards, and 1 touchdown. He also made a spectacular effort on his touchdown reception, adjusting his body while making the catch and keeping his feet inbounds on the play. He also showed the ability to run after the catch, and really looked solid.

On the flip side, Julian Edelman did not look sharp. He dropped a ball early in the game that a pro wide receiver really needs to make. He ended the game with only one catch for 4 yards.

Brandon Tate did not play in this game, and the bad news for him may be that Price now has the early advantage in the battle for the fourth receiver.

5. Will Ryan Mallett show us a glimpse of the future? I thought Mallett was very good last night. He really surprised me in how comfortable he looked in the pocket. Mallett threw for 164 yards, and completed 12 out of 19 passes. He also threw one touchdown pass.

What impressed me most was his command of the offense in such a short period of time. For the most part his decision making was pretty good. He was also right on target with many of his passes, and also displayed a rocket of an arm.

One pre-season game may not make Mallett the future starting quarterback of the New England Patriots in years to come. However, it will be interesting to see if he can build on this performance in future games this pre-season.

In concluding this was a very good first step for the 2011 New England Patriots. As stated earlier, I hope we see most of the starters in the next game when the Patriots take the field next Thursday August 18th against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.