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August 12, 2011
Depth Charges Deployed At Foxborough
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net

In the US Navy, depth charges are dumped into the water to try and blow up a submarine.

At Gillette Stadium on Thursday night, the New England Patriots showed the rest of the league that they have a ton of the football kind of depth charges.

Tom Brady can rest easy, so called, with the knowledge that if, God forbid, he should suffer a debilitating injury like he did in 2008, the Patriots are in good hands. Backup quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett performed like seasoned veteran starters against a bunch of Jacksonville Jaguar wannabes, and perhaps made the most positive statement in an evening filled with positive statements for the Patriots. They wound up pasting the Jags, 47-12 in the preseason opener for both teams, and any ill effects of the prolonged NFL lockout didn't seem to affect the Patriots much.

Hoyer and Mallett, both of them former Big Ten quarterbacks, commanded the Patriot offense very efficiently, staying well within themselves and avoiding anything hasty or stupid. Hoyer completed 15 of 21 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown, while Mallett, playing the entire second half in relief of Hoyer, was 12 of 19 for 164 yards and a touchdown. Both quarterbacks were well over the 100-point mark in passer ratings. The two combined for a rating of 109.9.

Game management was the key, but the two slingers, especially Mallett, showed off some nice throws in certain spots. Of particular interest was Mallett, who despite his reputation as a loose cannon, was throwing cannons instead. He looked well disciplined out there and showed off a howitzer for an arm. Some of Mallett's completions were lasers, difficult throws into traffic on quick moving in-cut routes over the middle. Mallett's size (six-foot-seven) allowed many of his throws to have a downward trajectory.

The depth chart for quarterbacks will feature Hoyer at two and Mallett at three, and that won't likely change going into September. But if this game is any indication of the progress of the Patriot quarterbacks, Bill Belichick has to be dancing in his office if no one is watching. Given that this is the first preseason game following the long lockout, and given all the complaints over how poorly some of the practices have gone thanks to no summer OTAs, the performances of both Hoyer and Mallett are remarkable.

Brady wasn't the only starter taking the night off, not by a long shot. His opposite number, David Garrard, didn't play either. For the home team, guys like Chad Ochocinco, Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Rob Gronkowski, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Matt Light, Logan Mankins and Dan Koppen all took the night off as well. Only two starters of repute played; Aaron Hernandez had six catches for 68 yards but also suffered two fumbles, one lost which led to a Jaguar field goal in the first quarter, and Danny Woodhead also suffered a fumble which he managed to recover.

Instead of seeing the A-team, Patriot Nation was treated to guys like Stevan Ridley, Richard Medlin, Taylor Price and Buddy Farnham. Ridley, a third round draft pick out of LSU, rushed for two touchdowns and caught a touchdown pass. He finished with 111 all-purpose yards and did everything except break off a long run from scrimmage. His two rushing touchdowns were both from a yard out, and the second of them, in the third quarter, was a marvelous second effort job after a hole off right tackle was closed, in which he bounced off the defenders and ran around right end into the end zone. His touchdown catch was a 16-yarder in the third quarter where Mallett fired a bee-bee right to him coming out of the left side of the backfield out of the shotgun formation. Overall Ridley looked like the third down back the Patriots hope he will become, sort of the heir apparent to fellow LSU alum Kevin Faulk.

Price, who had an uneventful rookie season last year, seems determined to make a huge comeback in 2011. He caught five passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown catch he made was an 11-yard beauty in the second quarter as he was able to haul in a poorly thrown ball by Hoyer thrown behind him at the very back of the end zone. Early in the third quarter, Price took a quick hitch pass from Mallett at the left sideline, sidestepped a tackler and sprinted 50 yards to the Jacksonville 27. His speed and ability to shake off defenders won't go unnoticed by Belichick and the coaching staff.

Farnham, who is an update of Sean Morey in that he is from Brown University and won't be with the team when things get real, had a nice game and reminded everyone of Troy Brown along the way. Farnham had 3 catches for 34 yards, but also had an interception in the fourth quarter off Todd Bouman, after a pass intended for Greg Ellingson deflected off of Darius Butler and into the arms of Farnham, making him the first wideout since Brown to have a reception and an interception in the same game. The sideline exploded in celebration as Farnham left the field after the pick, and the first person to high-five him was Belichick.

Medlin won't be on the team much longer, but he did have two fourth quarter touchdowns in garbage time. Both runs came from two yards out and simply padded the Patriot point total, not much else.

Defensively, the Patriots sat all of the front three and started many of the back eight (if the Patriots continue in the 3-4, which is decidedly unlikely). You did not get to see Albert Haynesworth, which was expected, but you did not see Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes or Devin McCourty either. As a unit overall, the group was a sieve on the first Jaguar offensive drive but in the end held the Jaguar offense to only four field goals for the game. Jacksonville managed only a three-and-out after the Hernandez fumble on the first offensive play of the game for the Patriots.

Early on, Dane Fletcher helped stabilize the middle and was second in the team with four tackles. Landon Cohen and Jermaine Cunningham provided some nice pressure from the outside and each had a quarterback sack. Darryl Richard also chipped in with two sacks. The Jaguar offense didn't prove to be too hard to handle all game long, so it's not really a good gauge of what the Patriot second string defenders can and cannot do. But in a game like this despite how far behind Jacksonville seems to be on offense, holding them to four field goals is still a nice accomplishment.

Soon all teams will have to send a lot of players packing. The rosters right now stand at 90, with many players on both teams wearing duplicate numbers. Trying to crack a Patriot roster that is coming off a 14-2 season won't be easy at all for most all the guys who played Thursday night. If nothing else, Belichick has to be happy with how well his players performed, with very few glaring mistakes that even a lay football observer would comment on.

A week from now, the Patriots will crank it back up again down in Tampa Bay. Here's hoping that it's the Patriots that keep dropping the depth charges and not that huge pirate ship in the end zone.


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