Thursday night was the first taste of football for 2016, which included some good moments as well as some not-so-good moments. After the Patriots improved to 1-0 on the year with a 34-22 win against the Saints, here’s a quick rundown of some things we learned from the win.
1) Jimmy Garoppolo a work in progress – Garoppolo started off slow Thursday night but overall had a pretty good outing in his first preseason contest of the year. The third-year quarterback was just 3-of-7 to start the game, but from there he went 8-of-11, finishing the night 11-of-18 for 168 yards. One concern was the fact that the Patriots struggled on third down over that span, converting just 2-of-8 (25%) while going 1-of-3 in the red zone. There’s certainly room for improvement, and hopefully he’ll continue to make progress.
2) Tough break for Malcolm Mitchell – Rookie receiver Malcolm Mitchell suffered a pretty gruesome injury during Thursday night’s contest, landing awkwardly after putting his arm down to try and keep his balance and leaving the game with what Jeff Howe and Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald reported was a dislocated elbow. Prior to his injury he led the team with 4 catches on 5 targets for 55 yards. He showed some good moves and body control as he continued to build on a strong preseason. Instead, it looks like he may be sidelined for a bit, but fortunately despite how bad it looked, there seems to at least be a chance his season isn’t over after Howe and Guregian reported that he may just be out 4-weeks.
3) Collins Looks Terrific – Jamie Collins’ interception return for a touchdown was one of the highlights Thursday and the veteran linebacker looks as good as ever at this point in the preseason. That play was another example of his terrific instincts and athleticism as he continues to show why it’s going to be so important for the Patriots to try and get an extension done to keep him here in New England.
4) Derby Shines in the win – Another player who stood out was tight end A.J. Derby, who looked solid in the exhibition opener. Derby has been a player who has made plays in camp but Thursday night was one of his most complete showings yet as he showed up both on offense and on special teams. He continues to make a strong case for himself and he’s certainly a player to watch heading into these final three contests.
Jimmy Garoppolo started off slow but finished strong Thursday night. (USA TODAY Images)
5) Preseason For Coaches too – It’s not often you see a coach draw a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty, but that’s what happened on Thursday night after an assistant was apparently standing on the field of play. That’s something that likely didn’t sit well with Bill Belichick, but fortunately it happened in a preseason game and was most certainly a learning experience that we won’t see again during the regular season.
6) Trey Flowers Highlights Pass Rush – Another memorable play Thursday night was Flowers’ strip sack where he scooped up the fumble and took off 17-yards for the touchdown. That was a big play because it happened in the fourth quarter and put the game out of reach for the Patriots as they went up 31-22. Flowers has showed a lot of promise and plays like that are definitely nice to build on during the preseason.
7) Gaffney the bright spot in the ground game – The Patriots struggled last night running the football, but they did manage to pull off one big play and that came from Tyler Gaffney, who broke off a 44-yard run off of left guard for the touchdown that put the Patriots up 24-16. Things are going well for Gaffney, who between his touchdown and his new baby, he’s got a lot to be happy about.
8) Red Flags With Blount – It’s only the preseason but lead back LeGarrette Blount looked a lot like he did last season, and that’s not a good thing. The veteran didn’t look explosive at all last night, appearing slow trying to get out of the backfield and was brought down before he could really get going on more than one occasion. One of Blount’s strengths is how well he runs when he reaches the second-level and he did manage to break off a 12-yard run, but looking at his total carries there’s reason to be concerned. Overall he had rushes of -2 yards, 1-yard, 12-yards, 1 yard (a touchdown), 3 yards, -2-yards, 4-yards, 4-yards, and -1-yard after finishing with 9 carries for 20 yards (2.2 avg). That’s a stat line that doesn’t exactly make you feel good about the state of their ground game, with Blount’s two 4-yard runs coming in the final quarter of the game against third-string players who likely won’t even be with the Saints by the time the season begins.
Looking at the entire night the Patriots certainly walk away with quite a few things to build off of as they get back to work this week while preparing for next week’s joint practices and exhibition game against the Chicago Bears.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary