Defense Looks Good but the Injury to Mitchell is Costly
The Patriots opened the preseason with a 34-22 victory over the New Orleans Saints as the defense stepped up with four turnovers and played very well overall. The team was missing 18 different players including many of their starters on offense so this team will bear little resemblance to the one that takes the field in Arizona.
Edge Setters Shine: One of the questions that’s been asked time and again this offseason has been who would replace Chandler Jones at the defensive end position? Well if tonight’s performance was any indication, the Patriots are going to have a deep and talented group that can bring fresh legs into nearly every play.
With Rob Ninkovich out, Jabaal Sheard continued his torrid summer and was very impressive on the edge. Chris Long and Shea McClellin both looked strong in rushing the passer and also in setting the edge in the running game. Trey Flowers came on and showed that his strong preseason a year ago was no fluke. He, Geneo Grissom and Rufus Johnson give the Patriots a plethora of edge rushers.
Flowers had the play of the game, strip sacking QB Luke McCown, recovering the fumble then rumbling in for a defensive touchdown. It was a fantastic effort during a strong night for the second year player. Jamie Collins also scored a defensive touchdown, returning an interception 42 yards for a score.
Young Corners Step Up: It was a nice night for the Patriots young CB core as they provided good coverage outside and did a good job of jamming at the line of scrimmage and disrupting the timing of the Saints offense.
Jonathan Jones had a couple of nice plays, defending a few passes and Cre’Von LeBlanc had a beauty of a one-armed interception in the end zone. Top draft choice Cyrus Jones recovered a fumble on the Saints first possession. Overall it was a good solid effort in their first NFL action.
QB Play is Good: Jimmy Garoppolo had a decent enough game as the starter. He finished 11 of 18 for 168 yards, including a nicely designed 56-yard screen pass to James White that set up a 1-yard touchdown run from LaGarrette Blount.
With many of his weapons missing including WRs Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, TE Rob Gronkowski and RB Dion Lewis, Garoppolo had to work with the backups for the most part although he had a couple of nice connections with Martellus Bennett.
Jimmy G. still made some questionable decisions with the ball, including one throw in the red zone throwing back across the grain into a sea of white jerseys. But overall he played well and made some nice throws as well. They included the screen pass to White and a nice 24-yard dart to Malcolm Mitchell that put the team in scoring range.
It was a stepping stone, a learning experience and without so many of his weapons, it would be foolish to read any more into things. For Jacoby Brissett, he’s starting from scratch and had the type of performance you’d expect of a rookie QB. He has a strong arm and is athletic. He can take off and get some yardage scrambling. But he’ll have to make his progressions faster and work on his accuracy in the short/intermediate range.
Protection Woes Continue: The starting offensive line of Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, Bryan Stork, Shaq Mason and Marcus Cannon didn’t do a great job of protecting Jimmy G. especially early and wasn’t opening up holes for the running game to get going. That was the biggest offensive takeaway for the evening. Many of the problems we witnessed down the stretch in 2015 were still glaringly apparent and need fixing.
The backups were a bit better but still suffered with consistency. They were able to spring Tyler Gaffney for a 44-yard touchdown run. It was a special moment for Gaffney who spent the past two years on IR.
Mitchell Suffers Gruesome Injury: Patriots rookie WR Malcolm Mitchell was off to a nice start. He had four catches for 54 yards before getting injured and being forced to leave the game. He came down with a catch and as he was being tackled, he put his arm to the turf and his arm bent at an awkward angle and he immediately ran off the field in obvious, intense pain.
But Jeff Howe from the Boston Herald reported that he suffered a dislocated elbow and he should return in about four weeks.
The game will give Bill Belichick and the coaching staff plenty of film to watch, good and bad and get the team on the right track. There is still a lot of work to be done but they are off to a solid start.
The team will be off both Friday and Saturday and returns to training camp practice on Sunday morning. The session is scheduled to start at 9:15 a.m.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2016 Patriots PreSeason 2016 Patriots Roster Bill Belichick Dion Lewis Dont'a Hightower Jabaal Sheard Jamie Collins Jimmy Garoppolo Julian Edelman LaGarrette Blount Malcolm Butler New England Patriots New Orleans Saints NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Patriots Training Camp Photos Rob Gronkowski Rob Ninkovich Tom Brady Trey Flowers