FOXBOROUGH – After some six months of waiting, the biggest deal to come out of the Patriot preseason opener was that the reviled NFL commissioner was in attendance.
Three unassuming Patriot fans got duped into having their picture taken with Roger Goodell. The picture hit the Internet. Goodell got some phony and undeserved goodwill for the picture, giving the totally false impression that Patriot Nation has buried the hatchet. Nobody sells himself or his brand like Goodell.
Of course, Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys are now next in line to attack Goodell and his leadership, which could turn DeflateGate into a huge footnote. But that’s another story for another day.
In the end, the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Patriots, 31-24. If this were the real deal, the Patriots would have killed them. Jacksonville has never beaten the Patriots in the regular season, and the one win the Jaguars have over the Patriots was a playoff game with Scott Zolak as the starting Patriot quarterback. Zolak, who is approaching Jerry Remy status in the broadcast booth with Bob Socci, was filling in for an injured Drew Bledsoe and Jax defeated the Patriots 25-10 in a 1998 postseason game at AllTel Stadium.
But the Patriots rested most every starter. Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett, Dion Lewis, Brandon Boldin, LaAdrian Waddle, Elandon Roberts, Jonathan Freeny, Jordan Richards and Cyrus Jones were the only players who have had any sort of previous time with the Patriots that you have likely heard of. Otherwise, the real dealers sat on the bench and watched. No chance at anyone of consequence getting hurt.
That said, here are some myths and facts that you can take away from Thursday night’s game.
Myth: What a ridiculous comment from rookie Jaguar running back Leonard Fournette:
The NFL game, he said, “isn’t as fast as I thought.” He went on to say that the SEC is much faster than the NFL. To quote NESN’s Dennis Eckersley, “Yuck!” If Fournette was a Patriot, Mr. T. could not possibly enact more pity on this guy at his next Patriot practice. Of course, Bill Belichick would have probably coached him up enough to shut him up and not let such slop come out of his mouth.
Once Fournette starts playing against top NFL defenses, instead of the JV squad he faced Thursday night, he might back off that statement a bit.
Fact: Cyrus Jones had better learn the NFL game, and soon:
Jones is fast becoming the worst Patriot second round draft pick since Chad Jackson, a Florida wideout taken in 2006. Twice on Thursday night he was burned on long plays, a 97-yard bomb in the second quarter to Keelan Cole, and a 42-yard strike to Dede Westbrook in the fourth quarter. Either no or inadequate safety help was provided on either play, but Jones was clearly over-matched and badly outplayed on both plays.
On the 97-yard play, Zolak said on the radio broadcast that “he has to compete better than that!” No doubt Belichick thinks much the same. Combine that with the kickoff return he attempted from six yards deep in the end zone, and Jones is skating on thin ice. Those who know him say that he a smart player and wants to succeed. But when Zolak makes that kind of an observation, that’s not good.
Myth: Austin Carr will be this year’s Malcolm Mitchell in Super Bowl LII:
Carr, who was the Big Ten reception leader out of Northwestern, has become the training camp darling so far in 2017. The undrafted free agent has received rave reviews from those who have seen him, and he strutted his stuff on Thursday night on the final drive of the first half. He made a nifty sideline catch, not quite like Julio Jones, but good enough for all to take notice. Then he caught a nine-yard scoring pass from Garoppolo just before halftime, a leaping grab at the back of the end zone. Garoppolo put it in a place where only Carr could catch it, and Carr made a beauty of a catch.
But it will take someone getting injured for Carr to even have a speck of a chance to make this team. Maybe Carr can learn how to tackle in kick coverage. Otherwise, he’s like Ray Ventrone, Bam Childress, or the pride of Brown University, Sean Morey.
Fact: If Garoppolo wants a fulfilling NFL career, it will have to be somewhere other than Foxborough, Massachusetts:
One has to wonder how much longer Garoppolo can stand the situation he is in. Of course, he can always accept the franchise tag next season, and receive north of $20 million to hold a clipboard. But as long as Tom Brady chooses to continue his NFL career, he is the starting Patriot quarterback.
There is no question Garoppolo should be starting somewhere in this league. However, if anything should give Garoppolo pause on “should he leave the Patriots”, one need only look back at Matt Cassel. Brady’s 2008 fill-in, Cassel emerged quite dramatically and led the Patriots to an 11-5 record in his one and only season of glory. The 11-5 record didn’t get the Patriots into the postseason that year, but it did establish Cassel as a legit NFL starter. At season’s end, the Patriots dealt him to Kansas City, and he has been a shell of his 2008 self since. Would the same happen to Garoppolo? If Garoppolo thinks he is wasting his prime years in New England and wants to leave that badly, he needs to think about Cassel and the good reasons to stay put, if he is still the heir apparent to Brady.
Myth: Stephen Gostkowski needs someone to come into camp and do for him like Garoppolo did for Brady when he was taken in the second round of the 2014 draft:
Brady has been a maniac since Garoppolo’s arrival. Does Gostkowski need the same? Since the missed extra point in the playoff loss at Denver in 2015, Gostkowski has not been as automatic anymore. He missed badly on a 56-yarder on Thursday night. He doinked an extra point in Super Bowl LI, which necessitated two two-point conversions instead of one in the historic comeback. He missed five conversions in 2016.
Gostkowski is fine. He has some margin for error. Conversions are now 43 yards as of last year, in case that was lost on some of you. He has a great team around him to work out his yips. Besides, his kickoffs did as much to win the Super Bowl as everyone else’s heroics. He has become a master at kicking the ball just not quite into the end zone but deep enough to prevent returns beyond the 20-yard line. Keep him and let him get mentally right in his due time. Physically, he’s still the great kicker he has always been.
Fact: Belichick, Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels have a ton of work to do with talent evaluation and sorting out who will make the final 53-man roster:
Along with Jones, you had Richards, Waddle and newcomer Kony Ealy who might be playing themselves out of roster spots. Why did Lewis see so much action at running back on Thursday night when all the others grabbed a ton of bench? On that 79-yard touchdown run by Corey Grant, Jason Thompson whiffed badly on a tackle at the first level, then Richards took a hideous angle on Grant at the second level, sending him on his long touchdown gallop. Patricia was often seen with his head in his hands, saying “Oh, my gosh” or other more colorful words.
The nice thing is that this game serves just this purpose. All the locks to make the team as starters saw no action. This was all about evaluation. The Jaguars won’t rip off runs like that or hit bombs like they did if this game meant anything. Put your bubble guys out there and see what they do, or don’t do, or can’t do. Seeing Grant run like that through the Patriots won’t matter come opening night against Kansas City. You’ll see more of these players as the preseason wears on, and most likely you won’t see these players when it’s time to unfurl another banner and play for real.
Another thing you won’t see when the regular season begins is more Patriot fans getting duped into having pictures taken with Goodell. He will be there, safely tucked away in the press box, being more heavily guarded than the President. NBC will show him just to be nice, and then the commish will be on his way, gearing up for when he has to take on the Dallas Cowboys in federal court in the future.
Posted Under: Uncategorized