Good morning, Here is your Sunday Patriots news 8-26, & AFC East Notes.
No AFC East Notes this week as we’ve been putting the finishing touches on our 53-man Roster Projection after the last two preseason games. Check that out tomorrow on PatsFans.com
Things that Make you go hmm: Alex Guerrero, after all of the hoopla surrounding him, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick all offseason, was on the team plane heading to Carolina. Guerrero won’t be on the sidelines during the game but will travel with and treat the players (Brady, Gronkowski, Edelman) that utilize his skills prior to the games.
Bill Belichick didn’t let the preseason game go without a teaching point. With the team being outplayed by a wide margin and down by multiple scores, several of the young players went overboard celebrating a stopped two-point conversion. Belichick lit into them and no doubt pointed out what the score was, it is no time to celebrate, one will remember the Derrick Mason bit with the Ravens several years ago.
Belichick’s assessment after the game left no doubt that the team has a long way to go. “The Panthers obviously did a good job,” Belichick said. “Coach Rivera, his staff, their team played well in all three phases of the game and outplayed us across the board for four quarters. So we’ve got a lot of work to do. There really wasn’t any part of the game that was very competitive. So we’ll just have to go back to work and see if we can find a way to do a few things better than we did them tonight. That’s really about all there is to say.”
The offensive and defensive lines were pretty much dominated by the units of the Panthers of Friday night. After last week’s performance against Philadelphia, that has to be a major disappointment for the coaching staff.
Eric Decker didn’t do much to justify a roster spot with another poor performance on Friday night in Charlotte. Targeted five times, he caught just two passes for 12 yards and didn’t play a snap with Tom Brady and the starting unit. His best hope to stick is that Julian Edelman’s suspension gives him a reprieve for a couple of weeks to get it sorted out. Even with depleted depth at WR, his chances of sticking at this point have to be getting slimmer each day.
Mike Gillislee likewise isn’t looking like he’s going to stick to the 53-man roster. Jeremy Hill looks quicker and more decisive in getting to the hole and his inability to be a factor in the passing game hurts his chances. Hill seems (at least from here) to have clearly won the battle for the bigger back duties. Like Decker, his chances of sticking now appear to center around uncertainty. With both Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel hurt, he may make the roster out of default. Burkhead looks to be much closer to return at this point and if Michel gets put on IR, then he too may work his way on the roster.
Red Zone Defense was one of the few bright spots on what was a pretty dismal first half for the Patriots overall. The Panthers marched down the field three times and while the defense didn’t play well, they did stiffen up in the red area and hold Carolina to just three field goals.
Stephon Gilmore had a nice pass breakup in the end zone after the initial ten-minute opening drive, forcing the Panthers to settle for three.
Keionta Davis played over Derek Rivers in the first half and saw a considerable amount of snaps with the first unit. It is a positive sign for the 1st year player that the coaches want to see what he can do against the top opposition. The staff obviously likes what they see in him.
Jordan Richards appears locked again on the 53-man roster, the much-maligned safety played on all four special teams units with the starters in the first half. His main competition, Eddie Pleasant, played zero snaps with the starters.
Only one player hasn’t appeared in any of the three preseason games, rookie punter Corey Bojorquez has yet to make an appearance this summer. The strong-legged punter from New Mexico now has zero chance of unseating veteran Ryan Allen.
Jason McCourty will be a curious decision for the coaching staff at cut down time. The veteran corner was placed at safety and was very late getting over on Panthers’ touchdown pass in the second half. But then made a great play on the next red zone sequence, reading the play and shooting into the backfield to hit the runner for a loss. Playing a variety of positions may help his case with the coaching staff.
Wide Receiver Position Still in Flux:
We mentioned the struggles continuing with Eric Decker, with just two weeks remaining before the season opener, things are still unsettled there. Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson are locks, that is only three for the first month of the season. It leaves plenty to be done in a short amount of time.
Dorsett helped his own cause in a nice game Friday night, catching all four passes thrown his way for 36 yards. Included in that was a key fourth down pass to keep the chains moving, a sign of trust from Brady that was encouraging.
Patterson played nearly the entire game which left many scratching their heads, but the belief here is that he is still working his way into the offense and the coaches just want to see the different ways they can possibly utilize his talents.
It looks right now like Riley McCarron may earn at least an early roster spot. He was on the field early last night and has punt return ability. He still catches the ball with his body too much but he got the opportunity over Decker in four WR sets in the first half. But his two drops late, didn’t help his chances.
Braxton Berrios is hurt and hasn’t played, a rookie isn’t going to make the team that way. Devin Lucien is a hard worker but appears as a very long shot to make the team at this point. Despite this, the passing game should be fine, especially after Edelman returns. With Rob Gronkowski and Jacob Hollister at tight end, James White, Burkhead and Michel out of the backfield, there are plenty of targets for Brady to throw to. But some added depth would be on the coaches to-do list when the cut downs begin elsewhere around the league.
Bentley Continues Strong Preseason:
Rookie linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley has been having a very solid summer. That continued on Friday night in Carolina. Although Elandon Roberts got the start, Bentley played a significant amount of snaps with the first unit in the first half and accounted for himself in another positive performance.
In the second half, with the backups, Bentley was calling the signals and acting like the leader of the defense, something that shouldn’t be lost on the coaches. Bentley has continually been improving his game since Day 1 of camp and should be in line to see significant snaps once the regular season begins.
Despite Roberts getting the start on Friday, we’d put Bentley on equal or better footing than the veteran and it shouldn’t be long before the big Purdue linebacker is getting the start on this defense.
Cyrus Jones Returns:
Less than a year from his ACL surgery, Patriots third-year cornerback Cyrus Jones returned to the playing field getting some work in with the secondary as well as in the return game.
That in itself was a very positive sign for the Alabama alum and he looked fast with some sharp cuts in the return game. His first kickoff return was his best a 27-yarder where he showed good vision and cut-back ability before it was wiped out by a penalty.
Jones has been the forgotten man after a nightmarish rookie season and his sophomore year wiped out by an ACL injury in the final preseason game. His speed and change of direction ability seem back to where they were and he fielded all of his attempts cleanly. His status for next week will bear watching.
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