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MORSE: 15 Observations from Patriots Pre-Season Game #1

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
August 13, 2021 at 3:50 pm ET

MORSE: 15 Observations from Patriots Pre-Season Game #1(PHOTO: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports)

🕑 Read Time: 5 minutes

Pre-season game #1 is in the books.  What did we learn from this game?

1) Cam Newton is the same QB that we saw last season.  He failed to recognize the blitz on his pre-snap read.  Washington Football Team (WFT) blitzed more players than the O line and back could handle.  Chase Young overpowered Isaiah Wynn and hit Newton on what appeared to be a strip-sack.  Wynn recovered, but it was ruled an incomplete forward pass.  Newton failed to check off to a hot receiver, the exact thing he did numerous times last year.  Now WFT blitzing early in the 1st Pre-season game is very unusual.  Defenses are known to be very vanilla in the first game with little or no specific game-planning for the opponent. That was not true in this case.  The Patriots played it straight up with no exotic coverages.  I can recall only one blitz by Bentley all night.   He completed one of two screen passes.  The first went to White for 22 yards.  The second went into the ground on a poorly thrown ball.

2) Did James Ferentz play the entire game at Center?   He was finally replaced by Marcus Martin with 9:00 left in the 4th quarter.  This was yeoman’s work on a brutally hot night in Foxboro.  I was a little afraid of having Ferentz going up against the superb starting front 7 of WFT.   With Andrews and Karras both out, Ferentz took one for the team and allowed a good evaluation of the QBs with solid if unspectacular OC play.  This type of play just may have secured a spot on the team for the 31-year-old veteran of 5 NFL seasons.

3) Running backs coach Ivan Fears was asked in a press conference what Rhamondre Stevenson needed to work on and his response was “Everything”.  Well Coach Fears, you are not hiding Stevenson from anyone now, with this blowout game.  Two touchdowns and a 91 yard run with time running out highlighted Stevenson’s day.  He had a 4-yard average before that big run.  To reel it in a bit, Stevenson would not do that against any NFL team playing their regular players.  Stevenson runs a 4.65 40 and wouldn’t be pulling away from the defenders.  They also wouldn’t have taken such poor angles toward the runner.  However, it was exciting for the fans that stuck around or anyone that may have put a wager on the outcome.

4) N’Keal Harry was under the microscope in this game and he once again disappeared.  He played 36 plays and was only targeted once on a drag route underneath.  To his credit, he made a nice move and gained the 1st down.  Harry made a good block on a slip screen to Wilkerson but also missed a block on a screen downfield.  Bottom line, harry did nothing to help his position on the team nor improve his stock so that another team comes calling for him in a trade.

5) Kristian Wilkerson was the most targeted receiver last night with 9, had 6 receptions.  However, he should have caught that long pass from Jones in the end zone.  Jones placed it right in the bucket, just as they practice during camp.  Wilkerson needs to seal off the DB to get position and make that catch.

7) Mac Jones managed the game well.  He took what the defense gave him and didn’t force the ball into coverage.  The offense looked a lot like what he ran at Alabama.  He narrowly missed Gunner Olszewski on a long pass, just overthrowing it.  Jones also scrambled for what appeared to be a 1st down.  A bad spot moved the ball back and not to the line of gain.  Belichick fell asleep on this challenge … more on this later.  Jones had great anticipation on a pass to Wilkerson.  The ball was away before Wilkerson turned around to look for the ball.  Jones was 14 of 19 (I am including the reception that Myers made and Belichick didn’t challenge).  None was better than the play-action pass over the middle to Kendrick Bourne.  I read that Phil Perry called Jones performance as Professional.  Now he was playing against the 2nd team, but he was also playing with the 2nd team offense.

8) It was Pre-season for the coach also.  He failed to challenge two plays, one of which was obviously in the Patriots favor.  Belichick could see the big screen (if he looked up).  Jakobi Myers clearly had his hands under the ball.  That would have been a 15-yard reception and 1st down.  Mike Reiss asked Belichick about this in his press conference after the game.  Belichick responded, “I didn’t feel like challenging it.”  What a condescending remark by the coach and totally unacceptable.  The players are out there working their asses off to make the team and the coach doesn’t feel like challenging the play!   Later he didn’t challenge Mac Jones’s scramble when he clearly made the 1st down. He probably wanted to get more plays by the defense so he could evaluate them.

9) Malik Gant has to be given credit for a fine game despite only being with the team for 5 days.  He played a lot and made 5 tackles and looked good.  Myles Bryant injury may have an impact on Gant making the team.

10) Joejuan Williams played his best game since joining the Patriots.  The Interception and return were huge.  He also had two pass breakups, including the two-point.  He punched the ball out as WFT receiver Gandy-Golden was going to the ground.

11) Here is a name you didn’t hear all night, but he played very well in the secondary.  Michael Jackson had 5 tackles but they weren’t downfield on the WR he was covering.  They were on RB’s the LBs couldn’t contain.  Jackson had excellent coverage and often blanketed his receiver.

12) On the other hand, Jalen Mills was flat-out awful.  He is giving Stephon Gilmore more leverage every time he plays poorly.  I hope he doesn’t make the team.

13) The Patriots had at least 5 penalties against the special teams last night.  This is highly unusual.  How do you get illegal procedure called on the punt team (three times)?  On the TV broadcast you can clearly hear Special Teams coach Cam Achord yell out to the team “Hold your effing water”!  This means hold your position like you were holding your urge to go to the bathroom.  Don’t move.  Scott Zolak trying to explain it was just as funny.  The overall coverage was pretty bad as well.  They sure didn’t look like the number one ST unit.

14) I was very surprised there were not many heat-related injuries last night.  The Patriots have not had very hot weather during training camp.  The medical staff must have done a great job of preparing the players to play in the heat last night.

15) Quinn Nordin was the star of the night with three Field Goals.  His second was 50 yards long and would have been good from 60.  It hit the top of the net!   Too bad he missed that extra point which marred a good night.  That missed extra point might have cost the team if it was a regular-season game.  The two-point conversion (which should have been called good) would have tied the game and put it into OT.

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About Mark Morse

Merrimack Valley native and lifelong fan of the New England Patriots. My earliest memories of the Patriots were attending as a child with my dad, the off-season practice at Phillips Academy. I was at the Patriots game at Harvard Stadium in 1970 where Bob “Harpo” Gladieux was called out of the stands by the stadium announcer over the PA to play in the game. Analyzing the draft since ESPN first started to televise it in 1980 and former writer for the Lowell Sun Newspaper.


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    Alan
    Alan
    2 years ago

    One comment to add: if the WaFooTee had made one of those two field goals, they would have had the lead late in the game and would have won. So solid performance by the Patriots, but like last season, an inability to score will not cut it.

    Steve Basile
    Steve Basile
    2 years ago

    Nice commentary Mark! Good to have YOU back too!

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