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15 Observations: Final Patriots Pre-season Game and Final Decisions

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
3 weeks ago at 8:24 am ET

15 Observations: Final Patriots Pre-season Game and Final DecisionsVincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The third and final pre-season game is in the books with a 22-20 New England victory versus the New York Giants in the Meadowlands.  You go into this game hoping that no one gets seriously injured, especially the starters.   I think the Patriots came out of the game in great shape.  Here are a few of my observations.

  1. D’Angelo Ross started at Left Cornerback.  That was a shocker, but Ross played very well and came away with the big Defensive play by Intercepting Daniel Jones in the End Zone, stopping a New York drive.  Ross also made a nice open-field tackle on third down preventing a 1st down by the Giants.  This was not some throw-away move by coach Belichick and I am going to have to find some room for Ross on the final 53 man roster.
  2. Gunner Olszewski is on the bubble and may not make the final roster. JJ Taylor returned all the punts.  He had only one questionable play on a PR and that was a near-muff late in the game.  He came away with it clean.  I don’t care if he was the AP All-Pro Punt Returner last year.  Olszewski had another critical drop tonight when he got his hand placement mixed up.   He was targeted twice and didn’t have a catch.
  3. JJ Taylor had a great game, albeit against guys that will be looking for work next week.  He ran 9 times for 76 yards and 8.4 yards per carry (YPC).  He is an important part of the team since he is playing special teams.   Rhamondre Stevenson wasn’t any slouch either.  He had 5 carries for 23 yards and a 4.6 average and one TD.  On the TD run of 9 yards, his 1st contact was at the 4 and he powered his way in from there.  That’s 5 TDs in 3 Pre-season games.
  4. Kristian Wilkerson had a good night with 4 catches on 5 targets. He had 72 yards and 18.0 yards per reception (YPR).  Is this enough to make the team?  It might be a little too late for Wilkerson to recover from his drops.
  5. Isaiah Zuber had a big game with 4 catches on 5 targets, 50 yards, and a TD. He nearly had another TD (should have made the catch).  Just as impressive was his downfield blocking.  Remember the emphasis Mick Lombardi and Troy Brown said last week … “If you don’t block, you aren’t getting the rock”, meaning you won’t get targeted.
  6. Shaun Wade made a very good first impression. He had a pass breakup, good coverage on an incredible sideline reception by Damion Willis.  In the waning moments of the game, the refs put away the flags when they failed to make an offensive Pass Interference on Willis.  The NYG WR caught a 43-yard pass for a TD.  Wade was in a good position on the underthrown ball but got pushed off.  On the ensuing play, NYG tried a fade pass against Wade and was unsuccessful.  Wade also made a better play on a fade earlier in the game, stuffing the receiver at the line of scrimmage and not allowing him to get to the ball.  The Wade trade is really for next year.  Coach him up this season.  Right now the Pats have both Gilmore and JC Jackson as Un-restricted Free Agent next season.
  7. Bill Murray showed up late in the game and finished with an impressive 3 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 2 QB hits in limited play. I don’t think he will make the team, but is a candidate for the Practice Squad.
  8. Who didn’t play could have a big influence on the final roster. Jalen Mills, James White and Carl Davis didn’t play. In the past, those that didn’t play had already made the team.
  9. Devin Asiasi had his best game as a Pro. He was 4 catches for 4 targets for 64 yards and a 16.0 YPR average.  His adjustment on the pass from Mac Jones on a seam route was terrific.  What a difference a year makes.
  10. Reports from the joint practices said that Edge Rusher Josh Uche was unblockable. He showed that again tonight.  His nickname, given to him by Kyle Van Noy is “Little Judon”.  Uche and Judon are going to be a formidable force on the edges.   Given the improved pass rush of these two players, the secondary will not have to hold on as much in man coverage.  This defense is going to be exciting.
  11. The hold-up of Stephon Gilmore, is it the chicken or the egg?  Is Gilmore still recovering from his thigh injury that ended his season last year and has Gilmore on PUP, or is it just the money issue?  Maybe a little of both!  I don’t think he is ready to play and may start the season on PUP, which would mean he would miss 6 games at a minimum.  Gilmore won’t show if he is ready to play unless he gets a bump in salary.  He is not going to play for the measly $7M he agreed to in his contract!  With a healthy and happy Gilmore (“The price is wrong Bob.”) the Patriots’ defense could be the best in the league.
  12. Mac Jones was 10-14, 1 TD, and was sacked 4 times for a QB rating of 131.8. Newton was 2-5 and an interception for a QB rating of 8.3.  I didn’t make that up, his rating was 8.3.  The interception appeared to be Jakobi Meyers’s fault for not fighting off the Middle Linebacker Martinez in coverage.  The real fact was that Newton forced it into a tight window and underthrew the ball.  NYG had Martinez in trailing coverage with a Safety over the top in a classic Tampa Two defense.  The play was to throw to Kendrick Bourne who was wide open.  Two of Jones’s sacks cane against the top Giants defense playing the second-team offense of the Patriots.    One was when Jones tried to escape the pocket and tripped.  The last was the end of the half where he refused to throw the ball and risk an interception.  Did you see Mac Jones’s post-game interview with the media?  The Bill Belichick kool-aid was dripping off him like he was baptized in it!
  13. Tough night for Defensive Backs Michael Jackson, Dee Virgin, and JoeJuan Williams. They were all burned on multiple occasions.  Williams at least had the play preventing a TD in the red zone.  On the next play, Ross intercepted the ball in the end zone.  Jackson didn’t appear to have a clue what he was doing out there.  Kyle Dugger wasn’t very good either.   Williams may have played himself off the team.
  14. Giants WR Damion Willis (6’ 3”, 205 lbs) is a 2nd-year receiver out of Troy State. He really impressed me tonight and is a very likely candidate to get cut.  The Giants are loaded at WR.  Could a trade be in the winds?  It seems that Belichick makes a trade with teams that he has conducted joint practices with.
  15. The Giants played their starters the entire 1st half, where the Patriots ended the starters’ night after two series. That made Mac Jones’s performance all that more impressive.  He is playing with a backup O-line and skill players, yet he moved the team against them, just like in Wednesday’s joint practice.

Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Preseason

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