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Patriots Begin Preseason But Keep New Offense Under Wraps

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
1 year ago at 8:26 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary

Patriots Begin Preseason But Keep New Offense Under WrapsKirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Much of the talk surrounding the Patriots training camp thus far this summer has been that the offense has struggled to get on the same page with the new offense install. But the Shanahan/McVay offense was not seen much on Thursday night until rookie QB Bailey Zappe took over from Brian Hoyer. 

The New York Giants booted a field goal as time expired, earning a 23-21 win in the preseason opener for both teams. In the preseason, the final score isn’t the most important thing; getting young players some valuable playing experience is. 

And in the Patriots’ case, they did just that. By my (unofficial) count, 35 players who are expected to be starters or backups who we expect to play valuable roles with the team did not play against the Giants.

And the younger players flashed some potential that should please the coaching staff, while there are always areas to clean up. Here are some observations from last night’s preseason opener. And yes, football is back. 

Could All the Hand-Wringing About Tyquan Thornton Be in Error? 

The calls against the Patriots for moving up and drafting Thornton in the 2nd round of the draft were not just in New England but across the country. He was a “bad route runner,” was “too skinny to stand up to press man coverage,” etc., and some even called out Thornton’s skinny wrists (?), but he allayed most of those in, albeit an early PS game. 

Thornton showed up in training camp practices and has continued that during the game on Thursday night. On the Patriots’ second possession, he dusted press coverage and showed off his known speed, where he had a couple of steps against coverage. It would have been six if Brian Hoyer’s pass was better thrown. But the underthrown pass forced Thornton to slow down, and the pass was batted away.  

But later in the drive, Hoyer was flushed to the outside, and Thornton did a nice job of rerouting and gained separation along the back of the end zone for a touchdown. He even showed the willingness and ability to run block. 

While it is very early, and as Bill Parcells used to say, “Let’s not put him in Canton quite yet,” it was a very good start for the rookie WR. 

WR Position Looked Strong:

With Devante Parker, Nelson Agholor, Jakobi Meyers, and Kendrick Bourne not playing, the WRs at the back end of the roster are going to make it hard for the coaches to decide who does and doesn’t make the team. 

Both Tre Nixon and Kristian Wilkerson played well, while Lil Jordan Humphrey showed some nice chemistry with Zappe in the second half. 

Nixon shook off a bad, driving-killing drop on the opening possession to make some nice catches, where he made really nice adjustments coming back for the ball. Humphrey was working the middle of the field well.

Zappe struggled in the first half going only 3-9, but he looked much more comfortable and in control in the second half, running the offense quite well for a rookie QB. 

Defensive Line/Edge Played Very Well:

One area that we’ve spoken about on our podcast many times that a concern this year is the defensive line. However, with many of the starters out, the play along the DL and the edge was a positive.

Anfernee Jennings looked very strong, setting the edge and bringing pressure on the QB. Carl Davis, Daniel Ekuale, and Henry Anderson all flashed at times. Rookies Sam Roberts and LaBryan Ray both flashed well. Ray was moved to several positions, and bringing that type of versatility to the table will positively affect his making the roster.  

Shanahan Style Offense Not Used Much: 

While Brian Hoyer was on the field, the team used the same offense that they’ve previously run forever. And after missing much of the early portion of camp due to an illness, he looked pretty sharp. 

When Zappe came in, the team ran some of those outside-zone running plays, but as has been the case through camp, it was mostly ineffective. They didn’t attempt any of those bootleg plays to the outside, we’ll see when (and if) those are used in a game situation. 

LB Speed on Display:

It certainly looked different without longtime veterans at linebacker tonight, but the smaller, athletic linebackers showed the speed element against the Giants. Mack Wilson and Cameron McGrone showcased some sideline-to-sideline speed in the game. 

Wilson showed a really good burst coming on a blitz against Daniel Jones and later thumped Giants tight end Daniel Bellinger, with an impressive tackle short of the sticks that ended a Giants drive. 

McGrone had a chance for a couple of interceptions by showcasing his speed element. It had to be a satisfying return to the field for McGrone, who hasn’t played in a game since November of 2020. 

The secondary play overall was pretty good, I thought Terrance Mitchell played well, forcing a fumble, but one player who still can’t get it together is Joejuan Williams. At this point, I’d be surprised if he makes the team. Myles Bryant had an outstanding return in the kicking game that may bode well for him making the 53-man roster.

The penalties really need to get cleaned up, many of the presnap penalties are sure to get Bill Belichick livid during the film sessions. There were some injuries to offensive linemen Yodny Cajuste, Justin Herron, and Bill Murray, but all seemed to be fine after the fact. 


Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on Stitcher and Streamyard as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, and myself from discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 53 Man Roster Projection Bailey Zappe Bill Belichick Damien Harris Daniel Ekuale LaBryan Ray NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Sam Roberts Tre Nixon Tyquan Thornton

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