NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The weather was hot. The Patriots were not.
On a sultry 101-degree day in Nashville, with high humidity, the Patriots and the Tennessee Titans made it through their final preseason game under oppressive conditions. Fortunately, no player appeared to be overcome with dehydration, and since the game featured mostly fringe/bubble players, exciting and riveting football was not in the offing on Friday night at Nissan Stadium.
The biggest thing you can glean from this game is that once again, the Patriot offensive line is largely ineffectual, and Bill Belichick really saw nothing offensively to pore over as he prepares to cut down to 53 players by Tuesday. The game was mostly about who will fill out the remaining spots on the defensive side of the ball, and some players did well but may still be on the outside looking in come Tuesday.
Bailey Zappe was the quarterback for most of the evening for the New England Patriots, and he was never able to get anything going all night long. He had three fumbles and lost one of them, was sacked four times for minus-25 yards, and had a passer rating of 62.4. The only Patriot touchdown was set up by a Calvin Munson interception, and a nice 23-yard pass completion to Thyrick Pitts where he dragged the entire Titan defense for several yards, which set up a five-yard touchdown run by Kevin Harris.
But that was all as far as the offense went for the Patriots. The Patriot third defensive unit withered in the second half and Tennessee wound up winning the game, 23-7.
So, what did we learn as far as predicting what will happen on Tuesday?
Zappe is the backup quarterback, Mac Jones is the starter. Granted, Zappe was victimized by bad blocking, but he lacked an internal clock to help avoid much of the pressure around him. Trace McSorley played only one series and most likely will not remain with the team.
Malik Cunningham will not see any quarterback action this season, unless the offensive line eventually jells and shows better cohesiveness. Otherwise, if Cunningham makes this team, it will be as a receiver or a special teams returner. Since his stellar fourth quarter in the Houston game, he has shown next to nothing to make Patriot Nation think that this guy is the next Taysom Hill. He did nothing under center, and had only one catch for minus-1 yard. In a vanilla game like this under horridly humid conditions, maybe the Patriots didn’t want to give opponents any film study on Cunningham just yet.
A bit of concern remains regarding Riley Reiff. He left the field limping in the second quarter, walked off into the locker room and never returned. Belichick never levels with the press regarding injuries in post game pressers, so nothing is known at the moment. He was able to walk comfortably under his own power, but seeing him limping at all was a bit disquieting.
Some defensive players had good games, but most likely will not be good enough to get them on the 53-man roster.
Munson had the aforementioned interception and overall had some good stops. Sam Roberts made up for his stupid penalties from last week with some good stops and got some pressure on Tennessee quarterback Malik Willis (including one sack), who played almost the entire game. Joe Giles-Harris also had an interception. Ronnie Perkins was all over the place, making nice stops and also getting pressure on Willis. Diego Fagot gave up a touchdown to Julius Chestnut at the end of the first half, but made some other nice plays in the game. Justus Tavai, Jahlani’s brother, also had a nice game.
The second stringers on defense started the game, with the exception of Christian Barmore, Josh Uche and Jack Jones, guys who will or may start. This unit gave some ground but kept the Titans out of the end zone, allowing two Michael Badgley field goals in the first quarter.
In the second half, Chestnut and Jacques Patrick were able to get some good chunks of yardage against a tired and young defense. Patrick finished with 76 yards rushing on 15 carries and a 5.1 per carry average. Chestnut had 30 yards rushing but also 42 yards receiving; the other catch he had other than his touchdown was for 30 yards.
Willis took over for starter Ryan Tannehill after the first possession (Tannehill committed a delay of game penalty while in the game). Willis finished 15 of 20 passing for 211 yards, two touchdowns and a 102.3 passer rating. Willis was sacked twice, but for only minus-six yards. Willis also rushed eight times for 17 yards.
The Patriot offensive totals were pedestrian and almost not worth discussing. The team rushed for 55 total yards and a 3.1 per carry average. Pitts was the leading receiver with 26 yards on two catches.
If the Patriots intended to be this vanilla, then there is minimal cause for alarm. The goal here is to evaluate players and to avoid catastrophic injuries. The only real cause for concern here is that in all three games, the offensive line has looked poor to adverse most of the time. Otherwise, there probably won’t be too many surprises come Tuesday.
The defense is pretty much set. If there are any questions, it will be how many placekickers they keep, and what they intend to do with Cunningham. Six wide receivers may not be out of the question; the same goes for two placekickers. Otherwise, who makes the Patriots is not a real mystery.
The preseason is now over. Up next are the NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday afternoon, September 10, at Gillette Stadium. The vanilla days are now over. Time for some serious game planning.
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Posted Under: Patriots News