Anyway, let’s get into the last 10 points of pre-season and New England’s 23-6 loss.
First team attack grappling: The Conquerors didn’t play most of their key players in defense, but the Patriots still looked terrible on the offensive side of the ball. From Mac Jones’ awful interception, to the offensive line’s once again unable to open any running lanes, it was just utter chaos.
Hunter Henry was tackled into space by a backup linebacker, and he couldn’t even fight for the first fall. Michael Onweno looked to struggle once again on guard, and there must be a real concern as to whether he can play in this type of attack.
There were also some bright spots. When McJones ran forward, not 20 yards back, he looked really fast and even made a nice throw on his way to Henry. Kendrick Bourne is finally back on the field, has a few catches, and is trying to get back to where he was at the end of last year. There were plenty of questions about what the offense would look like this year, and training camp and pre-season did nothing to ease the fears of Patriots fans.
Let’s just hope she looks a lot better in a couple of weeks.
The first team defense also suffers: The Conquerors also did not play the beginning of the attack, but, just like the attack, the Patriots first team defense struggled anyway. The unit struggled on every level, having a tough time against the run and the pass. It wasn’t all bad, as you can still see some of their players flashing, but it was pretty ugly overall.
Kyler Dugger got a good pass on a pass, but then put in a great showing on the run. Jahlani Tavai continues to show pretty much anything, smoking in another pass with another narrow end. There is a lot of optimism about the defense this year, but they will have to play exponentially better going forward.
One of the reasons they struggled was that there was almost certainly no game plan, and they were playing against their midfield player, Garrett Stidham, who knows the system all too well. Regardless, this should not happen when supposed players are playing against backups.
Leap year 2 for Mac Jones on pause? McJones seemed uncomfortable to much of the training camp, and that trend continued Friday night. Sure, he wasn’t the only one playing poorly, but he looked more like a rookie this year than he might have been in the whole of last year. He just doesn’t seem comfortable with this new style of attack, and at some point, one might start to wonder if this switch of scheme was the right decision.
I trust Bill Belichick will do the right thing and this could be the best attack for this team in the long run, but at the moment it’s very difficult to see how this is the right move for 2022.
J.J. Taylor advances: You never like to see an injury, but definitely not in pre-season. Ty Montgomery has been having a great camp, and looks set to play a big part in the Patriots’ offensive this season. But he picked up what appeared to be a serious ankle injury in the first quarter, and so may not happen this year.
On the other hand, JJ Taylor has been working on his buttocks, and he looked really good in pre-season. With two youngsters behind him, he seemed to be out looking for the initial roster of 53 players all summer. Montgomery’s injury could certainly have opened up a place for Taylor, and given him another chance to prove he could be a contributor here.
Jack Jones pops (literally): Jack Jones was pretty strong in coverage, and he kept showing that Friday night, but it was his hit that really popped up on screen. He had an interference on the sideline that forced him into confusion, and another had dropped a pass. He’s not a big guy, but that’s the stuff all over the college bar, and I think it’s something we can see and expect to see as he moves forward.
He definitely makes the list given the state of the fourth-round draft, but I think we could see Jones play a good deal of picks by the end of the season as well.
Offensive line chaos: The offensive starting line really struggled before the start of the season, but the backups weren’t much better. Zone runs are tricky, because one of the missing blocks, even on the back side, means what could have been a solid run turned out to be a loss, or a no-profit run. Micheal Onwenu has struggled in this type of play in particular, but they can’t get consistent play from just about anyone on the line.
The other problem is that men like Trent Brown and Isaiah Wayne have a history of not being able to stay healthy. With Justin Heron looking pretty tough and Yodny Cajuste looking good but finally staying healthy since being drafted in 2019, there must be a real concern about protection on the edges of the O line.
I think it will look better as the season goes on, but it should look like it Many Better very quickly, or the Patriots will be in trouble early in the season.
Kevin Harris almost made a case for the crew: I was thinking Kevin Harris might get a season for the red jersey, in part because I thought he was too similar in style to roster lock Damian Harris. While that may still be true, it still looks impressive, and he’s shown good hands coming off the field as well.
He has always outperformed fellow rookie Pierre Strong Jr (who, in fairness, was slowed down due to injury recovery) in all camp. The biggest problem with Harris on Friday night is that he put the ball on the floor twice.
In the long run, the ground caused confusion, so the Patriots kept the ball, but later lost to confusion at the end of the match. Sensitivity is something the Patriots don’t mess with, and so his impulse and receipt might not be enough to get him on the list.
A few list points are locked: There are a lot of questions in the crew backend, but it looks like at least two people have booked a spot for the season. These guys are non-busy freshmen Brendan Schuller and DeMarcus Mitchell.
Schouler has played in almost every special team unit, and he did a great job there. Mitchell did the same with the special teams, but he also showed some real flashes on the defensive line. We always love to talk about the UDFAs, but these two seem to have made a turn for themselves this season.
It seems that the dream is over: Everyone knows my spotlight on the Tre Nixon Hype, but I don’t see how he makes the 53-man list. For the second week in a row, he threw a deep pass, and this week, the defender didn’t even get his hand there. Nixon should have no problem getting back into the coaching staff, and I still think there’s a chance for him to make an impact at some point in New England. Looks like it won’t be this season.
The regular season is approaching: This officion was tough for the Patriots. It started with losing a lot of their coaches, as Josh McDaniels went to Las Vegas and took several assistants with him. Bill Belichick decided to replace McDaniels with Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, and for now, that seems like a questionable decision at best. I’ll keep saying that, but I trust Bill Belichick knows what he’s doing, so I’ll never count this team. It wasn’t great, though.
They also decided to move on from both JC Jackson and Stephon Gilmore last season, and entered the season with a slew of unproven players on the defensive side of the ball. These moves have left the Patriots with a lot more questions than answers at the moment, but I hope they start looking better once the games are already counted and planned to play as well.
The good news is that once again they seem to have a pretty good draft, so they’re adding to their tally of young talent. I’m not sure how much freshmen will be able to help this year, but knowing that there is some young talent and sports on the way is good.
It was hard to watch bootcamp and prepare for the season at times, but I think, just like anything else, there are some positives to take away from what the Patriots did in the spring and summer. Fortunately, the next time I write one of those, it’s going to be the regular season, and I think that might be the best thing about last night’s game: Preseason is finally over.
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