Patriots Preseason Spotlight: New Gronkowski On The Horizon?
The New England Patriots preseason slate opened on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium. New England lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars 31-24, but in all honesty, who really cares about the final score.
Preseason football is all about watching the rookies and players looking to make a name for themselves. Thursday nights preseason opener was filled with performances that are note worthy from unproven players.
Let us start with the offense and work our way through to the defense and special teams.
The primary QB for the Patriots was backup Jimmy Garoppolo. Jimmy is sort of a proven player at this point. But he showed off some mobility on Thursday.
This touchdown to Austin Carr was an example of what Garoppolo can do when moving around the pocket under pressure.
Avoid the pressure: ✔
Find an open receiver: ✔
Make a leaping catch: ✔
Garoppolo to Carr for the TD! pic.twitter.com/QBkobJ0e4j
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) August 11, 2017
His final stat line of the night was 22-28 with 235 passing yards and two touchdowns.
Receivers Making A Name For Themselves
The play highlighted above showcased the impressive roll out and under pressure throw. But what was truly spectacular was the catch by Carr.
“It was a scramble play. It’s never how you draw it up, but we do that drill every week and Jimmy [Garoppolo] threw a great ball and I was able to go up and get it.” “As I was coming across the end zone, I was trying to make sure I didn’t get pushed out [of bounds]. The [defensive back] made a great play on the ball. All of the [defensive backs] on the Jaguars had a great game, but I was able to pull that one down.”
The rookie was able to show off his athleticism by going up and grabbing the football on a touchdown. Carr is a player to watch on the Patriots depth chart as he caught 5 passes on 7 targets for 44 yards with the touchdown. Carr is currently fourth on the unofficial depth chart tied with Devin Lucien and Cody Hollister.
Another receiver to watch for the Patriots is Jacob Hollister. His game on Thursday reminded me of a young Rob Gronkowski. The rookie tight end signed as a free agent in May and reeled in 7 passes on 9 targets for 116 receiving yards. A look at the unofficial Patriots depth chart shows the Hollister brother as fourth tied with players like James O’Shaughnessy and Sam Cotton.
“I was just trying to do my job tonight and just a product of the coaches getting me ready and feeling good. Everybody did their job for most of the night. Still made a lot of mistakes, but looking forward to getting better.”
But after Thursday’s performance and a solid start to training camp, you could see this gritty tight end jump up the depth chart. Ahead of him currently is Rob Gronkowski, Dewayne Allen, and Matt Lengel.
Garoppolo seemed impressed by the two young receivers.
Yeah, I mean, all those skill guys – Austin made a tremendous catch on a touchdown. I mean, he really went up and got that one for me. Jacob – you know, savvy player, performed very well. I mean, all those skills guys, just the young guys especially, came out and played well, and we needed them to. We were limited with guys tonight and they did a good job.
The third and last receiver to watch after Thursday’s preseason opener is A.J. Maye. Maye caught Garoppolo’s second touchdown pass.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) August 11, 2017
Receivers in preseason without Tom Brady is almost pointless, however. While they can impress the coaching staff, if they fail to connect with Brady it almost certainly will not work out in New England. One player who has connected with Brady in practice is Lucien, who only recorded one catch on 5 targets in the preseason opener.
The receiving core will get its first real look once Brady is under center which could come next week.
Defensive Players That Showed A Different Side
The defense as a unit got torched by the Jaguars offense to the tune of 447 total yards allowed. There isn’t much to highlight, but what happened to Cyrus Jones was something special
Looks like Cyrus Jones is still Cyrus Jones pic.twitter.com/muBAWEI9BL
— Patriots Redzone (@patsredzone) August 11, 2017
Cyrus Jones got torched not once, but twice. He allowed two touchdown passes and gave up 3 catches on 4 targets for 151 yards. While his overall performance was abysmal and he declined to talk to reporters postgame, he was moved from cornerback to safety by the end of the game.
Coach Bill Belichick noted after the game that the move was due to the lack of depth at the position. But seeing Jones player over at safety is an interesting move. Something that could pan out in the long run. Think Devin McCourty or Patrick Chung, both couldn’t cut it at corner and turned out to be solid safeties.
Yeah, again we have a lot of players having a lot of different responsibilities, playing in different spots. We went into the game with three safeties and they weren’t all able to finish, so that’s part of it, too. But the more things a player can do, if he can do them at a good level, then the more value he adds to the team. It wasn’t something we really planned on but it worked out that way. We’ll take a look at it and evaluate that.
I think the overall defensive takeaway is there is a lot of coaching to do. That is showcased clearly in this play that Elandon Roberts choked on.
— NFL (@NFL) August 11, 2017
Stephen Gostkowski and his struggles at hitting field goals ever since the Denver game two years ago has been a hot button of conversation. In the preseason opener, he went 1/2 on FG attempts. The miss came on a 56 yarder attempt, not a real miss since he wouldn’t have taken that in a game. He was 3/3 on extra points.
Cyrus Jones was the primary special teamer returning kicks, he caught one punt, no gain. Jones also had 6 kickoff returns averaging 19 yards in return and had a 27-yard return which was his longest return on the night. Jones was heralded as being a kick return specialist coming out of Alabama. For New England, this is how he can make an impact this season.
Next Man Up
Who did you think stood out? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!
The New England Patriots will head to Houston to face the Texans in week 2 of the preseason next Saturday, August 19th.