AJ Spirito – Pats Militia
In preseason it’s all about what happens in the game rather than what the final score is.
The Texans beat the Patriots 27-23 Saturday night and although the score is irrelevant the Patriots should have won but two crucial turnovers by their backup quarterbacks cost them the game.
Either way, it was an exciting mid August night for Pats Nation as the Patriots returned to the site of Super Bowl LI in Houston, Texas. We got our first look at Tom Brady and the starters for this season on both sides of the ball and even though it was just a sample it felt great. Scents of pumpkin spice fill the grocery stores and Brady is back on a football field, fall is almost here.
Brady had a solid day in his 2017 preseason debut going 6/9 for 67 yards and a touchdown. Those stats came from two drives that he and the starting offense played in the first half. Even Rob Gronkowski was out there for a couple drives. It was great to see the big man healthy again , playing in his first preseason since 2011.
The most vital thing to the preseason is too keep your players healthy, especially your starters. A few players got banged up over the course of the game but the most serious was to LB Elandon Roberts who got carted off in the 3rd quarter. It’s yet another tough blow to a thin front seven so let’s hope everything is alright. Roberts has gotten a lot of action in practice and in games and has even been wearing the coveted “green dot” as it appears he has taken a big step in year two.
-Rex Burkhead can play. A lot of people have been wondering what’s going to happen with the stable of running backs the Patriots have. We’ve seen what Dion Lewis can do and we’ve seen what James White can do. Tonight everyone got to see what Rex Burkhead can do. Burkhead was the player of the game for the Pats tonight hauling in three balls for 50 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 20 yards. The touchdown by Burkhead was basically “copy and pasted” two quarters later by DJ Foster. Same route, same result. New England is a place to thrive for pass catching backs.
-James O’Shaughnessy at tight end. For a second straight week the Patriots have shown off their depth at tight end. Last week it was Cody Hollister and this time it was James O’Shaughnessy (acquired via a trade from Kansas City in the spring). The 6’ 4” tight end caught five passes for 41 yards. It’s great to see this competition at the tight end position after losing Martellus Bennett in the offseason. Behind Rob Gronkowski there really isn’t a concrete number two. Dwayne Allen came here in a trade as well but the former Colt is very injury prone, just like Gronk. If Hollister and O’Shaughnessy can keep performing well then New England will be in very solid shape at the tight end position.
-Cyrus Jones actually showed improvements. Crazy, right? Cyrus actually showed some signs of life on the field tonight. For once he actually looked confident returning punts and he did a job well done. Everything was fielded cleanly and he even broke off a 32 yard return on one of them. The only way Jones is making this team is as a punt returner because he should still not be trusted at defensive back. After last week it looked like a longshot for the second year corner making the team but if he keeps up the positive special teams work he should make the 53 man roster. We don’t want Edelman or Amendola to have to return punts, it’s unnecessary for two guys who are vital to this team.
-Gostkowski perfect. It was good to see Stephen Gostkowski have a day without a miss. After last seasons woes and a bad shank last week he returned to his old, Pro Bowl form. Gostkowski went 3/3 on field goals, including a 51 yarder (2/2 on extra points as well).
-Turnovers by the backup QB’s. Jimmy Garoppolo had himself a solid day once again but he missed on several throws including a third quarter interception that came on his final pass of the game. Houston scored on the very next play after the interception, leaving a bad taste in Jimmy G’s mouth. At the end of the game with just seconds left it was Jacoby Brissett who committed the turnover this time. On a potential game winning pass Jacoby was stripped of the ball and Houston recovered, ending the game. It’s just preseason but you don’t want plays like this costing you the game. I’m sure they’ll hear about it in the next film session if they haven’t already.
-The Patriots starting defense. I know Hightower isn’t out there and he’s the glue that holds this defense together but the defense disappointed me tonight. It seemed like they gave up a handful of big plays to Houston and two of them were given up by Malcolm Butler. One was a 37 yard bomb that was pretty much unplayable due to Butler’s size and the second one Butler was beat to the back of the end zone on, resulting in a Texans touchdown. Malcolm wasn’t happy with himself on the play, he knows he’s better than that.
Overall there are no huge worries with this team. Everything that got messed up tonight will be straightened out by the players and coaching staff. The only two minor worries are the injury to Roberts and the lack of depth in the front seven. Kony Ealy seemed invisible out there and with the retirement of Ninko and injury to Rivers, they need some bodies to fill the void. The next preseason game will be next Friday night in Detroit and we expect to see a lot of action from the starters in that one.