New England Patriots' Biggest Preseason Disappointments Through Three Games
The New England Patriots are 2-1 in the 2013 preseason. So far, we've seen plenty of good, plenty of bad and plenty of ugly.
Against the Eagles in their opener, the Patriots looked smooth and powerful. Quarterback Tom Brady connected with running back Shane Vereen for a gorgeous 13-yard touchdown, running back Stevan Ridley blazed a 62-yard burst and fellow running back LeGarrette Blount ripped off a magnificent 51-yard scoring run. The Patriots won, 31-22.
Against the Buccaneers, the Patriots looked like a well-oiled machine. Brady completed 11 of his 12 attempts for 107 yards and lobbed a 26-yard touchdown to receiver Danny Amendola. Rookie cornerback Logan Ryan returned a pick for a 53-yard score and undrafted rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld not only caught a 22-yard touchdown, but also completed a two-point conversion. The Patriots won, 25-21.
Against the Lions on Thursday night, the Patriots hit dead ends all evening, ultimately getting decimated, 40-9. On the bright side, wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins continued his radical emergence with 116 yards on eight receptions while fellow rookie receiver Aaron Dobson pitched in 50 yards on four catches.
Now, for the guys who are struggling. Here are some Patriots who have been disappointments so far during the preseason.
Consistency is the key word with quarterback Ryan Mallett. We just haven't seen the consistency from him so far this preseason.
To be fair, it's hard to string together any profound magic when he only has four preseason games to do so and two other quarterbacks are also vying for playing time. On the other hand, an opportunity is still an opportunity.
So, where's the consistency?
Against the Eagles, Mallett played 25 snaps before leaving with a head injury late in the second quarter. In total, he connected on nine of his 18 throws for 97 yards. He made a few mental errors as well, including a glaring misfire with rookie receiver Josh Boyce in the second quarter.
He fared better against the Buccaneers, generating patches of momentum and completing 12 of 20 attempts for 137 yards, including a stunning touchdown pass to Zach Sudfeld.
However, he was back to his uneven ways in Detroit, completing 11 of 22 attempts for 96 yards. In his defense, the rest of his team was equally as uneven.
Mallett's arm is unbelievably powerful, but his accuracy is questionable. He's still struggling to get his feet set. His decision-making ranges from sharp to fuzzy and he has shown an inability to take charge and dictate the flow of a game.
Is he the heir to Brady's throne? After three years, "maybe" is still the best answer we've got.
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski is off to a rough start.
Against the Eagles, he missed two field goals from 44 and 53 yards out. Against the Buccaneers, his 50-yard attempt smacked into the right upright and bounced off. He nailed his only field goal attempt in Detroit, bringing his total to 3-for-6.
His struggles conjure memories of his rough patch from the 2012 season, beginning early in the year when the Patriots lost by two points to the Cardinals after he botched his game-winning attempt from 42 yards out wide left. Two weeks after that against the Bills, he missed two out of his three field goal attempts.
From time to time, it seems that Gostkowski is haunted by ghosts.
To be fair, plenty of franchise players have ghosts. Franchise back Stevan Ridley still has fumbling ghosts while potential franchise receivers Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman have injury ghosts. The same goes for tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Zach Sudfeld. Heck, even Tom Brady has ghosts with the Giants. Everybody's got something.
Still though, ghosts and all, Gostkowski is off to a rocky start.
Running back Brandon Bolden fumbled the ball against the Lions.
To be fair, the rest of the Patriots were equally as awful Thursday night, turning the ball over four times in the first half alone. Tom Brady threw a pick and Shane Vereen and Zach Sudfeld both fumbled, to deflate any momentum the Patriots might have had. It was a disaster.
The thing is that Vereen, Sudfeld and Brady were excellent in the spring and all this summer. Those picks and fumbles were rare blotches on their otherwise impressive resumes.
Bolden hasn't been so sparkling. Against the Eagles, he only had four carries for 14 yards, as he was outrushed by LeGarrette Blount (101 yards), Stevan Ridley (92 yards) and Tim Tebow (31 yards).
He improved his performance against the Buccaneers, racking up 38 yards on six carries, but he followed that with six yards on just one carry against the Lions, including his fumble.
With the stocks of running backs Ridley, Vereen and Blount on the rise, it's hard to see where Bolden fits into the picture.
Aqib Talib and Adrian Wilson
Cornerback Aqib Talib and safety Adrian Wilson are the two most important ingredients of New England's secondary.
Well, at least, on paper.
Talib is the godfather of this defensive backfield, but he made the first monumental blunder of the preseason against the Eagles, when wide receiver DeSean Jackson burned him on a 47-yard bomb, leaving the cornerback tripping over his own legs and rolling along the ground.
If Talib is the godfather of the unit, one could say Adrian Wilson is the wise, old man.
But Wilson has been just as tepid. His shortcomings haven't manifested in harrowing debacles on the field, but still, his silence has been deafening. Wilson's too important to be this quiet. He's supposed to have an imposing presence of an Andre Carter-type nature. Thus far, through spring and summer, it's been difficult to pinpoint any impact he's had on this ball club whatsoever.
So far, this is not the renaissance in the defensive backfield that Patriot Nation had hoped for in 2013.
Last season, Bill Belichick drafted safety Tavon Wilson unusually high, taking him in the second round with the 48th overall pick.
It was one of Belichick's signature "quirky picks."
Some of those quirky picks have paid off in the past, such as ace special teamer Matthew Slater (2008, fifth round) and former backup quarterback Matt Cassel (2005, seventh round), who steered the team to 11 wins in 2008 after Tom Brady went down in the opening game of the season.
Other quirky picks, like defensive end Jermaine Cunningham (2010, second round) and safety Nate Ebner (2012, sixth round), haven't paid off in the same way.
Wilson's still somewhere in the middle. He can go either way.
Wilson's gotten off to a rough start this preseason. His errors were glaring against the Buccaneers, especially in the fourth quarter, when he was beaten on three straight plays. With Tampa Bay driving on fourth down, Wilson was called for defensive holding and the Buccaneers got a fresh set of downs. They eventually scored and nabbed a two-point conversion.
He didn't fare much better against the Lions, only notching a pair of tackles.
So far, this Belichick draft selection is teetering on the edge.
Quarterback Tim Tebow completed four of his 12 attempts for 55 yards against the Eagles. He followed that with an extremely poor showing against the Buccaneers, completing only one of seven passes for a total of minus-1 yard. He also threw a high ball which was intercepted.
He didn't play against the Lions.
How does Tebow fit with the Patriots? There are plenty of opinions to go around.
ESPNBoston's Mike Reiss offered his thoughts on how Tebow could best serve as the team's third slinger:
[Top three ways he could help]: Scout-team QB to run the option; Good locker-room presence; Third layer of insurance if something happens to Brady or Mallett (if Brady was ever injured, I could envision Tebow taking some snaps in an option-based attack). Is that enough to earn a roster spot? I don't have a great feel for how the coaching staff views it. After Friday night's performance vs. the Buccaneers, I can understand why some are wondering about Tebow's value. That was ugly.
Erik Scalavino, analyst for Patriots Football Weekly on Patriots.com, offered his thoughts on the situation:
I firmly believe the Patriots have other plans for Tebow besides quarterback, but I don't think they were going to show us what those plans were during training camp, when entire practice sessions are open to the media and public. They'll start doing that now, when the window to view practice is truncated and limited to media only, and they'll do it once the media is out of sight for the majority of practice. I have no idea if Tebow can catch a pass. I've never seen him do it, but I know he's a talented athlete, and I'd love to see Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels, the offensive coordinator, unleash Tebow in a unique way.
I agree with Reiss and Scalavino in the sense that I see value in Tebow as a multi-dimensional asset and I'd love to see Belichick and McDaniels take Tebow to another level by exploiting his athleticism.
Where I begin to veer away from Scalavino's theory, though, is in the notion that Belichick and McDaniels might be hiding their plans of how they plan to utilize Tebow. Last year, I heard too many analysts and Jets fans saying similar things about how Rex Ryan was "saving the good stuff" as a surprise. As we know, that surprise never came and it's debatable as to whether or not there was ever an actual plan in place.
The point is that Patriot Nation isn't in this for an Agatha Christie-type mystery. We're in this for a Super Bowl, so forget the mystery. I want to see what Tebow's got. If he can play running back, let me see it. If he can catch passes, let me see it.
Forget the surprise. Tell me how it ends so I know where Tebow stands with this ball club.
Or perhaps, by Tebow playing quarterback, we really are seeing it all. Maybe this is really how the Patriots intend to use him. If that's the case, then he's off to an extremely disappointing start.