5 Things We Learned from Patriots' 1st Preseason Game
The New England Patriots starters did their work Monday and Tuesday, dominating the Washington Redskins in their joint practice sessions. That left the second- and third-stringers to pick up the slack in the first preseason game of the year, a task that proved to be too much.
While New England will have an opportunity to turn its fortunes around August 15 against the Philadelphia Eagles, Bill Belichick will likely want to focus on the poor performances from the first defeat of the year.
Here are the top five things we learned about the Patriots from their 23-6 drubbing by the Redskins.
Ryan Mallett Is Not a Tradable Asset
After Mike Mayock called Ryan Mallett a "legitimate NFL starting quarterback" on Inside Training Camp Live (via Chris Wesseling of NFL.com) earlier this week, New England Patriots fans were ready to see their favorite backup in action. What they saw was an inconsistent quarterback with little mobility and no touch.
Penalties may have cancelled out a few good plays; plus, Mallett wasn't helped by some of his offensive linemen. Nate Solder had a bear of a time with Brian Orakpo, and the interior line—Jordan Devey especially—was a sieve against Washington's top line.
However, pressure can't explain away passes at open receivers' feet. It can't explain one of the most awkward slides caught on tape. Mallett just looks like a misfit in the Patriots current offense, which is not currently designed to take advantage of his rocket arm.
Mallett had his moments. Bullet passes to Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins were impressive. To be successful in the NFL, however, the absence of bad is just as important as the presence of great.
Jimmy Garoppolo Passed His First Test
As bad as Mallett may have been, Jimmy Garoppolo was that good. He finished the day 9-of-13 for 157 yards and the lone touchdown for the Patriots.
He consistently was able to drive the ball outside the numbers and hit his receivers in stride. He showed decent touch underneath, despite being a bit off with his accuracy on a screen pass. More importantly, he was able to wiggle around in the pocket and buy time for his receivers to uncover, a trait that Mallett will never possess.
It is just one half of one preseason game against third-string defenders, but Garoppolo has certainly gotten everybody's attention. Everyone except Bill Belichick's, that is.
Bill Belichick elects not to talk about Jimmy Garoppolo's individual performance.— Doug Kyed (@DougKyedNESN) August 8, 2014
Rookie Skill Players Have a Long Way to Go
Brandon Bolden didn't do a thing Thursday night, but he may have secured a spot on the roster nonetheless.
Roy Finch, Jonas Gray, James White and Stephen Houston combined for 19 carries and just 43 yards. Finch (2) and Houston (1) also committed the cardinal sin of putting the football on the ground. While White is secure on the roster, the other three running backs have dug themselves a hole that will take some incredible play to get themselves out of.
One bright spot was the inspired play of receiver Brian Tyms. He racked up 119 yards and one touchdown on five catches. Unless Aaron Dobson starts the year on the PUP list, Tyms' chances of making the roster are pretty slim, but his physical play and ability to track the deep ball surely have him on the practice squad radar if he is not snatched up by a different team.
Defensive Line Depth Needs Addressed
It wasn't a stellar performance from the Patriots front seven, as the Redskins nearly broke the 200-yard barrier on the ground. Not all of the Patriots were worried, however:
Patriots DL Tommy Kelly: "I don't foresee us having these problems when we get to Miami (for the season-opener)."— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) August 8, 2014
Kelly has a point in that Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich and Dominique Easley didn't play a snap, while Kelly and Vince Wilfork only played sparingly. However, having quality depth is important. That depth took quite a hit in Washington, as Sealver Siliga injured his hand in practice and Chris Jones went down with an undetermined leg injury that caused him to miss the remainder of the game.
One bright spot was the flashes of quality speed rush from Michael Buchanan and rookie Zach Moore. They were a mess in gap-control, but that can be taught. Having enough athletic ability to put pressure on the quarterback is a much harder lesson.
Secondary Not Synced Yet
With Darrelle Revis, Alfonzo Dennard and Devin McCourty on the sideline from the opening kickoff—Brandon Browner and Duron Harmon joined them quickly thereafter—it was up to the youngsters to stop the Redskins.
Logan Ryan—a breakout candidate in 2014—appeared to struggle throughout the game, but I suspect that some of the problem was with safeties being late to their assignment. Often, you could see Ryan shuttling receivers into space that ended up completely unoccupied. Something was amiss.
The problems were exacerbated when veterans Pat Chung and Tavon Wilson exited. Chung looked good coming from depth and providing sure tackling, while Wilson was all over the field.
Despite some growing pains, all was not lost. Malcolm Butler was up to the challenge throughout the game and looked like a likely candidate for a four-week job to fill in for Brandon Browner.
Stats and figures courtesy of NFL.com