The New England Patriots throttled the Jacksonville Jaguars in each team’s preseason opener earlier tonight, 47-12. The Patriots were lead by steady play from back-up quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett, hard and shifty running by Stevan Ridley, and pressure on the Jacksonville quarterbacks. Did I say pressure? From the Patriots’ defense? I certainly did. The team ended the game with four sacks and were constantly around the Jags’ quarterbacks, causing hurried throws.
Here are some quick first impressions of the game:
- Lots of four-man fronts. The Pats’ defense played much of the game using four-man fronts. On the Jags’ first series, the defense looked soft and got run on pretty well. The second defensive series, they played exclusively 3-4 fronts and tightened up. They then went back to four-man fronts for most of the game and looked steady, albeit with back-ups. It was a very promising sign though that they improved after the opening series and looked stout at times.
- Ball security an issue. Aaron Hernandez fumbled twice, losing his first on the Pats’ first offensive play of the game. Danny Woodhead also fumbled, but recovered the ball. There were some other loose-ball plays that were ruled down-by-contact, but this is clearly an area Bill Belichick will focus on in practice.
- Back-Up QB play looked strong. Both Brian Hoyer and rookie Ryan Mallett played very well tonight, especially Hoyer. The players combined to go 27 of 40 for 335 yards, 2 touchdowns, no picks, and a combined QB rating of 109.9. Of course, it was against back-ups or guys that won’t even be in the league, but they were also playing with players who fit that same bill, so it was very encouraging. The Pats may have the strongest QB stable in the NFL.
- Stevan Ridley shines. The rookie third-round RB from LSU led the Pats in rushing and receiving. He finished with 111 total yards and 3 touchdowns. Breaking it down, he ran for 64 yards on 16 carries (4.0 YPC) and 2 TDs, and caught 7 balls for 47 yards and a TD. Too soon to say for sure, but he looked like a guy the Pats could rely on every down. He ran with power, which was what he was known for coming out of college, but he also showed some shiftiness.
- Taylor Price could be earning a spot in a crowded WR corps. Taylor Price, who basically red-shirted last season, was on the field for most of the game and showed the talent that made him a third-round pick last year. He showed tremendous hands on a TD catch in the back of the end zone and broke away from a corner’s tackle for a 50-yard play. He finished the game with 5 catches for 105 yards and a TD.
- Special teams a concern. Blocking on kick returns and tackling on kick offs was sloppy, allowing an 84-yard return on one kick off. On the positive side, Stephen Gostkowski looked good coming off a hamstring injury that knocked him out of last season, going 2/2 on field goals of 46 and 43 yards. Rookie kicker Chris Koepplin from UMASS handled kick offs as the Pats are easing Gostkowski back in, and he boomed most either into or out-of the back of the end zone. He could get a look from a team looking for a strong kick-off guy or could even make a practice squad while he works on field goals.
Overall, you can’t really complain about a 47-12 victory. Remember, before the 19-0 comments start flowing, it’s only the preseason, and we’ve yet to see most of the starters, of our team or another team. Still, things look promising in New England.
More to come tomorrow and throughout the weekend.