Three things jumped right out at me in the first two drives of the first pre-season game of the New England Patriots vs Philadelphia Eagles.
1 – New England clearly will be able to run the ball very well this season.
The first play of the game was huge 62 yard gain by Stevan Ridley who broke right up the middle after nice blocks all around, but especially by Logan Mankins. Ridley had a clear path to the end zone, but didn’t have the speed to get there. After five more solid run plays, the Patriots had run six plays, all runs, and had a 6-0 lead. The lead went to 7-0 after a Gostkowski kick that split the uprights.
2 – The offensive scheme is largely in tact even with all the personnel changes that came about this off-season.
The multiple tight end sets were very effective, with Michael Hoomanawanui taking on the versatile role formerly occupied by Aaron Hernandez. All the tight ends got some action and did a good job. Jake Ballard also had a key block on the opening play that sprung Ridley. Daniel Fells and rookie Zach Sudfeld both had a couple downs and blocked effectively.
3 – The up tempo game is going to remain as a staple of the Patriots offense.
Again, with the mass exodus of last years receiving talent and the arrival of free agent and rookie receivers, logic dictated that the hyper tempo offense the Patriots displayed last year was in jeopardy. To run 100 more plays than the next closest team in the league, all the players need to know the play book inside and out, and have time together to ensure the communication is flawless.
However, on the second drive of the game for the Patriots, Tom Brady finally put the ball in the air. After a near sack on a short drop on the first play that ended up in an incompletion, a quick timing pass to Danny Amendola was right in sync. A deep hitch to rookie Aaron Dobson was perfect. Brady rifled the ball 20+ yards down field before Dobson broke off his route. When he turned, the ball stunned him as it was right in his face, yet he caught it nicely with two defenders near by.
Brady seemed to favor Kenbrell Thomkins as he hit him a couple of times. Once was a back shoulder through in very tight coverage, and the other a bullet that the youngster hauled in nicely.
The following players were exceptionally solid.
Tom Brady – He looked very sharp and in total control. Much more so than you’d expect in the first pre-season game, especially with a bunch of young receivers.
Will Svitek – He started at right guard and blocked very well other than getting stuffed one on play by the nose tackle. He man-handled the defenders repeatedly.
Shane Vereen – Shane caught a perfect pass from Tom Brady, pulling it in with one had as he was going to the ground, in the corner of the end-zone for a touchdown. It was only one play, but it is a strong indication he will be very productive this season.
Kenbrell Thomkins – He looks extraordinarily athletic and he has great size. He seems in sync with Brady and displayed great hands on both catches he hauled in.
It’s super early, but it’s clear the Patriots won’t miss the talent they lost on offense nearly as much as you would think they would.