The Patriots got their second win of the preseason last night, with a 25-21 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I posted my “quick hit” takeaways from the game shortly after the conclusion of the game. That piece can be read here.
But there is plenty more to talk about regarding this game, so here are 10 additional observations of mine from last night.
1. Tebow Horrendous
The Patriots third string quarterback did not have his best day at the office last night. He completed only one of his seven pass attempts for -1 yards to go along with a horribly overthrown interception. Tebow reverted to his old self, missing open guys, making awful reads and seeming totally lost in leading his offense. Tebow did manage to grind out 30 yards on the ground, which is a small consolation prize to take from his awful performance. After the game Tebow said, “I feel like I am improving every day”. It certainly felt like he took a step back last night, rather than a step forward.
2. Logan Ryan Solid
Ryan played a lot of snaps once again in the Pats win over the Bucs, and his performance was very impressive in my eyes. His man coverage throughout the game was very good, and his 53 yard interception return for a touchdown midway through the third quarter showed exceptional instincts, and knowledge of the game of football. Ryan knew what was coming, and he jumped the route and was rewarded with a touchdown. The amount of reps he has gotten over the first two preseason games will really benefit him when it comes time for him to play some valuable minutes in the regular season.
3. Tavon Wilson Takes Another Step Back
Is it too early to proclaim Wilson a bust? He had a decent rookie campaign last year, but he has struggled mightily to start this year off. Wilson seems to lack the ability to effectively cover one on one, and read what the offense is doing from his position as a deep safety. The one positive thing that I can take away from his performance last night was, that he brought an element of physicality to the back end that wasn’t there in previous years.
4. Lack Of Depth At Defensive Tackle Hurts Pats
A big story-line throughout this offseason has been how thin the Patriots are at defensive tackle. After starters Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, the Patriots have rookies Scott Vallone, Cory Grissom, and Marcus Forston, who is in his second season in the league. None of these three players are locks to make the roster, and the lack of talent on the inside forced defensive end Marcus Benard to play on the inside once again. Benard is a talented pass rusher, but he is not suited to play tackle. He was dominated throughout the game when it came to the run game, and when the regular season rolls around, this will cost the Patriots.
5. Gostkowski Struggles Again
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed two of the three field goals he attempted last week against the Eagles, and he missed another last night. Gostkowski drilled a 39 yard field goal in the second quarter, before he clanged a 50 yarder off the post later in the quarter.
6. Mesko Edges Ahead In Punter Competition
Rookie Ryan Allen and veteran Zoltan Mesko have been locked in a tight battle throughout training camp for the punting job, and I think Mesko took a slight edge last night. The Patriots punted five times, and Mesko received two of them, while Allen booted two. Mesko’s punts averaged 44.3 yards and dropped one inside the 20. Allen’s averaged 39 yards and he failed to place one inside the 20 yard line.
7. Tight End Rotation
With mega-star tight end Rob Gronkowski sidelined with a back injury, the Patriots have had a number of tight ends battling throughout camp to earn some playing time while Gronk is absent. Zach Sudfeld has definitely emerged as the best receiver of the group, but interestingly enough, it was Jake Ballard that got the first snaps with the first team offense. Michael Hoomananawui saw action on the field next, and then Sudfeld got his playing time. Despite these rotations, I still maintain that Sudfeld will be getting the majority of the snaps when the regular season starts up. His receiving ability is much greater than either of the other two, and his blocking was much better last night as opposed to last week versus the Eagles.
8. Use Of The Fullback A Surprise
The Patriots surprised us all by coming out of the gate with a fullback on the field. Over the last couple of years, the Patriots offense had moved almost entirely away from the fullback, and I wasn’t expecting a return anytime soon. But the Pats deployed James Develin against the Bucs, and he was very effective when it came to short yardage situations. Develin also provided some useful blocking when he was called upon, and this may pave a path towards Develin’s presence on the final 53 man roster.
9. Penalties An Issue
Year in and year out, the Patriots are one of the most disciplined teams in the league. Bill Belichick is the type of coach that won’t tolerate any nonsense, and because of that, the Patriots are always one of the least penalized teams in the NFL. That is why it was very surprising to see New England called for 10 penalties last night. Granted, it is the preseason, so everybody is still “warming up”, but it will surely be a point of emphasis during meetings over the next week for Belichick and the coaching staff.
10. Brady’s Leg Fine
The circus surrounding Brady’s left knee sprain died down after reports came out saying that he was just fine, but every sane Patriots fan still had to see for themselves how the knee looked. Brady was on the field for 23 plays, and his knee looked perfectly alright. In fact, I think Brady is just as sharp as he has ever been, and that is bad news for the rest of the NFL.