The New England Patriots had more “duds” than “studs” among both the starters and backups in their 40-9 loss to the Detroit Lions, and we’ll be taking a look at players on both sides of the fence. Usually the biggest takeaways regarding preseason games come from backups or young players looking to chomp at the bit, and that’s what this series will take a look at.
1. LB Steve Beauharnais
Whenever I see somebody leave Steve Beauharnais off of their projected 53-man roster, I’m always a little bit disappointed. The seventh-round pick out of Rutgers has surpassed my expectations this preseason, because I thought he would be a seldom-used backup and a replacement on special teams for Tracy White. Following the past three games, I believe Beauharnais has a role to play on this defense, even if he barely receives any snaps. Once again, Beauharnais showed up well as a run stopper, and he seems to get downfield and shed blocks with relative ease. He recorded three tackles against the Lions, and I also thought he showed up well in pass coverage. Beauharnais brings some intriguing coverage ability to the table in addition to his solid run defense, and his special teams play seals his roster spot.
2. CB Logan Ryan
Another Rutgers rookie makes this list of five for positive reasons, and he was praised by just about everybody as one of the few bright spots on defense. Ryan could be a dime corner for the Patriots, as Ras-I Dowling is an injury waiting to happen and Alfonzo Dennard has a suspension looming. Ryan recorded three tackles with a pass defended, and he only allowed one reception. I’m not sold on Ryan, but he has impressed me by improving in each and every game this preseason. The fact that he is the New England Patriots fifth corner on the depth chart speaks to the volume of depth that this team has at CB.
3. S Duron Harmon
A third Rutgers player to be drafted this year makes the list, but he isn’t on here for good reasons. Duron Harmon looked like the worst player on the field, and he did not looked assured in coverage at all. That’s the opposite of what I’ve seen from Harmon this preseason, as he looked solid in coverage (he can play deep coverage) in the first two games. Harmon can play at either strong or free safety, but he looks like a better free safety to me. I’m not going to take too much out of one awful performance, but it is telling that Harmon missed a whopping four tackles. The only bright spot from his game on Thursday was the fact that he was active with four tackles, but that’s not much of a bright spot with what he showed in coverage (and the fact that he missed as many tackles as he made).
4. C Matt Stankiewitch
I loved Matt Stankiewitch coming out of college, because he is the kind of UDFA center that usually makes it with the New England Patriots. Stankiewitch has a real mean streak as a run blocker, and he has terrific intangibles. Those make up for his poor “tools” and lack of prowess as a pass blocker, and he was a threat to make the practice squad coming into camp. Now, I’m not so sure if he cracks that gig over Brice Schwab, who has outplayed him in all three preseason contests. After firing a bad snap and having pass pro woes against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Stankiewitch followed things up with a subpar display against the Lions. The Patriots had a rough time running the football, and Stankiewitch was one of the culprits.
5. LB Jamie Collins
Jamie Collins has already exceeded my expectations this preseason, and he was good in the first two preseason games. Collins made a name for himself in training camp by playing well in coverage and constantly forcing fumbles. Linebackers coach Pepper Johnson, and it is easy to see why; Collins simply has a knack for making plays. Run defense was considered to be a weakness for the freakishly athletic second-round pick coming into the draft, but he has shown some positive flashes on run D. Collins simply had an off game against the Lions, but it definitely deserves to be highlighted. Collins was beat by Lions tight end Joseph Fauria for a 22-yard touchdown pass, and he also missed two tackles while recording just one. That’s an awful line for somebody who played more than any other linebacker, and it serves to show that rookies are more prone to off games. Collins is going to have a big role for the New England Patriots defense and could be a star in the making, but he is going to have some rough moments next season as part of the learning process.