Coming into their first preseason game of the year, there were plenty of positional questions for the New England Patriots. Whether it was a depth chart issue, or simply who will make the team, there was a lot to look for in Thursday’s contest.
So based off of what I saw in that game, here is the updated position battles in my eyes:
The first five are pretty much set in stone (Revis, Browner, Dennard, Ryan, Arrington), but Malcolm Butler made a strong push for the sixth spot, possibly sealing it up in that game. It wasn’t a certainty the Patriots would be carrying six corners into the regular season, but after the way Butler played against the Skins, I don’t see how they can’t keep him on the roster. Butler is essentially fighting with Justin Green, and Daxton Swanson for that roster spot, and neither of those two players impressed me against Washington.
Steve Beauharnais dropped a lot, and Darius Fleming helped his stock. That’s what I took away from the game in this department. Beauharnais had an overall crappy game, both in the run game, and the passing game. However Fleming played very well in the running game, making a few physical defensive stops. James Anderson is in the middle, as he didn’t play awful, but he certainly didn’t do many positives things. This is a battle we must continue monitoring going forward, as the fourth and fifth linebacker spots are currently wide open.
There was a lot of bad football from the backup defensive ends on Thursday, and in my opinion none of them made a strong case to the coaches. Will Smith did virtually nothing, rookie Zach Moore had a few nice plays, but was ineffective most of the night, and the same can be said for Michael Buchanan. Coming into camp, I was giving the edge to Buchanan, and I’m sticking to that. He needs to learn how to get off blocks, and not loop around to the quarterback so much, and if he can do that, he could potentially develop into a decent edge rusher.
Another group where it was an overall bad night. Especially for poor Roy Finch, who fumbled two times in the contest. Stephen Houston also coughed up the ball, and Jonas Gray gained a whopping 12 yards on nine carries. So after all of that, I think we are back where we started concerning the fourth running back spot. Although I will say that Finch is probably behind, because fumbling like that is not tolerated in this Patriots organization. We also can’t forget about Brandon Bolden, who did not play due to injury. He has flashed bits of talent while in Foxboro, so he may hold onto that roster spot.
Bryan Stork was out because of a lower body injury, so it was Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell snapping the ball all night. Connolly played the entire first half, and Wendell took over for the second half. That alone should show us how the Patriots feel about who will be starting on opening day, although from what a performance standpoint, it seemed like they were equal. I personally think they are “tied” for the right to be the starter, meaning that title will be won over the remaining few weeks of preseason.
If anything, D.J. Williams helped himself by missing the game. Justin Jones and Asa Watson both struggled, although they will certainly have more opportunities to show the coaches they have what it takes. However based on that game, the outlook is not good for either of them.
Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon are locked into the top two safety spots, which leaves the third and possibly fourth open to competition. Surprisingly, Tavon Wilson impressed me with his performance, as he was flying all over the field making plays. Patrick Chung and Travis Hawkins on the hand, did not. If the Patriots do in fact only carry three safeties (technically four, because of the special teamer, Nate Ebner), Wilson will make the cut.