FOXBORO — The ovation that filled the air in Gillette Stadium when Mac Jones walked out into the huddle. felt like hope. Whether or not Jones sees the field this year, there is life in the hearts of Foxboro. Here’s what the notebook reads for Preseason Week One:

Big Money Signings Shine

The first defensive outing featured a great run defense, supported by Ja’Whaun Bentley and Matthew Judon. Judon quickly proved his worth, consistently popping up on every play. He hammered Fitzpatrick on the second drive, while making strong tackles in the backfield. Judon did go down quickly with an injury, making all of New England gasp in horror. Hopefully, Judon won’t see too many preseason snaps.

Jonnu Smith, the first signee of the 2021 offseason put his YAC ability on display. He took a simple slant and turned it into a first down; quickly moving up field while shaking off defenders like a stubborn running back. As previously mentioned, Jonnu Smith will bring an essential element after the catch. These plays will tire out defenders, create first downs, and set up short yardage plays in the future.

Other Winners

Damien Harris looked like a Bell-cow back in the NFL. Carrying all of the first team reps, Harris looked confident, experienced, and dangerous with the ball in his hands. Rookie Rhamondre Stevenson, however, took the show and ran with it. Light on his feet while packing a punch, Stevenson stitched together positive yards on every run. Stevenson finished the night with 117 yards and 2 TDs on 8 carries, featuring a 91-yard touchdown run, practically going untouched.

As unnoticed as Jakobi Meyers goes in training camp, he continues to be a different receiver when the lights come on. He simply knows how to get open and find the football, no matter who the Quarterback is. It seemed as though N’Keal Harry was having a great camp, but the biggest difference lies within 1v1 compared to 11v11. In practice, a receiver can look great, winning their matchup and coming down with big catches. But in a game, everything is different and Jakobi Meyers understands that difference.

Undrafted Kicker, Quinn Nordin looked set to be the game’s MVP if it wasn’t for Rhamondre Stevenson. Nordin converted all his field goal attempts, connecting from 30, 40, and 50 yards. It is looking like Nordin is making this roster and may become the Patriots starting kicker.

And lastly, Mac Jones. To put it simply, he looked good. Comfortable in the pocket, avoiding sacks, Mac got the ball out where it needed to go. Although he checked down often, Jones didn’t make any bad decisions. He put together strong drives while gaining yards. He mainly worked with the 2nd unit, including the backup offensive line so his options were rather limited. At the end of the day, Mac Jones showed great command and strong poise in the hurry up offense.
However, Jones’ arm teased the fans of Foxboro with a near 40-yard bomb to Kristian Wilkerson that was perfectly placed in the bucket…only to be dropped. Had Wilkerson been able to bring the football down, New England should have been given the Lombardi trophy.

Growing Pains

The offense got off to a rough start as Chase Young embarrassed Isaiah Wynn. Although Cam Newton held onto the ball for a while, Wynn didn’t give Cam much of a chance. With Nelson Agholor and Hunter Henry out, the offense was not designed for Cam Newton’s strengths. It is difficult to evaluate Cam’s performance without a legitimate deep threat.

The Patriots will desperately need Stephon Gilmore to be healthy in 2021. As good as the secondary looks, the team is very thin at outside corner. J.C. Jackson is strong and Jonathan Jones is a reliable slot corner, but Jalen Mills and Myles Bryant can not guard a team’s #2 Wide Receiver.

Not a great sight to see N’Keal Harry on the field in the 2nd half. Especially considering the fact that Kristian Wilkerson received all the attention. It was a night for Harry to step up and he disappeared.
With Christian Barmore in and out of practice, it makes sense to why the rookie did not see much of the field. It was also a bummer to see a minimal amount of Ronnie Perkins, hopefully there will be more time for the rookies to get their reps in.
The biggest loser, however, may be the Red-Zone offense. Most of the offensive possessions stalled out and led to field goals. By the time New England had gone goal line, Brian Hoyer was under center. The Red-Zone will become a crucial element of the Patriots success and not being able to run those sets are unfortunate.

All in all, it’s been an exciting night. This Patriots team is just scratching the surface on all ends of the field. There is a lot to be excited about in this team, in the trenches, in the air, and in the future. The Patriots’ next preseason game will be next Thursday vs the Philadelphia Eagles.

(Photo: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports)

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