Patriots Preseason Week 2 Notebook: A Good Problem at Running Back, A Glaring Hole at Kicker; Quarterback Battle Heating Up

PHILADELPHIA — Right out of the gate, the Patriots’ relentless defense — led by Matt Judon — attacked Joe Flacco. This turnover gave the Patriots a true red zone set with the first unit, an area the team could practice last week vs. Washington. Damien Harris punched it in practically untouched with superb blocking, especially from Nelson Agholor. It’s a rule of thumb in New England: if you are a Patriot, you block.

Heating Up

Cam Newton looked like his best Patriot self. He appears to have cut down physically; he no longer looks like he is lumbering over with a step behind. Tonight, Newton moved in the pocket with a light, confident step, allowing himself to step up and sling the rock. The offensive line gave Newton a tremendous cushion as Cam orchestrated three balls on a rope in a row. If Newton continues to play like this, he will be starting for the Patriots.

The Patriots looked more smooth, efficient, and organized. The drives carried more weight despite mistakes. For example, Mac Jones’ first drive featured two holding penalties and a near pick that were answered with completions on 3rd and long and a 17 play, 91 yard touchdown drive. It would be nice to see Jones play with at least the starting offensive line, but it is better to see the rookie play with a sped up clock.

Perhaps Jones’ best trait this summer has been his ability to bounce back. For instance, he stares down Kendrick Bourne on a crossing route that should have been intercepted, only to hit N’Keal Harry for a 19-yard first down the next play. Jones knows when he messes up and how he can fix it. He takes snaps under center, shotgun, play action, and no huddle. He continues to put together Patriot drives at a professional pace.

A Good Problem in The Backfield

Rookie Rhamondre Stevenson continues to steal the show despite a costly fumble late in the game, which won’t go well in the film room. That being said, his production can not be overlooked. Stevenson runs with a smoothness that is direct and certain; he consistently creates a positive run making the right reads.

J.J. Taylor is playing his way onto this roster for good. Whether it is in the backfield, catching passes or retrieving punts, Taylor is an ultimate Patriot. His bounce packs a serious punch and unpredictability for oncoming defenders. His spin move near the goal line opened everyone’s eyes. It’s impossible not to love J.J. Taylor.

Cooling Off

After an excellent debut last Thursday, Kicker, Quinn Nordin is starting to get into his own head. His three missed kicks were wide and overthought. Nordin can not afford to send anymore kicks wide of the uprights.

Another week another Patriot dropping a Mac Jones dime from 40+ yards. This week’s addition highlights N’Keal Harry. Harry has shown promise in camp, but he can’t turn it on when the lights shine. Scott Zolak rightfully pointed out that Harry mistakenly leaped for Jones’ pass, causing him to lose focus, drop the ball, and get himself hurt. Had Harry ran through the ball, he would have had six.

For the second week in a row, there is a lot to be excited for in this Patriots team. Not to get ahead of ourselves here, but Bill Belichick has revamped this roster greatly. The veterans are in their prime and the up-comers and fresh and hungry to compete. The Patriots play their final preseason game vs the New York Giants on August 29th, 6:00pm.

(Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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