While they still keep score, preseason football is not about wins and losses. Bill Belichick made that clear last week when didn’t challenge an obvious catch by Jakobi Meyers that was ruled incomplete.
Preseason football, however, can give key insight into what a team is looking to work on and how they might react to certain situations when the games eventually count. So, let’s take a look at a few key sequences from the Patriots week two preseason game, and what these plays could mean for this group moving forward.
1st and goal @ PHI 9, Q1 13:32 – 4 yard run by Damien Harris
2nd and goal @ PHI 5, Q1 12:54 – 5 yard TD run by Damien Harris
The Patriots were gifted excellent field position due to a bad snap and fumble, but red zone situations will be key for this group no matter how they get there. In this sequence it was made pretty clear that this team is going to run the ball a ton when they get close to the goal line. It is important to note that red zone throws will likely become more frequent when Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith return.
However, the coaching staff seems to have a great deal of confidence in the run game when inside the 10. They rushed the ball three straight times in the second quarter when inside the 10, and again opted for three straight rushes inside the 10 in the third quarter. All three possessions resulted in touchdowns, each time with a different back.
1st and 10 @ NE 26, Q1 10:36 – Cam Newton 18 yard play action pass to Jakobi Meyers
2nd and 9 @ NE 45, Q1 9:25 – Cam Newton 23 yard pass to Kendrick Bourne
1st and 10 @ PHI 32, Q1 8:44 – Cam Newton 10 yard pass to Jakobi Meyers
This sequence was telling for a few reasons. For a team that is expected to almost always run the ball on first down, the Patriots offense ran two pass plays on first down, one of them a play action pass play. Just as establishing the run game can help set up play action, establishing the play action/pass game can help the run game. This strategy of utilizing play action on first down, to then allow for bigger runs later in the game, was often employed by the Cleveland Browns in their previous season.
It not only keeps the defense guessing, but it also allows for the passing offense to gain confidence in the first few possessions. In terms of the execution, all three throws were on the money from Newton. His velocity was excellent and on the pass to Kendrick Bourne he actually stopped Bourne in his spot, which prevented a big hit on Kendrick. Earlier in the week it was reported that Cam threw Matt Lacosse a “hospital pass” which led to an injury for the tight end. It is nice to see Cam make that adjustment in the game as this passing offense will be predicated on attacking the middle of the field, where receivers can easily be led into big hits.
2nd and 11 @ PHI 25, Q1 7:25 – Cam Newton screen pass to James White, 5 yard gain
1st and 20 @ NE 15, Q2 9:08 – Mac Jones screen pass to Sony Michel, 7 yard gain
Although both screen passes picked up positive yardage, it is clear that the offensive linemen are still adjusting to the rule change that restricts below the waist blocks on scrimmage downs. In past seasons the Patriots have often utilized screen passes to their running backs in a variety of situations. Jonnu Smith also received his fair share of screen passes when playing for the Titans, which could be something we see upon his return. The offensive line will definitely need to adjust to this new rule in order maximize potential yardage on these screen looks. Luckily, they have a pretty good head coach who will likely look for numerous ways to modify blocks on these plays.
4th and 3 @ NE 9, Q2 11:18 – Kyle Dugger breaks up pass intended for Quez Watkins
Some good and some bad can be found when reviewing this play. Jaylen Mills was beaten pretty badly by Quez Watkins and grabbed his jersey in an attempt to recover. Luckily for Mills the refs missed the jersey grab, and Kyle Dugger was able to make a nice play to break up the pass.
This play marked Dugger’s second pass defense of the day, which is encouraging as pass coverage is an area in which Patriots fans and coaches alike hoped to see Dugger improve. If he continues to thrive in pass coverage, frequent pro-bowl visits could very well be in Kyle Dugger’s future.
First drive of the third quarter – Mac Jones and the Patriots offense ran the two minute drill to perfection
There was too much good during in this drive to boil it down to one sequence. The offense came out of the half running the two minute drill for the entirety of the drive: a great way to practice some situational football. While there were multiple nice plays by Gunner Olszewski and JJ Taylor, the field generalship and pinpoint accuracy of Mac Jones stood out above all else. Jones had multiple 15+ yard completions to Olszewski, and his command of the offense impressed the commentary team, Particularly Scott Zolak.
Jones was also able to showcase his arm strength, which seems to have been unfairly criticized in the past. Perhaps it was because the other top-tier quarterbacks in his draft class have arms that jump off the screen, but reports of Mac having a “weak” arm were definitely exaggerated. No one will confuse Mac Jones’ arm strength for that of a Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen, but the rookie QB can make any throw that this offense asks of him.
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)