By: Steve Balestrieri
The New England Patriots got off to a good start in pre-season, sweeping aside the Jacksonville Jaguars 47-12 last night in Foxboro. The 47 points was the most the Pats have ever scored in pre-season and all of this with no Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Chad Ochocinco or starters along the offensive line as Bill Belichick played a lineup of subs to give them a chance to play.
QBs Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett both played well and were able to keep drives going and more importantly put points on the board. Hoyer especially was very impressive, looking the part as someone in charge of the offense and making quick reads. Mallett played surprisingly well for his first action, given that he’s only been in camp for about 2 weeks.
Game balls go to Stevan Ridley and Taylor Price. Ridley showed he has more to offer than 3 clouds and pile of dust and displayed some good elusiveness. He also caught some balls out of the backfield, something that has been a question mark for him. Overall, he scored three touchdowns, two rushing and one receiving and looked really solid.
Price, as we’ve said throughout camp so far is looking like he, and not Brandon Tate is locking down the 4th WR slot. Price made a fantastic catch at the back of the endzone on a pass from Hoyer that was well behind him. And he had another play where he broke a tackle and raced down the sidelines. Big night for him, he looks light years ahead of the guy that was in camp last season.
The back-up offensive line highlighted by rookie Nate Solder looked pretty solid on the field. They did a decent job of run blocking and pass protected well giving both Hoyer and Mallett a nice pocket to throw from.
Aaron Hernandez who didn’t have a fumble last year had two last night, although he looked superb in the passing game. Danny Woodhead also put the ball on the ground and both will hear it from Belichick during the film sessions.
The defense, specifically the DL play was solid. Probably to shut up people in the media, Bill Belichick came out and showed the base 3-4, then switched to the four man front we’ve seen so much of this pre-season. But to me, the story wasn’t what they played, but HOW they played. The defense was getting up the field and Belichick was allowing them to attack much more.
The style was similar to the 4-3 under they played while Willie McGinest was here in the ‘Elephant’ role, now played by Jermaine Cunningham, who was ok but not great. He did get a sack but that one was kind of a present. On the other side DE Eric Moore got good pressure all through the first half and Mark Anderson did as well in the second half.
Dane Fletcher continues to impress, filling in for an injured Brandon Spikes, Fletcher was all over the field, making plays. He was a flying missile out there, constantly blowing up plays in the backfield. He and Spikes should make quite a pair at MLB.
The secondary, to be fair was sitting back in Cover 2 and Cover 3 for a lot of the evening. But Darius Butler and Jonathan Wilhite are still on the bubble as far as I’m concerned. Neither was especially standout in coverage. Wilhite also got tagged with a block in the back that wiped out a nice Taylor Price punt return.
The Patriots special teams struggled for most of this game, which should drive coach Scott O’Brien nuts. The return game sans the Price return was very pedestrian, and the coverage units were overall not sharp, giving up a long return. To boot, an extra point snap sailed well over Zoltan Mesko’s head, bouncing almost to mid-field before Mesko booted the ball out of bounds.
This is the kind of game film, Belichick will love, plenty of positives and negatives to build off of. Overall though, he has to be pleased with the effort put forth but all of his back-ups as they swept aside the Jaguars with ease. And it appears that Jack Del Rio’s head set didn’t go out last night….
And special kudos go to Richard Medlin from tiny Fayetteville State who had two touchdowns rushing last night. While stationed at Ft. Bragg, NC, I lived near the campus and it’s far from the size of many of the football factories you see in college. I know some folks in NC were happy last night to see one of their own Broncos having some success in the NFL.
The Patriots are off today and training camp practices resume Saturday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. and we’ll be there to bring you the latest from Foxboro central.
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