The New England Patriots played their first preseason game. Here is what we learned about the team based on performances from the game.
The New England Patriots had their first preseason game against the Washington Football Team on Thursday and ended up winning the game.
While preseason win-loss records are not always indicative of how a season may turn out, ending the game with a win must have been a boost for many players on the team.
Thankfully, we no longer had to read about how players looked against each other in practice. This game gave everyone a real look at what we might expect from this year’s team.
Takeaways for the New England Patriots in the 2021 preseason opener
4. Mac Jones is still ascending
Mac Jones entered his first NFL game to the sounds of the stadium applauding and cheering for him. He wasn’t spectacular, but he wasn’t bad either. Jones did show pocket presence and timing that Patriots fans have yet to see with Cam Newton as the starter.
Jones finished the game 13-of-19 for 87 yards. While he wasn’t flashy, he did have his moments. Jones should have also thrown for a touchdown, but one of his best passes of the night was dropped by Kristian Wilkerson.
Jones led the Patriots’ offense on two field-goal drives. For a team that most likely plans on leaning on the running game and the defense, this was not a bad first night. More importantly, Jones was able to start his first series with the first-team offense.
While Jones did not do enough in the first game to steal the job away from Cam Newton, he may have still shown enough to continue to get first-team snaps in practices this week. This is important because the upcoming week will feature the team’s first joint practices when the Patriots travel to Philadelphia.
3. Running back depth is real
The Patriots may not have a dynamic running back duo like the Cleveland Browns, but Thursday night proved that the team’s perceived running back depth is real. From top to bottom, the Patriots have a solid group of running backs.
The team started Damien Harris at running back and he looked to have the same downhill burst he showed last season. Harris is backed up by Sony Michel who also looked good and quick. J.J. Taylor only received two carries, but he also had five catches for 31 yards. Taylor looked every bit like a solid change of pace back that can also do damage as a receiver.
Thanks to a 91-yard touchdown run, rookie Rhamondre Stevenson had the most rushing yards with 120 and two touchdowns. He showed off speed and power even though he may not get a lot of carries during the regular season. Throw in James White and special teamer Brandon Bolden, and it may be hard for the Patriots to make any cuts when it comes to the talented running back room.
2. N’Keal Harry made his life more difficult
Many media members have mentioned N’Keal Harry as potentially having the best training camp of his young career. His success in practices did not translate onto the game field on Thursday. Harry has already requested a trade, but a virtual no-show will make it extremely difficult for the Patriots to get enough in return for him.
Despite a solid amount of playing time, Harry finished the game with just one catch for four yards on just one target. In contrast, Kristian Wilkerson had nine targets and was able to turn it into a team-leading six receptions for 39 yards. Neither stat line is great, but Harry may be competing against Wilkerson for a roster spot. Add in the fact that Wilkerson also played on special teams, and he may solidifying himself as more important to the team than Harry.
1. Matt Judon and the Patriots have been a good match
While his stat line wasn’t special, Matt Judon made a strong impression in his first preseason game. He had one tackle and one QB hit, but he held the edge the way the Patriots dream up in his limited playing time. Judon was playing on the other side of the line of scrimmage consistently, and he also avoided injury when he was blocked in the knees.
Much was made about Judon’s pass rush win rate in previous seasons, but the Patriots tend to prefer EDGE players that handle their run responsibilities and occasionally pressure the quarterback. Judon has shown this ability in practices and it showed in the game. He is more capable than anyone playing on the outside for the Patriots last season, and he also sets a physical tone that can be infectious for the rest of the defense.