If your goal this preseason has been to find some Patriots rookies to latch on to for the future, consider yourself in luck.
Even with first rounder N'Keal Harry sidelined for Saturday's Week 2 contest vs. the Tennessee Titans due to injury, the story continues to be the play of New England's 2019 draft class -- including one player who wasn't even drafted at all.
Wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, defensive end Chase Winovich, cornerback Joejuan Williams, running back Damien Harris and quarterback Jarrett Stidham all had moments in New England's 22-17 win in Nashville which bode well for not only the future, but the present as well.
While the story of this weekend for New England is unquestionably the reinstatement of wide receiver Josh Gordon, here's how the next generation of Patriots fared vs. the Titans after a week of joint practices:
- Does the reinstatement of Gordon turn up the heat on several players on New England's depth chart at wide receiver? Absolutely. But Meyers ain't one of them. For the second week in a row, Meyers looked the part of an NFL receiver despite going undrafted in April. He finished with six catches on six targets for 82 yards, plus a reception on a two-point conversion in the first quarter. He also showed proficiency in working out of the slot for the Patriots on Saturday. Meyers is making this team.
- Donning the same number once worn in New England by the opposing coach on Saturday, Mike Vrabel, Winovich looked the part of what No. 50 has represented for the Patriots under Bill Belichick (don't forget about Rob Ninkovich, either). Winovich had a sack and two tackles for a loss, in addition to drawing a holding penalty. The third-round pick may not have been as criminally underdrafted out of Michigan as one of his teammates, but Winovich is beginning to look like a steal for the Patriots.
- After a quiet Week 1 marred by drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, Williams flashed his coverage skills on Saturday with a pair of passes defended.
- In his first action of the preseason, Harris showed some burst out of the backfield with 80 yards on 14 carries, including a long run of 20 yards. Given the caution New England needs to take with Sony Michel's knees, anything Harris can give to the Patriots will be helpful.
- Stidham got better as his night went on, finishing 14-for-19 for 193 yards and a touchdown. The most telling moment for Stidham was an 11-play, 99-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter, which he capped off with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Damoun Patterson to give the Patriots the lead. Stidham boasted his legs at one point as well, scrambling for an 11-yard gain on a third-and-11 for New England in the third quarter. Though the Titans dropped a few would-be interceptions, it's hard not to be impressed with Stidham through two games. This isn't Kevin O'Connell or Ryan Mallett.
- Defensive tackle Byron Cowart, a fifth-round pick last April, had a sack on the first defensive series of the game for the Patriots.
- In what has to be the most encouraging sign yet for Isaiah Wynn, he drew the start at left tackle, his first game action since last preseason, when he tore his Achilles and went on to miss the entire 2018 season.
- Tom Brady didn't play for the second week in a row, just the third time in his career he's sat out the first two exhibitions for New England. He didn't play at all in the preseason in 2008, and sat out the first two games in 2016 with his four-game suspension for his role in DeflateGate looming.
- Stephen Gostkowski missed a field goal for the second week in a row, this time from 40 yards out. For what it's worth, this miss came with rookie punter Jake Bailey on the hold rather than the incumbent, Ryan Allen.
- Allen and Bailey split punting duties this week, with Allen on the field for the first two before Bailey finished the night.