Is it a little ridiculous to think that the Patriots looked a little bit better tonight than they did on Feb. 3, when we saw them hoist their sixth Lombardi Trophy in franchise history with a 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams?
Yes, yes it is.
That said…which quarterback hype train is going to be more full come Friday morning, Brian Hoyer’s or Jarrett Stidham’s?
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Sans Tom Brady, a healthy scratch for New England’s 31-3 win over the Detroit Lions, Hoyer and Stidham combined to throw for 326 yards, completing 26 of 38 in the process. Hoyer, who started, was 12 for 14 while Stidham finished up at 14 for 24.
Hoyer, of course, is who he is as he begins his 11th NFL season. Stidham, on the other hand, is merely at the beginning of his career after the Patriots drafted him in the fourth round in April.
Stidham, just like Brady, was the seventh quarterback taken in his draft class. Before we start discussing a potential sequel to the ‘Brady 6,’ here were a few other things that stood out in tonight’s preseason opener for the Patriots.
• Speaking of players who freefell on draft day, 28 wide receivers were taken ahead of Jakobi Meyers – who didn’t hear his name called at all before signing in Foxboro as an undrafted free agent.
That hype which emanated from the first two weeks of training camp is proving to be both real and spectacular for Meyers, who caught a pair of touchdown passes in the first half.
Meyers, who broke former Patriot preseason great Torry Holt’s single-season record for receptions (92) at NC State last fall, is feeling like more and more of a sure thing to make this roster by the day. He drew the start opposite Phillip Dorsett, but didn’t make his first grab until fellow rookie N’Keal Harry left the game with an apparent leg injury. Once the door opened, Meyers finished with six catches for 69 yards and two touchdowns.
Harry had two great catches, including an 11-yard reception on third-and-10 on a hook route on his very first snap of the game.
It’s the first week of the preseason against a team that missed the playoffs last season. But one can dream that Harry and Meyers will blossom into the most productive draft class of wide receivers for the Patriots since Deion Branch and David Givens in 2002.
• Maurice Harris, another new receiver in New England’s stable, had an up-and-down night. He caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Hoyer in the first quarter to open the game’s scoring, but dropped two deep balls from Stidham in the third quarter.
The thinking remains: if Harry and Julian Edelman (inactive tonight) are locks for the roster at wide receiver, that leaves three open spots for Meyers, Harris, Phillip Dorsett, Braxton Berrios, Dontrelle Inman, Gunner Olszewski, Ryan Davis, Damoun Patterson and Danny Etling – with Demaryius Thomas and Cam Meredith likely to open the season on PUP. Meyers didn’t play after the first offensive series of the second half for the Patriots, a good sign for where he stands on the depth chart right now.
• On defense, New England had nine sacks for 81 yards lost. Derek Rivers had two, while Jamie Collins, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Danny Shelton, Terez Hall and Shilique Calhoun had one each. Chase Winovich was credited with 1.5 sacks and Byron Cowart a half sack.
The sack for Collins was a throwback to his earlier days with the Patriots, where he began his career in 2013 until his midseason trade in 2016. He’s been productive in training camp and looks like his second tour of duty in Foxboro will last well beyond the preseason.
• Presumed starters along the offensive line Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason and Marcus Cannon sat this one out. At left tackle stood Dan Skipper to begin the game, with Isaiah Wynn still being held out of full contact.
No matter who stood in front of Hoyer or Stidham, it didn’t matter: neither quarterback was sacked in the game.
• It wasn’t a good night for two cornerbacks recently drafted in the second round by New England. Duke Dawson, a second-round pick in 2018 who didn’t appear in a game as a rookie, got beat off a rub route on Detroit’s first offensive series for a 24-yard gain and was later flagged twice for an illegal substitution and hold – the latter on special teams. Joejuan Williams, meanwhile, drew a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct in the third quarter, shoving a Lions ballcarrier already out of bounds. Williams is in no danger of being cut after being drafted in the second round this year, but Dawson may have a short leash given New England’s ridiculous depth at the position.
Still in the game in the fourth quarter, Dawson was in coverage on another 29-yard compleition for the Lions.
• Stephen Gostkowski missed a 37-yard field goal.
• Gostkowski’s holder on the FGA, as well as his PATs, was punter Ryan Allen. Like last preseason, Allen finds himself in a competition for his job. Unlike last season, Allen may not have the edge this time around: Jake Bailey, whom the Patriots traded up to draft in the fifth round last April, lined up for New England’s first punt – in addition to kickoff duties in place of Gostkowski.
Last August, Allen handled all of the punts in game action for the Patriots over Corey Bojorquez.
• Matt LaCosse left the game with a left leg injury and did not return, leaving New England in even more dire straits at the tight end position. Lance Kendricks did not travel with the team to Detroit due to an injury, Ben Watson is suspended for the first four games of the regular season, and the Patriots failed to address the position in the draft.
Good thing no one on the roster has been assigned to No. 87 yet.