What do preseason tell us? Probably not much when it comes to the success of a team in the regular season. However, these games offer a glimpse into how individual players could contribute once the regular season starts.
New England beat Washington 26-17 in an exhibition game that saw both teams sit out their starting quarterbacks. The Patriots’ offense was anemic in the first half, while the Redskins jumped ahead 17-3. In a second half played with second and third stringers, New England got something working in the running game and outscored the visitors 23-0.
Six Observations from Preseason Game One
1. Patriots’ rookie cornerback Keion Crossen and defensive end Adrian Clayborn shot through a maze of blockers to force an incompletion on a developing screen play midway through the 2nd quarter. On the very next play, Clayborn beat Washington left tackle Geron Christian Sr. to the outside, rushing the throw, and Crossen was in perfect position to knock down the third-down attempt to receiver Maurice Harris. On the following Redskins drive, Keion Crossen jumped up for an interception attempt, fell down, but still had the fight to get up and the speed to chase down receiver Cam Sims’ 57 yard catch-and-run just short of the goal line.
2. Coach Brian Flores, the new leader of the defense, seemed to pass a preseason test in the 1st quarter. Washington’s offense started the game with a Rob Kelley zone run left and New England defensive end Derek Rivers crashed down to pursue and tackle the runner for minimal gain. Three plays later, the Redskins gave the same zone left look on a play action that sucked Rivers too far inside and made for an easy 11-yard completion from Colt McCoy to Maurice Harris. On the Redskins’ next drive they tried the play action off a zone left look again and the Patriots’ defense was ready: the tight end in the right flat and the receiver over the middle were both well covered, and Derek Rivers was closing quickly on the quarterback when he threw the incompletion.
3. First year linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley forced a holding call against Washington fullback Elijah Wellman late in the 1st quarter, and then knocked the ball out of running back Samaje Perine’s hands midway through the 2nd. On a goal line run later in the 2nd, Danny Shelton, Deatrich Wise Jr., and Dont'a Hightower held up the line of scrimmage while Bentley cut through to bring down Rob Kelley at the line. Close to halftime, Bentley was step-for-step with tight end Matt Flanagan and after the completion he immediately made the tackle along the left sideline.
4. Receiver Phillip Dorsett started the game for New England and twice let balls slip between his fingers. First, he was running up the right sideline midway through the 1st quarter and couldn’t hold onto in a pass that would have been out of bounds anyway. Then on the following drive, Dorsett dropped a deep end cut that would have been a third down conversion. Patriots’ receiver Devin Lucien, playing against lesser competition, made a catch over the middle near the end of the 2nd to set up the team’s first field goal. In the 4th, Lucien made a terrific grab on a poorly thrown Danny Etling pass, regained his balance, and then squirted ahead for an 18-yard play.
5. It was hard to watch this game and not compare New England running backs Mike Gillislee (3.1 yard average on 14 carries) and Jeremy Hill (4.6 yard average on 11 carries). Add in Hill’s terrific A-gap blitz pickup and his 12 yard catch-and-run for a first down – both in the 3rd quarter – and he looked like the player more likely to contribute in 2018. Late in the game, running back Ralph Webb looked fast, especially running sweeps against Washington’s third string defenders. The Patriot undrafted rookie also showed some elusiveness midway through the 4th when he juked Redskins linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton in the backfield and then gained nine yards on a draw play.
6. On the Patriots’ first drive of the second half, they ran eight times to the left, usually I-formation behind guard Ted Karras, tackle Matt Tobin, tight end Will Tye, and fullback Henry Poggi. Those eight runs netted 26 yards, three first-down conversions, and one touchdown. At one point the coaches called five consecutive runs of this type, which made this observer wonder if the coaches weren’t making evaluations of players on the roster bubble.
Content originally posted on patspulpit.com