Pick Six: Observations from Preseason Game Two

What do preseason games tell us? Probably not much when it comes to predicting a team’s regular season win-loss record. However, individual performances could foreshadow how certain players will contribute in the upcoming season.

The Patriots defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 37-20 in the second preseason game played this year at Gillette Stadium. In perhaps an indication of more aggressive play calling, the Patriots’ defense has made 23 tackles behind the line of scrimmage (including quarterback sacks). Through the first two preseason games in 2017, the defense had made only seven such plays.

Six Observations from Preseason Game Two

1. Could Keion Crossen’s NFL future be at safety instead of cornerback? Crossen was beaten badly four times, resulting in three called penalties and a 24-yard crossing pattern to DeAndre Carter. However, Crossen is showing that he’s a reliable tackler, and he seems to have a nose for ball at the line of scrimmage. On the Eagles’ first offensive play, Crossen ran past right tackle Lane Johnson to bring down Jay Ajayi for a loss. Speaking of athletic safeties, is there anyone tougher on this team than Patrick Chung? In the 1st quarter the safety came on a corner blitz, pushed running back Jay Ajayi out of the way in route to sacking quarterback Nick Foles. In the 2nd, Chung met Ajayi in the hole and stopped the 225 pound running back in his tracks. Credit to my spotter Tom who noted that receiver Mike Wallace caught the safety hard on his sports cup on a pass attempt in the 2nd, but Chung toughed it out and stayed in the game.

2. For the second game in a row, defensive end Adrian Clayborn showed the ability to pressure the quarterback. In the 1st quarter his speed rush against left tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai forced quarterback Nick Foles up in the pocket where Foles was sacked by a fortunate bystander, defensive tackle Adam Butler. In the 2nd, Clayborn’s stutter step forced Vaitai to squat at the line of scrimmage, giving the Patriots’ defensive end room to rush to the outside and strip sack Foles for a fumble return touchdown by fortunate bystander, linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley.

3. New England’s defensive tackles have been up and down against the run this preseason. One play that stood out in the 1st quarter was an easy eight yard run up the middle by Jay Ajayi, in which left guard Stefen Wisniewski locked up Danny Shelton; right guard Brandon Brooks neutralized Lawrence Guy; and center Jason Kelce got a piece of linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley. In the 2nd, new Patriot Danny Shelton held off the center with one arm but was unable to make the tackle on Ajayi’s four yard run. Terrific individual effort by Lawrence Guy on the goal line in the 2nd, as the defensive tackle pushed right guard Brandon Brooks into the backfield and made the tackle for loss on running back Wendell Smallwood.

4. A Patriots’ new comer looked like a viable starter at tackle on the first offensive drive. Playing the left side, Trent Brown made a cut block on defensive end Derek Barnett to allow a crisp swing pass to James White in the left flat to start the drive. On the next play, Brown mauled Barnett to open a hole on a short James White run. A few plays later, in the red zone, Brown got downfield quickly on a screen play but whiffed on his block, allowing cornerback Rasul Douglas to make the tackle. On the touchdown pass to Chris Hogan that ended the drive, Brown smartly – albeit illegally – grabbed Derek Barnett’s jersey (penalty uncalled) to slow his rush as he worked around Haloti Ngata’s pick on a tackle-end stunt.

5. Tom Brady completed 19 of his 26 attempts and a couple of his misses could be attributed to the pass protection. In the 1st quarter, Brady’s underthrow of Phillip Dorsett deep up the right sideline came after Fletcher Cox overpowered Shaq Mason on a bull rush, preventing Brady from stepping into the throw. In the 2nd, Brady had to throw a ball into the ground after linebacker Nathan Gerry blitzed the A-gap, between the center and guard, untouched as unoccupied left guard Joe Thuney scanned for outside rushers.

6. With New England’s receiver depth in question to start the season, who will step up for the offense? In the 3rd quarter, Cordarrelle Patterson took a quick pass on the line of scrimmage, juked cornerback Sidney Jones, and ran up the left sideline for a touchdown. Unfortunately, Patterson also dropped a potential third-down conversion on an out route later in the same quarter. Tight end Jacob Hollister showed some promise with his 22-yard catch up the right seam, holding on after a big collision with Sidney Jones. On the team’s first drive, Hollister’s block on defensive end Derek Barnett opened a gigantic hole for James White’s 22-yard scamper.

Originally posted on PatsPulpit.com.

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