Pick Six: Observations from Preseason Game Three

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 Carolina Panthers’ starters dominated the Patriots’ starters on both sides of the ball and held on to win the exhibition contest 25-14. If the third preseason game is a dress rehearsal for the regular season, this mediocre performance in Charlotte, North Carolina gave Patriot fans some things to think about.

Six Observations from Preseason Game Three

1. Even with Tom Brady on the field, the Patriots’ offense looked anemic against the Panthers. One pass that Brady would probably like to have back is his third-and-goal attempt midway through the 2nd quarter. Rob Gronkowski’s slow developing pattern had gotten him open on the right side of the end zone, but Brady had already decided to dump it off to fullback James Develin underneath. Develin was immediately hit by the seemingly ever-present linebacker, Luke Kuechly, and the incompletion brought up a short field goal attempt.

2. It appears the New England coaches are expecting a lot from Phillip Dorsett this season, as the receiver was shelved at half time with the starters. In the 2nd quarter Dorsett caught a quick pass at left end and then ran past cornerback Donte Jackson’s tackle attempt to pick up a first down. On New England’s final drive of the first half Dorsett ran a curl up the right sideline and caught a fourth-down conversion. This observer found it interesting that Cordarrelle Patterson was put into the game at receiver late in the contest. Patterson drew two defensive pass interference penalties against Carolina’s defense and made the critical block – taking both defensive backs Corn Elder and Alex Carter out of the pursuit – on receiver Riley McCarron’s 21-yard screen play.

3. The Patriots’ first drive was a three-and-out, in part because left tackle Trent Brown’s cut block failed and Panthers’ defensive end Mario Addison was able to swat down a pass intended for Rob Gronkowski. While the first team offensive line had a lot of problems with penetration from the Carolina line backers, the New England end-of-roster guys were pretty effective against the home team’s third teamers. Left guard James Ferentz moved defensive tackle Kendrick Norton to create an opening on Mike Gillislee’s two point conversion run late in the 4th quarter. On New England’s last offensive drive Ferentz smartly passed off his defensive tackle to the outside and picked up the defensive end’s stunt inside.

4. For the second consecutive week, defensive tackle Lawrence Guy made a big play on the goal line. Midway through the 1st quarter, Guy cut through the line unblocked and showed nice speed to corral Panthers’ running back Christian McCaffrey for no gain. Much earlier in the drive, Guy recognized a screen play developing and fought through center Ryan Kalil and guard Greg Van Roten to help impede Christian McCaffrey up the left sideline.

5. One of the more interesting roster battles is for the final spots in the Patriots’ defensive backfield. Undrafted rookie J.C. Jackson sniffed out a tunnel screen to Curtis Samuel in the 3rd quarter, and then ran around receiver DJ Moore’s block attempt to make the tackle. Later in the 4th, Jackson tracked down running back Kenjon Barner behind the line of scrimmage for a loss. Veteran Jason McCourty made a terrific tackle at the line of scrimmage on runner Cameron Artis-Payne’s outside run in the 3rd. Unfortunately, McCourty and Keion Crossen were beaten badly on Curtis Samuel’s 31-yard crossing pattern earlier in the drive. Corner Ryan Lewis gave up an uncontested touchdown reception to receiver Mose Frazier on a dig route, or inside cut, in the 4th.

6. Long-shot-to-make-the-team Nicholas Grigsby was the first man down the field on the Patriots’ first kickoff and punt coverage teams of the night, both times getting a hand on the Carolina returners and slowing their momentum. Grigsby got some looks at linebacker in the second half and made a solid tackle on Cameron Artis-Payne’s two-yard screen play in the 3rd quarter.

Originally posted on PatsPulpit.com.

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