Two preseason games into the schedule, and we've learned a little bit about what this New England Patriots team is going to look like. First, let's get the scores out of the way -- the Patriots won their preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints, 7-6, but lost to the Philadelphia Eagles, 27-17, on Monday night at Gillette Stadium. Great. Moving on now.
We're starting to see a few things consistently. First and foremost, the offensive line needs work. Tom Brady, who sat out of Monday night's game, was roughed up by the Saints defense -- even strip-sacked -- all while the Pats committed a handful of penalties. There were plenty of flags on Monday night, too -- seven for 60 yards in total -- and the offensive line had issues, as documented here. Concerning? Sure, but there's time to work it out.
Behind the O-line, the quarterbacks had their moments, both good and bad. Ryan Mallett had a much better showing in week two, completing half of his passes (10-of-20) for 105 yards and one touchdown. Brian Hoyer, meanwhile, was off target 12 times, completing just 5-of-17 passes for 55 yards. Brady wasn't exactly great in his preseason debut, but he can certainly be counted on for better numbers than that of Mallett and Hoyer, even at his worst.
We didn't see a very impressive show from the running back corps Monday, as Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley couldn't follow up on their strong preseason Week 1 outings. The two rushed for 45 yards, combined, but Vereen showed that he's capable of being a dual threat, rushing for 20 yards on 10 carries and catching four passes for 29 yards.
Defensively, the Patriots didn't do a spectacular job of defending the pass... against a rookie quarterback. Granted, 12 starters weren't on the field, including Jerod Mayo, Devin McCourty, Vince Wilfork, but allowing Nick Foles to throw for 217 yards and two scores isn't acceptable. The Pats kept Michael Vick in check, but only because of injury.
The star of the night? Stephen Gostkowski, who drilled two 50-plus yard field goals -- a 51-yard field goal in the first quarter and a 55-yard bomb in the third quarter -- looked sharp after missing a field goal in the Pats' preseason opener. Having a weapon like Gostkowski on the sidelines is a huge plus for New England, if and when any Brady-led drives stall out.
New England faces the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the all-important third preseason game on Friday. Expect to see Brady back on the field, and hopefully we'll see more improvements.
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