Five Observations from New England Patriots Preseason Game 1


Football is back.  More specifically, football with fans is back.  After a very busy offseason, there is great anticipation surrounding this New England Patriots team.  We got our first look at them last night against the Washington Football Team. Here are some of my takeaways.

Photo courtesy of the Associated Press

1. Cam Newton gets the starter treatment.

For those wondering if Bill Belichick already labeling Newton as the starting quarterback was just lip service, they got their answer last night.  Newton got the QB1 treatment in terms of playing time, participating in just two offensive series before his night ended.  Meanwhile, Mac Jones played for two quarters; a clear indication that Belichick believes that Jones needs the in-game reps more so than Newton. 

How many times did we see Tom Brady trot out there for the first couple of possessions, before turning things over to whomever was backing him up at the time?  That's exactly what we saw with Newton last night.  We can debate who actually looked better on the field, but strictly from playing time allocation, last night Belichick confirmed what he has been saying since Jones was drafted: Cam is their starting quarterback.  At least for now. 

2. Matt Judon sets the tone.

One of the marquee free agent signings this offseason, Judon wasted no time in making his presence felt.  In the span of a few plays - spanning two drives - Judon showed off his versatility and some of what he's going to bring to this defense.  It started with a great tackle for a loss on a third down and short.  He came flying in off of the edge and wrapped up Antonio Gibson behind the line of scrimmage.

On first down of the next drive, he applied some pressure and got a nice hit in on Ryan Fitzpatrick.  He followed that up with some good coverage on an incomplete pass.  Two plays later he was rolled up on, and thankfully avoided a serious injury.  You can tell that Judon loves the game of football, and whether it's practice, preseason or regular season he is going to give it his all out there.  He will endear himself to Patriots fans very quickly.

3. Quinn Nordin impresses.

Nordin has been one of the top stories of training camp so far.  With Nick Folk sidelined, Nordin has been turning heads with his powerful leg and field goal accuracy during practices.  That carried over into last night's game.  Yes, he had a slight hiccup with a missed extra point in the fourth quarter, but you could see why Nordin has been garnering so much attention so far this summer.  It wasn't just that he made field goals of 35, 40 and 50 yards.  It's the fact that every one was right down the middle, and the 50-yarder might have been good from 60.  Folk's days in New England could be coming to an end. 

4. Kristian Wilkerson hype continues.

Wilkerson is another guy who has stood out during camp.  You just never know with wide receivers in New England.  He spent most of last year on the practice squad, so he is looking to crack the active roster this year.  Performances like last night will help.  He built on his training camp momentum, leading all receivers with catches (six) and targets (nine).  Jones looked his way consistently, he showed some speed in the open field and for the moment, looks like more than just a star in practice.

5. Bill Belichick doesn't care about preseason wins/losses.

I understand that ultimately nobody cares about the result of preseason games.  Sure, the players and coaches want to win every time they take the field, but the preseason is more about the live-game repetitions and experience. However, if there was every any doubt that Belichick is different, he put that to rest last night.  There were two plays that felt like clear opportunities for a coach's challenge, but he opted not to.  He likely would have won them both.

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The first came on Mac Jones first pass attempt late in the first quarter.  He underthrew Jakobi Meyers a bit and the ball was down towards his feet.  However, Meyers showed off his hands and made an impressive sliding catch, snatching the ball just before it hit the ground.  Replays showed it clearly was a completion, however Belichick preferred to let the play stand.  This gave Jones an opportunity to execute on a third and short opportunity.

The second play came late in the second quarter, when Jones scrambled on a third down and short.  On first glance, it looked like he had the first down.  At the very least, I thought he got further than where the refs ultimately spotted the ball.  Even Bob Socci and Scott Zolak who were on the call felt he got the first down.  Instead of challenging the call, Belichick sent the punt team out and gave them an opportunity to practice; which in hindsight turned out they needed the reps as Gunner Olszewski promptly committed a penalty.

In those two instances, Belichick proved that he values certain in-game situations more than the ultimate result of the game. 

Follow Derek on Twitter @mcvay34.

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Boston Sports Syndicate: Five Observations from New England Patriots Preseason Game 1
Five Observations from New England Patriots Preseason Game 1
Boston Sports Syndicate
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