First impressions: A night to celebrate

First impressions: A night to celebrate

FOXBORO -- Here are five quick-hit takeaways from an eye-opening Patriots win over the Texans, 27-0. The victory put the Patriots at 3-0 and tied Bill Belichick with Curly Lambeau for fourth all-time with 226 wins. 

-- Jacoby Brissett looked like a serviceable NFL quarterback in his first-ever pro start, filling in for injured quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. He completed 11-of-19 passes for 103 yards and didn't throw an interception. At times, he was too strong with his throws, missing a couple of deep shots with receivers open. And he was not pinpoint accurate in the red zone, but he took care of the football, which was more than enough for the Patriots given that they played with the lead for much of the game. Brissett used his legs effectively, a strong point of his game while at NC State, and the highlight of his night came on a 27-yard touchdown run where he dove across the goal line.

-- After his score, Brissett went to the sideline and handed the football to Belichick. The Patriots head coach and Josh McDaniels deserve credit for their game plan, using a variety of formations and scheme plays to take advantage of their young quarterback's skill set while also keeping the Texans off-balance. On multiple occasions, they ran variations of the option, even using receiver Julian Edelman in the backfield at times. The offense was prepared. While Brissett didn't appear to make multiple reads on many of his throws, the team used a good chunk of its playbook on a short week. That's as much a credit to the coaching staff as it is the players. 

-- The Patriots played the field-position game perfectly in this one. Ryan Allen had seven punts for a 47.6-yard average. Six fell inside the 20. The team also got two turnovers in the kicking game. Brandon Bolden forced one fumble in the first quarter while Nate Ebner forced another in the third. Both resulted in points. 

-- The Texans and their talented defensive front was very quiet in this one. The combination of JJ Watt, Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney and the rest of the Houston defense recorded just one sack. They also had difficulty stopping the Patriots running game. New England rushed 39 times for 185 yards, a 4.7 yards-per-carry average.

-- This was a bounce-back game for the Patriots secondary. Logan Ryan pulled the duty of slowing down DeAndre Hopkins. The Texans' No. 1 wideout was held to four catches for 56 yards, and rookie standout Will Fuller had just three catches for 31 yards. Malcolm Butler was particularly strong in coverage after a tough day against the Dolphins. He was targeted six times and gave up two catches -- both of which were dump-offs to backs in the flat. He also had a crucial pass breakup on fourth down to give the Patriots offense the ball back.

Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

File photo

Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

Johnny Manziel said 10 days ago, "I'd go to New England in a heartbeat," when asked about the Patriots as a potential landing spot.

That seemed like wishful thinking at the time, but they're taking a look at him...along with 12 other NFL teams, according to ESPN's Eric Williams. 

Tom Brady's current backup Brian Hoyer is, like Manziel, an ex-Cleveland Browns quarterback. Manziel would again be competing with Hoyer for the Pats' No. 2 job should New England take a chance on "Johnny Football", the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M, who's been out of football the past two years because of substance abuse and emotional problems.

FOX Sports' Bruce Feldman had it at 12 teams watching Manziel work out at the University of San Diego and said the Patriots gave Manziel a weigh-in.


Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

The Patriots have agreed to re-sign offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, his agent Scott Casterline confirmed on Twitter.  Waddle hit unrestricted free agency when the new league year began and made a visit to the Cowboys earlier this week. In the end, though, he chose to return to the team that claimed him off of waivers at the end of the 2015 season.

Waddle, who turns 27 in July, appeared in 12 games last season for the Patriots. He was the first right tackle the Patriots turned to when Marcus Cannon suffered an ankle injury mid-season against the Chargers. He ended up playing 51 snaps against the likes of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram without allowing a sack. He then started the next three games against the Broncos, Raiders and Dolphins and held star rushers Von Miller, Khalil Mack and Cameron Wake -- all of whom rush primarily off of the offensive right -- without a sack. 

Injuries forced Waddle (380 snaps on the season) to split the right tackle position with Cameron Fleming (543 snaps), but he was the primary backup when healthy. Waddle started the Divisional Round playoff game against the Titans but suffered a knee injury and was removed for Fleming. 

Both Fleming and Waddle visited the Cowboys this week, and the fact that Waddle has re-signed with the Patriots may impact Fleming's decision moving forward. 

The Patriots went to great lengths to build tackle depth last season, and adding Waddle to the roster helps them retain some of that depth after losing their left tackle, Nate Solder, to the Giants via free agency. Waddle could be an option on the left side, but the vast majority of his work since entering the league as an undrafted rookie in 2013 has been on the right side. 

The Patriots now have Fleming, Marcus Cannon, Cole Croston, Tony Garcia and Andrew Jelks on their depth chart at tackle. Croston, Garcia and Jelks are all headed into their second years as pros. Croston remained on the 53-man roster all season -- an indication that the Patriots liked him enough not to expose him to the waiver system -- but did not see meaningful snaps. Garcia and Jelks both missed the entirety of the 2017 season on reserve lists. 

Once the Patriots lost Solder to the Giants, it seemed to be of paramount importance that the Patriots re-sign either Waddle or Fleming. Behind Cannon, there were simply too many question marks not to have one return. The Patriots could opt to draft a tackle, but this is considered an average year at that position in that there are few ready-made NFL players and several developmental types.

Before the Super Bowl last season, I asked offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia how the team was able to manage offensively with backups at right tackle for much of the season. 

"It's not like [Fleming and Waddle are] not good players," Scarnecchia said. "They are good players. Their skill set seemed to fit that position pretty well. They have the traits that we covet. And they're both really smart guys, very willing learners, and they're both driven to be good and they want to play good. And I think all those things have manifested themselves when they've been out there playing. And we've been very, very pleased with what they've done for us this year, essentially splitting that position."

Asked about the aspects of the game the Patriots worked on with both Waddle and Fleming last year, Scarnecchia said, "For us it transcends everything. Obviously run-blocking and pass-blocking. They're both good at those things. Are they great at those things? No. But they've been able to steadily improve over the last two years to the point where we put them out there and no one's worried. And it's been that way the whole season after Marcus got hurt. Yeah they've done a nice job for us."