Jarrett Stidham came as advertised Thursday night in his NFL preseason debut. The rookie from Auburn, taken in the fourth round in April showed every bit of the ARM TALENT that made him the reigning best arm in the draft. He had the cleanest of pockets to throw from and his receivers were loping unmolested through the secondary most of the time but you can’t downgrade Stidham for that. What was given to him, he took and bit clean off. Stidham was 14 for 24, with 179 yards and a touchdown. It could have been more.
Stidham did have a couple of occasions where he was slow to process and chose to tuck and run but even those were solid outcomes. When Stidham’s had sketchy moments during camp it was when he was slow to process what was unfolding in front of him. That resulted in some on-the-move throws that – while they turned out OK – weren’t quite the way they were drawn up. But Stidham got it out on Thursday night and the end result was a terrific first performance.
He wasn’t out there long but Jamie Collins carried the positive vibes from the training camp practice fields onto the game field. He just has a presence out there and it was obvious as he started the game next to Ja’Whaun Bentley. On the first drive, he greeted the fullback and set the edge nicely to help stack up a running play. On the second drive, he came up with a sack of Tom Savage off the edge.
Chase Winovich knows how to get little. Late in the third quarter, the rookie from Michigan came off the left edge, got small and under the right tackle and turned the corner to come up with a tidy sack. After six first-half sacks, the Winovich sack kept a really impressive defensive onslaught ongoing. It’s very encouraging too because the 2018 Patriots did so much of its damage on defense when it turned up the pressure under Brian Flores. It was something that the Patriots defense under Matt Patricia was incredibly hesitant to do.
Maurice Harris did a terrific job popping out of the slot and fighting through contact to pull in the first Brian Hoyer touchdown pass of the night but down around the goal line after that? Not as good. He had two would-be touchdowns turn into contact-induced drops. What’s that wordy shit mean? Jarrett Stidham dropped two gorgeous throws from distance to Harris but on both the grabbiness of the Lions corner was too much for Harris to fight through.
On the special teams front, rookie Jake Bailey from Stanford is going to challenge veteran Ryan Allen for the punting job and the fact he can handle kickoffs helps his case. Bailey handled most punts and kickoffs against the Lions and sent all his kickoffs into the end zone while drawing a fair catch on his first-quarter punt. Allen -- who punted three times and got the last punt of the game with less than a minute remaining -- signed a one-year, $1.5M contract in the offseason but he had just $100K guaranteed. He has a $500K roster bonus if he makes the team. Bailey will be a cheaper more versatile option if he can be consistent enough to make Allen expendable.
Duke Dawson was beaten twice on crossers – once in the first quarter and once in the fourth. Dawson, a second-round pick last year – is fighting a crowded secondary crew for a job.
Jakobi Meyers seemed to have a hard time lining up on the first offensive snap of the game. Then he failed to come up with a would-be third down conversion pass. False advertising after Meyers had been ballyhooed for his outstanding training camp work? Not so fast. The undrafted rookie was just brilliant for the rest of the night with six catches for 69 yards and two touchdowns. He also broke up a would-be interception when he reached around a Lions DB to break up an off-target Stidham pass.
Braxton Berrios had a really good game working with both Brian Hoyer and Stidham. He got open on a jerk route early to convert a fourth down and had four punt returns for 35 yards. He finished the night with three catches for 45 yards.
Gotta drop in a word on Dontrelle Inman too. The veteran is definitely on the outside behind some of the younger players but he got loose in the second half with a sudden move on a slant inside the 10 and used great length to nearly stretch for the touchdown.
The night’s main blemish were injuries suffered by N’Keal Harry and Matt LaCosse. Harry, who came into the game with a tender hammy, appeared to aggravate it in the first quarter on a back-shoulder throw from Hoyer on which Harry made the kind of power and body-control catch that made him stand out at Arizona State. Harry also had a diving catch after breaking loose from contact on a comeback route on the sideline. On one hand, it’s worth questioning the benefit of trotting a rookie first-rounder out for the first preseason game when his hamstring was already a little irritated. On the other, Harry’s willingness to be out there and play despite an owie is laudable. We’ll see if this keeps him off the field in Tennessee but it was a brief but informative performance when he was out there.
LaCosse came up with a pair of catches – his first coming down the seam on a route Rob Gronkowski ran so well. LaCosse made the catch in a pack of four Lions and took the whack. It was a nice play. But he left with a leg injury in the first half which is a real concern for a team that has a very shallow tight end pool.
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