The New England Patriots earned the 22-13 win Thursday vs. the Washington Football Team. Of course, all eyes were on the Patriots quarterback competition and not the scoreboard during the highly-anticipated exhibition.
Cam Newton vs. Mac Jones has been the top storyline of training camp and it was the primary focus of the preseason opener. Newton got the start and played the majority of the first quarter before Jones took over and was greeted with a loud ovation from the fans in Foxboro.
From there, we were given plenty to chew on as we await next week's preseason game vs. the Philadelphia Eagles.
Here are a few immediate overreactions to what we saw Thursday night.
Mac Jones looks like a starting QB
Has Jones earned the Week 1 job? Not quite, but the rookie definitely looked like a starting quarterback in his unofficial Patriots debut.
Jones was cool, calm and collected in his first drive, which took place toward the end of the first quarter. His first pass was ruled incomplete though replay showed it should have been ruled a completion to wideout Jakobi Meyers. The 22-year-old quickly bounced back to notch his first completed pass, a back-shoulder throw to Kristian Wilkerson for a first down.
His most impressive throw went down as an incompletion in the box score, but it was this close to being a deep touchdown pass to Wilkerson.
Jones started the second half and found his groove, running a no-huddle offense and completing eight of his nine passes on the drive for 43 yards.
It wasn't a perfect night for the Alabama product, but it was encouraging. He completed 13 of his 19 passes for 87 yards while Newton went 4-of-7 for 49 yards. The next test for Jones will be to make more throws downfield, because he proved to be more than competent in the short, quick passing game Thursday night.
Damien Harris is ready to take the next step
We didn't see much of Harris in the preseason opener, but we saw enough to believe he's going to be a significant part of the Patriots offense in 2021. The 24-year-old looked spry and strong, rushing four times for 17 yards.
That stat line doesn't jump off the page, but there was one play that jumped off the screen. Harris carried one for a big gain down to the one-yard line but it was called back for a hold.
Harris finished 2020 with 137 rushes for 691 yards and two touchdowns in 10 games. As long as he stays healthy, we should see a significant boost to those numbers this season.
It's also worth noting Sony Michel looked good in limited action as well, rushing six times for 26 yards.
J.J. Taylor looks like 'Little Dion'
Around this time last year, Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears compared undrafted free agent J.J. Taylor to former Pats RB Dion Lewis. On Thursday, the resemblance was uncanny.
Taylor rushed twice for 10 yards, but it was the passing game where he made his presence felt. He was a favorite target of Mac Jones and ended up with five receptions for 31 yards. Only Wilkerson (6 rec, 39 yds) finished with higher catch and yardage totals.
He only played in six games for New England last season, but perhaps we'll see the 5-foot-6, 185-pounder make a Dion Lewis-like impact in 2021.
Rhamondre Stevenson shows what he can do
Stevenson, a fourth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, put on a show in his Patriots preseason debut.
The Oklahoma product scored both of New England's TDs on the night, with the first coming near the goal line early in the fourth quarter.
The second TD was a 91-yard scamper to close out the victory.
He finished with 10 rushes for a whopping 127 yards.
With Stevenson in the fold, the Patriots' RB room is as deep as any with Harris, Michel, Taylor, James White, and Brandon Bolden. Stevenson has drawn comparisons to former Pats back LeGarrette Blount, so perhaps we should be prepared to see more of those long runs from the 230-pounder this season.
Is Nick Folk about to get Wally Pipped?
Quinn Nordin came out of nowhere to become one of the feel-good stories of Patriots camp. The 22-year-old joins Nick Folk as the only kickers on New England's roster and to this point, Folk's status at the top of the depth chart is anything but a certainty.
Nordin put on a show during the team's recent in-stadium walkthrough practice and showed off his leg in his preseason debut. He nailed field goals from 35, 40, and 50 yards, though he missed an extra point try in the fourth quarter.
He'll have to show consistency for the remainder of the preseason, but Nordin appears to at least be in a position to lock down a practice squad spot if he can't beat out the veteran for the starting job.