Patriots

Popped and Dropped: Patriots rookies show out vs. Titans

Popped and Dropped: Patriots rookies show out vs. Titans

The Patriots won their second game of the preseason on Saturday night, and in so doing they saw several rookies come through with strong performances. They "popped." Who "dropped?" 

We cover both ends of the spectrum here . . . 

POPPED

DAMIEN HARRIS

The rookie third-round pick showed off his variety of skills on Saturday night, chipping in as both a runner and a receiver. One two-play stretch to end the first quarter showed him catch a pass for 10 yards from Brian Hoyer and then rip off a 20-yard run with a nice cut back against the grain that led to open space. He finished the game -- after not having played against the Lions in Week 1 of preseason -- with 14 carries for 80 yards and four catches for 23 yards. "I thought he ran hard," Bill Belichick said after the game.

JAKOBI MEYERS

The subtleties of Meyers' game are becoming less . . . subtle. His releases off the line of scrimmage are a thing of beauty, and he actually forced a defensive back to fall down on a third-and-seven snap in the third quarter. He was wide open and Jarrett Stidham found him for 14 yards. It was curious to see Meyers on the field late in the game -- he took a hard shot after one catch and met with trainer Jim Whalen and team physician Mark Price after the fact -- but finished the game and looked OK. It looks like Meyers has a roster spot secured so perhaps he was out there late to help young quarterback Jarrett Stidham have an NFL-caliber receiver to throw to. 

CHASE WINOVICH

Winovich is more than a high-motor player. He ran a 4.59-second 40-yard dash at 256 pounds. That's a gift. But, man. That motor is something. Winovich had a run-stuff, three quarterback hits and a sack in the first half to go along with a special-teams tackle and a drawn hold. In the second half he added another pressure and two eye-opening hustle plays where he chased down Titans from behind. The first saw him sprint across the field to bring down a scrambling Logan Woodside for a one-yard gain. The second saw him tackle a runner from behind when rookie corner Ken Webster whiffed in the open field.

ISAIAH WYNN

The second-year left tackle saw his first live reps since tearing his Achilles last summer and performed solidly. Wynn played the first three series of the game and then came out looking healthy. One of his better reps might've been when he handled a game from Austin Johnson and Daquon Jones while working alongside Ted Karras. He mirrored a speed rush to the inside from Johnson, then slid back in the opposite direction to absorb the 322-pound Jones. 

JARRETT STIDHAM

It wasn't perfect for the rookie quarterback. Stidham was nearly picked on three separate occasions, including one that was almost turned over at the goal line and might've gone back for a 99-yard pick-six. But he settled in and led the offense on two scoring drives. The second, against players who likely reside near the bottom of Tennessee's depth chart, was impressive. The Patriots went 99 yards with the help of six completions from Stidham to five receivers. The final strike was a beautifully-thrown back-shoulder ball to Damoun Patterson that went for 23 yards and six points.

JAKE BAILEY

The rookie punter blasted a punt from his own end zone that hung in the air for 5.21 seconds and landed at the Titans 35-yard line. Bailey also hit a post-safety punt 67 yards from his own 20 to the Titans 13-yard line. He held on a missed field goal by Stephen Gostkowski, but there didn't appear to be anything wrong with the operation there. As the potential punter for the 53-man roster, odds are he'll have holding duties as well. 

DROPPED

BRIAN HOYER

Hoyer got out to a rough start. He was hit and forced into an incompletion on his first snap of the game. His second resulted in a pick by Logan Ryan when Hoyer underthrew Braxton Berrios on a crossing route. It didn't look like Berrios' route was incredibly flat as the ball came his way, but the throw was far from pinpoint. It certainly wasn't all bad for Hoyer, who then hit on his next six attempts for 55 yards. But the pick stands out as a down moment to start the game against top competition on the other side. 

STEPHEN GOSTKOWSKI

Two preseason games, two misses for Gostkowski. Saturday night's came on a 40-yarder. It looked like the operation -- with Bailey holding, not Ryan Allen -- was clean. He just pulled it wide left. Not an ideal summer so far for the veteran who signed a two-year $8.5 million contract this offseason.

JAMES FERENTZ/HJALTE FROHOLDT

Tough go of it for the Patriots offensive line in Nashville. Ferentz allowed a sack that looked like it stung Hoyer and kept him down for an extra moment or two. Before that, he was lucky not to pick up a penalty for a late shove that might've pushed the Patriots off the goal line. (He was probably saved by an over-the-top acting job by a Titans defensive lineman who sold the push a little too much.) Ferentz did pick up a late holding penalty. Froholdt picked up two holding penalties on the night. In all, the Patriots posted 12 penalties for 99 yards. Ugly. The Titans weren't far behind with 10 for 77 yards. 

LANCE KENDRICKS

The Patriots are thin at tight end. They need someone with NFL ability. Kendricks, a nine-year vet, could be that guy. But not if the obvious mental mistakes start to pile up. That's what happened on Stidham's first drive of the game, when Kendricks held in the end zone, giving the Titans a safety and a 17-8 lead.

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Matt Cassel: How Bill Belichick, Patriots process 'bulletin board material'

Matt Cassel: How Bill Belichick, Patriots process 'bulletin board material'

There's a sign every player sees when they leave the New England Patriots' facility.

It says, "Ignore the noise."

Starting in OTAs and minicamp, Bill Belichick's message to the team is always consistent. It’s, "Look, the media is out there to do a job. They have their stories they’re going to write. But our job is not to give them what they want. Our job is to stay consistent."

It’s a business-like environment: You go in and you get your work done, and when he says we’re turning the page to the next opponent, he truly means that.

But in terms of bulletin board material, if somebody is vocal about attacking a certain aspect of the Patriots -- a weakness or where they think they can expose us -- he’ll absolutely read those quotes to the team.

It’s not overboard and it’s not blown out of proportion. But it's his way of letting the team know, "This is what the opponent thinks of you."

We've already seen it this season. 

Before the Jets' game against the Patriots, Sam Darnold said something like, “We’ve got to go out there and find their weakness." 

That's just a common term most people use, but then you hear the Patriots' defense after the game say things like, ”I’m glad our weaknesses didn’t show up today.”

So, they obviously used that as a motivational tool to get themselves in the right frame of mind for the game.

He’ll absolutely read those quotes to the team. It's his way of letting the team know, "This is what the opponent thinks of you."

People are going to say things all the time. When I took over for Tom Brady in 2008, Steelers linebacker Joey Porter said something like, “Cassel’s not worth his s---.”

But it is what it is. The thing that New England does a great job of is focusing your attention on the opponent. Their strengths and weaknesses and how you're going to attack them this week: that’s the focal point.

It’s not about all the extracurriculars and all the extra stuff that’s said in the media. You’ve got your occasional bulletin board material, but as long as you know the approach and you’re consistent with it, then you're able to do a better job of ignoring the noise.

It's not like that in other organizations. I played for Rex Ryan in Buffalo, and on the first day of offseason workouts, he came in and said, "Our goal -- you can say it from Day 1 when they ask you -- is to win the Super Bowl."

He didn't restrict players when they talked to the media. He was like, "This is our goal, and if you want to say it, you can say it."

In New England, you feel a bit restricted at times in what you say. 

But you come to appreciate it, because it’s a consistent message throughout the organization. You’re not dealing with the outside distractions of, “This guy just said some outlandish comment," and now multiple players get asked about something one of your teammates said.

There are limitations to the distractions the Patriots have when dealing with the media because of their approach and consistency. 

Everybody in that organization understands it, so you don’t get the same bulletin board material coming out of New England that you see elsewhere.

That's because it starts at the top with Bill’s approach and consistency, and literally permeates throughout the entire organization.

Editor's note: Matt Cassel had a 14-year NFL career that included four seasons with the New England Patriots (2005-2008). He's joining the NBC Sports Boston team for this season. You can find him on game days as part of our Pregame Live and Postgame Live coverage, as well as every week on Tom E. Curran’s Patriots Talk podcast and NBCSportsBoston.com.

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Tom Brady explains why he's become 'much more guarded' with media

Tom Brady explains why he's become 'much more guarded' with media

Tom Brady isn't just frustrated with the New England Patriots' offense. He's frustrated with the people who talk about his frustration with the Patriots' offense.

E! News aired a 30-minute profile of the Patriots quarterback Wednesday night on its "In the Room" show, which featured host Jason Kennedy's exclusive interview with Brady.

And ironically, the first item Brady discussed was how much he dislikes interviews.

"I'd rather run out in front of 80,000 people and throw a football," Brady told Kennedy.

Brady then explained why he's become more careful with what he says on record.

"I've become much more guarded with the media, just because everyone is looking to (say), 'I gotcha, man! You said that!' " Brady said. "I definitely respect my private life, because it's very important to me, and it's very sacred."

"Especially in today's age it's very tricky, is what is too much exposure for people? Now everyone can show everything, and that's not my personality, which is why I won't do that.

"But I am a public person at this point based on my career, but there's still things that I want to just keep for myself so I can enjoy them without sharing them with anyone else."

Brady's wariness is understandable in a sense: He's one of the most heavily-scrutinized athletes in the world whose comments are always being dissected. (How does Brady REALLY feel about his rookie wide receivers?)

It's also why the 42-year-old has adopted an apparent solution: Say less to reporters and more on Facebook and Twitter, where he can control his own narrative.

This isn't the first time this season Brady has expressed his disregard for the media, and if New England hits any more bumps in the road down the stretch, that relationship likely won't improve.

Check out Brady's full interview with Kennedy here.

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