Patriots

Takeaways from Patriots-Redskins: Brady gets another down day

Takeaways from Patriots-Redskins: Brady gets another down day

FOXBORO -- We told you there would be plenty to take away from the Patriots preseason opener and there was. Here are 10 quick-hitting takeaways for you to chew on after being football-starved for the last six months.


* Among the missing: Tom Brady did not play in the opener, continuing for him what has been a relatively easygoing start to the season. His absence wasn't unusual, though. He hasn't played in a preseason opener since 2015. Brian Hoyer played the entire first half and into the the fourth quarter. Also sitting this one out were Devin and Jason McCourty, Rex Burkhead, Rob Gronkowski, Isaiah Wynn and Trey Flowers. Among the players still dealing with physical issues who sat out were Matthew Slater, Sony Michel, Jonathan Jones, Nate Ebner, Cyrus Jones, Harvey Langi, Marcus Cannon and Kenny Britt. 

* Live tackling an issue early: I counted six missed tackles by the Patriots in the first half. Jordan Richards had two. JC Jackson also had two. For a group that doesn't tackle to the ground during camp, they looked like they could use some significant work in that area. The first-half missed-tackle total would've hit eight if it hadn't been for Washington penalties that wiped those plays out. 

* Defensive regulars get a good long look: Well into the second quarter, Bill Belichick and Brian Flores had some of their top front-seven players -- Dont'a Hightower, Adrian Clayborn, Deatrich Wise, Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton -- still on the field. By the end of the half, the Redskins had rolled up 17 points with the help of 201 yards passing on 16-of-21 completions by Colt McCoy and Kevin Hogan. Washington added 60 yards rushing in the first 30 minutes, to make it a frustrating start to the night for Belichick's defense. At halftime, the head coach told WBZ's Steve Burton the Patriots had put together "about 38 seconds of good football." The starting Patriots defense was a 3-4 look that included Hightower and Derek Rivers as the outside linebackers with Deatrich Wise, Malcom Brown and Lawrence Guy as the down linemen. Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe also started.

* Jeremy Hill seems to be in the lead for "big back" duties: In one of the more interesting battles of camp -- who's the big back, and will the Patriots even use one in 2018? -- Hill looked to be ahead of Mike Gillislee. Hill capped a long drive to open the third quarter with a one-yard touchdown run, giving him 10 carries for 48 yards to that point and two catches for 14 yards. Gillislee did not have a catch and had 12 carries for 29 yards through the early third quarter. At 226 pounds, Hill looks lighter on his feet compared to his time in Cincinnati, and he showed good burst with the ball in his hands. (Hill also had some special teams duties, which we'll get to later, which may put him in the driver's seat for a roster spot.)

* Injury check: Jordan Richards left the game in the second quarter with an undisclosed injury. He absorbed a block that was deemed an illegal blindside hit at the end of a Ryan Allen punt with 3:12 remaining in the first half. He remained on one knee, chatting with Patriots medical personnel for several moments, before walking off the field under his own power. He stopped in the blue medical tent on the Patriots sidelines, and after the half he was spotted -- still in uniform -- standing on the sidelines. Richards saw time as a deep safety to go along with the core special teams roles he typically takes on. 

* No lowering-the-helmet calls...really: After Brad Allen told reporters on Wednesday that his crew would err on the side of throwing penalty flags on lowering-the-helmet hits, we saw none. Derek Rivers was penalized for roughing the passer. And the Redskins picked up a flag for an illegal blindside block, but the nothing on the new rule that has dominated headlines and been given a great deal of attention because of the uncertain nature of its implementation in 2018. The first Patriots completion of the game, to Jacob Hollister, looked like it could've been a candidate for a flag. Same went for a late first-quarter completion with Jordan Richards on the tackle. That those calls weren't made won't garner complaints from football fans, but it's a confusing rule that was promised to be officiated aggressively during the preseason. It wasn't Thursday. 

* Special teams check: When it comes to how Belichick puts his team together, special teams matter. So here's a quick look at the players who were heavily involved in the kicking game. 

Kickoff unit: Ryan Lewis, Brandon King, Eddie Pleasant, Jeremy Hill, Geneo Grissom, Marquis Flowers, Damarius Travis, Jomal Wiltz, Nicholas Grigsby, Jordan Richards, Stephen Gostkowski. 

Kick return: JC Jackson, Duke Dawson, Riley McCarron, Brandon Bolden, Richards, Grigsby, King, Flowers, Hill, Pleasant, Grissom.

Punt unit: James Develin, Jacob Hollister, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Bolden, Jackson (gunner), Pleasant (gunner), Richards, Grigsby, Grissom, King.

On the kick-return team, McCarron was the deep returner with Dawson and Hill as the two additional deep players. Teams are now only allowed three players deep under the new kickoff rules. 

Brian Hoyer had an up-and-down kind of night: We know what Hoyer is. He's been around long enough at this point. He'll hit on a good percentage of his throws (he hit 16 of his first 23, 70 percent), but it won't look pretty at times, and he may pass up an opportunity to hit a safer one. Julian Edelman appeared frustrated after a pair of routes when he looked open but wasn't targeted by his backup quarterback. An early throw to Hoyer down the field to Phillip Dorsett was thrown out of bounds, not giving Dorsett a shot. He missed Dorsett high over the middle later in the quarter and took a sack when he refused to move off his spot and allowed LaAdrian Waddle to be pushed right into him. On the bright side? Hoyer did help put together a scoring drive to end the first half by hitting Devin Lucien on two long throws over the middle. Hoyer also helped set up a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter when he got Cordarrelle Patterson for a long completion. (Patterson batted the ball to himself and caught it to continue his string of acrobatic catches this summer.) Danny Etling checked into the game with 7:41 remaining in the game. 

* Patriots late-round rookies showed up: Mark Ja'Whaun Bentley down as one of New England's "winners" on the night. With an opportunity at some live hitting in the middle of the field, the fifth-rounder out of Purdue looked comfortable as a signal-caller -- calling plays even with Roberts in the game at one point -- and he made plays when they presented themselves to him. He had a quarterback hit, two run stuffs (including one at the goal line), and a good tackle in coverage. He also had what appeared to be a forced fumble, but the play was blown dead and the fumble was deemed to have happened after the runner's forward progress was stopped. Rookie seventh-round corner Keion Crossen also made his presence felt. He blitzed twice early in the second quarter, recording one pressure. He also broke up a pass on third down that helped force a punt. Both Crossen and Jackson have had their moments in camp, but it was Crossen who seemed to come up with a few more plays Thursday. Late in the game, undrafted rookie Trent Harris forced a strip-sack that Grissom recovered and returned it 53 yards to the one-yard line. 

* Derek Rivers made a push: One of the areas we wanted to keep a close eye on in the preseason opener was how the second-year defensive linemen -- Rivers, Deatrich Wise and Adam Butler -- played. Wise and Rivers started, and Rivers made the first tackle of the game by chasing a runner down the line of scrimmage from behind. Both Wise and Rivers also had quarterback hits, though Rivers was called for a personal foul on his. All in all, though, it seemed to be a positive night for Rivers -- especially considering this was his first time seeing another team since tearing his ACL against the Texans during a joint practice in West Virginia last summer. He was credited with three tackles, while Wise and Butler had one. 

Bonus takeaway: We did a Take Your Pick segment on Pregame Live where we chose a "Michael Bishop Award" winner for a player who comes out of nowhere to stand out in the preseason. I chose Braxton Berrios. Tom E. Curran chose Riley McCarron. After one week, the trophy may belong to Ralph Webb, who rushed for two scores and scored on two two-point conversions in the fourth quarter. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Panicking over the Patriots wide receivers; Red Sox continue to win

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Panicking over the Patriots wide receivers; Red Sox continue to win

1:23 - Marc Bertrand and Phil Perry join Trenni Kusnierek on Early Edition to discuss Tom Brady’s comments after today’s practice, and they compare this year’s wide receivers to the receivers on the 2006 team.  

6:39 - Evan Drellich phones in to break down the Red Sox 2-1 win over the Phillies and how this team doesn’t seem to ever lose close games. 

10:24 - Tom Giles, Kevin Duffy, Hardy, and Phil Perry give their panic meter rankings for the numerous Patriots injuries sustained during training camp practices. 

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NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Quick Slants the Podcast: What does Tom Brady's contract adjustment say about his future with the Patriots?

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Quick Slants the Podcast: What does Tom Brady's contract adjustment say about his future with the Patriots?

2:20 - Tom Brady received a contract adjustment where he can earn up to $5 million in incentives. Are both sides justified in how his contract has been handled? What does the future hold for Brady?

5:45 - It's not just about the amount of money for Brady but the contract can be used as a measurement to other player's deals around the league.

11:55 - Could Tom Brady be franchise tagged after his contract is up?

15:00 - Patriots seemed to have dodged a bullet with the severity of Phillip Dorsett's injury, who had to leave practice on Tuesday.

17:20 - Why haven't the Patriots brought in Dez Bryant for a workout?

22:45 - Thoughts on Eric Decker and how he can fit in the Patriots offense.

24:45 - What are the things to watch for in the 2nd Patriots preseason game on Thursday night against the Eagles.

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NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE