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 . . .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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