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Wed., Mar. 21, 2018 6:00 PM to 11:59 PM EDT
Thu., Mar. 22, 2018 12:00 AM to 11:55 AM EDT
Thu., Mar. 22, 2018 11:55 AM to 2:00 PM EDT
Stock Watch: Risers and Fallers
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Roy Finch – A week after putting the ball on the ground a couple times in his preseason debut against Washington, the undrafted rookie playmaker made positive things happen as a returner, runner and receiver. Finch took the first couple kickoff return reps and not only held onto the ball but had a 31-yarder. As a ball carrier he had seven attempts for 37 yards including a 10-yard touchdown. He also caught a pair of passes totaling 34 yards. Finch is tiny and may have to earn a role/job first as a returner, but he certainly has some quickness and playmaking ability that make him intriguing. Friday night against Philly was a positive step forward from a shaky first effort.
Malcolm Butler – The undrafted rookie cornerback continues to show a nose for the ball and that the NFL spotlight is not too bright for him. Butler started the game at right cornerback and played well into the second half. He notched a forced fumble – with an assist from Dont’a Hightower – on the first defensive play. He had another strip later that he was able to recover himself. Butler continues to get a lot of reps – spanning top units through backup action – and continues to show up well in that extended action.
Covering tight ends/screens – Two areas that were major problems a year ago for the Patriots defense were defending tight ends and screen passes. Both were problems once again on Friday night. The Eagles have a talented group of tight end in Brent Celek, Zach Ertz and James Casey and all three did damage with two receptions apiece. Celek averaged 22.5 yards on his two grabs and one of Ertz’ resulted in a touchdown. Bill Belichick is still looking for an answer at safety next to Devin McCourty and after the Eagles game he’s probably still searching. And watching Henry Josey run through several Patriots en route to his 27-yard touchdown on a screen was painful.
Flags – Not to pile on the officials but just exactly what is the initiative behind the ever-present flags? There were 21 accepted penalties in the game and it seemed like someone was called for illegal hands to the face on every other snap. I understand the league wants to make sure the rules are enforced, but no one wants to watch the type of football that has unfolded over the first half of the preseason. Referee John Parry indicated the flags would decrease once the regular season kicks off. Let’s hope he’s telling the truth.