The Patriots dropped their third and final preseason game to the Raiders, 23-6, as New England turned in an unfortunately sloppy performance after two solid days of good work at joint practices. With the loss, the Patriots will conclude the 2022 preseason with a 1-2 record.
Mac Jones and the starters saw action in about four series but fell into a 13-3 hole after turnovers and big plays hurt them on both sides of the ball. Once again, the offense struggled to get into a rhythm and produced just a field goal. Protection issues continue to short circuit the attack, as they've been consistently inconsistent all summer whether it's going against themselves, another team in joint practices or in the preseason games.
Now, with the summer quickly fading into the rearview mirror and Week 1 at Miami fast approaching, the Patriots must put the disappointing and meaningless effort behind them and lock in on the start of the regular season with hopes that it all comes together.
Here are the five keys from the game as we bury this 2022 preseason and move on to real football.
Starting Offense Keeps Sputtering
It was another rough start for the Patriots offense on their initial three possessions, with two three-and-outs and a Mac Jones interception sandwiched in between them. Their only first down came via a scramble on the middle drive after Mac couldn't find an open target. It was more of the same of what we've seen all summer, some sporadic splash plays but very little sustained consistency.
The offense went to the spread on the fourth drive as the starters remained in for their most extensive action of the summer. The results were better, as the offense moved the ball past midfield but still needed to convert a fourth down to continue the drive, and there were protection issues, with Isaiah Wynn getting beat cleanly by former Patriot practice squadder Tashaun Bower, and penalty issues, with an offensive pass interference on DeVante Parker. They'd wrap the drive with a field goal after it went 11 plays, 96 yards. The spread offense remains their most effective scheme and it's likely what they'll lean most heavily into with their gameplans for the regular season.
The Patriots offense finished the preseason as they performed through most of it. There are nice plays here and there, but not nearly enough and never coming in bunches. Can they suddenly turn it on in two weeks in Miami? Will an actual gameplan make a major difference in what has been overall spotty execution in all offensive phases? We're about to find out.
Defense Gashed by Big Plays, Mistakes
Going against Jarrett Stidham and the Raiders backups, the Patriots defense didn't have many answers, with Stidham leading two scoring drives and hurting the Pats downfield, with two big passing plays of 30 and 25 yards, while third-stringer Chase Garbers launched a 45-yarder against the Pats' second-teamers when he got in the game on the third series.
Busted coverages and mistakes littered the Patriots early defensive performance as the sloppiness was not an encouraging sign from the starters. They're in for another level of competition against the Dolphins with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle in just over two weeks and similar busted coverages are going to quickly end up with long-range scores.
The defense has actually been pretty solid this summer despite their performance early on against the Raiders. Led by a potent pass rush, they disrupted both their own offense and the Panthers' and Raiders' during joint practices, but in their final preseason test they had too many mistakes and too little pressure from the pass rush, the one thing that had been close to a consistent strength. That's a little disconcerting and the backups did make some noise with their pass rush later on, but the body of work still stands from the summer. Given how the offense has looked the defense has a lot on its shoulders out of the gate.
Bubble Players Make Their Case
After the starters came out of the game after three series it opened up the door for some bubble players to make some plays and state their case for not only a roster spot, but quality playing time. Here's rundown of nice plays that could make a difference when roster cuts come on Tuesday and when gameplans are considered for Week 1.
- J.J. Taylor - showed good hustle to recover a Brian Hoyer fumble. Montgomery's injury might be just what Taylor needed.
- Daniel Ekuale - worked well with LaBryan Ray to pick up a second-quarter sack.
- Jack Jones - forced a fumble with a hard hit in the third quarter as he continues to show up with good energy and physicality despite not being the biggest guy. Jones was around the ball all night.
- Anfernee Jennings - he's certainly wrapped up a roster spot by now, but he continues to be one of the most pleasant surprises of the summer, delivering consistent pass rush pressure and strong edge play.
- Kevin Harris - the rookie running back ripped off a 33-yard run in the third quarter, easily one of the best rushing plays of the summer. However, Harris flashed ball security issues with a fumble, while also putting the ball on the ground earlier in the game.
The last thing you ever want to see in a preseason game is a significant injury and the Patriots look like they may have some complications after the game with a couple of them. Ty Montgomery was carted off with what looked like a significant ankle injury early in the game. Montgomery has had an excellent summer and has been an intriguing back as both a ball carrier and receiver. He was being penciled into a major role, especially following the retirement of James White. If Montgomery is lost for a significant time, it could open up opportunities for J.J Taylor, Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris and perhaps throw one of the rookies immediately into the fire. Harris was the only one of the trio to make an impression going forward in the game.
Damien Harris was one of the few starters not to see any action, as he appeared to sustain an injury of his own during Wednesday's joint practice. Harris was on the sidelines for the preseason game, a positive sign, but his availability becomes even more paramount with Montgomery going down.
Jakobi Meyers also appeared to get dinged up, spending time in the blue injury tent and not returning to the game. Meyers has been Mac's most reliable receiver this preseason, one of the few consistent bright spots. To lose him at this point of the summer would be another major blow.
One more potential injury situation to highlight was Devin Asasi's absence from the preseason game. He got plenty of work during joint sessions and appeared to finish them healthy. For a player like him who is trying to secure his roster spot, just like Shaun Wade on the defensive side of the ball, it's a tough blow to miss the final game opportunity of the preseason.