The Patriots moved to 2-0 this preseason with a 22-17 win over the Titans that wasn't perfect, but had plenty to get excited about. The rookies and second-year players like Chase Winovich and Isaiah Wynn were the story, reassuring everyone that new layers of quality depth had not only been added, but that many of them could make an impact this season.
Bill Belichick spoke with the media on Sunday morning to highlight some of the strong rookie performances and regroup on how the team will prepare for a short turnaround to their Week 3 contest with the Panthers.
The first home preseason game of the summer should see plenty of the Patriots starters active for a large portion of the game after getting the night off against the Titans. After two weeks of joint practices and backups playing in the games, we're about to finally get a real look at where the 2019 Patriots are really at.
Belichick was first asked about Chase Winovich, who had a strong game, with an active pass rush that saw him making plays all over the field. Winovich continues to ascend and looks like he's only scratching the surface of the NFL player he will become. Belichick pointed out finding a way to play within the defense but to still be disruptive is the key for a young player like the rookie from Michigan.
"That's what we're trying to do defensively, is to be aggressive but understand the responsibilities of the defense, be accountable for those responsibilities but at the same time take advantage of opportunities to be disruptive and make tackles. That's a work in progress for all of us and guys understanding and getting comfortable playing with each other and having familiarity with communication and how they're going to react to certain things they see."
Byron Cowart was another rookie who had a strong performance, highlighted by an early sack where he bowled over offensive lineman Roger Saffold. Cowart was seen more as a space-eating run stopper when he first arrived but has shown impressive burst of the ball. Belichick clarified there just wasn't much college tape to get a sense of Cowart's ability to get after the quarterback.
"In the college scheme that he played in at Maryland, I wouldn't say there were a lot of pass rush situations. It was a little hard to evaluate that. Again, you can only go on what you see and probably 75 percent of the plays, maybe more that he played, were either running plays or running situations. He's done all we asked him to do. He needs to get better at everything, the running game, the passing game, recognition and reaction. We'll continue to work with him, hopefully he'll continue to improve."
If there was one position of interest that did feature a potential important starter it was Isaiah Wynn getting his first game action at left tackle. Wynn has slowly progressed over the last three weeks and is now taking the next step in his preparation to become the opening day blind side protector of Tom Brady.
"It was good to get Isaiah out there," said Belichick. "I think he played around 15 plays or so. We'll build on that, see where we are next week for the Carolina game and going forward. It was good to have him out there. We'll just take it from here and see how it goes."
Finally, Belichick turned the page to the short week of preparation to face Carolina on Thursday night, commenting that it would mimic their preparation for their regular season Thursday night game against the Giants.
"First thing is to give the players an opportunity to rest and recover from the hard and good week we had in Tennessee. We played a lot of football down there on Wednesday and Thursday practice, and then last night in the game. Offensively we ran a lot of plays in the second half and defensively we were on the field for a lot of plays in the first half. I think those more intensive stretches challenged us in some physical ways and mentally too in terms of communication and fundamental execution when we're a little fatigued. That's a big part of it, is the rest and recovery from that and get ready to go on a short week against Carolina."