After a defensively impressive win over the Panthers in the third week of the preseason, the Patriots were off on Friday, leaving us all to regroup on the fast-approaching regular season. The team still has some questions, especially on offense, but they've also gotten some answers about who they are and who they will be this season.
Here is today's Unfiltered Notebook as we wrap up the win, take inventory of the injuries and hear what Bill Belichick had to say the day after.
After Further Review: Preseason Highlights Edition
During the regular season we'll have a full film review, but for the preseason here are some notes from the re-watch and just a few plays and players that stood out upon a second viewing.
-- Sony Michel looked like he had a new gear of explosiveness. With 19 of 28 snaps featuring two running back personnel, the offense had a decidedly ground-heavy approach. Whether that's due to the lack of receivers available or a sign of things to come this season remains to be seen. In 2018 they ran 11 personnel 56 percent of the time and two backs on the field 32 percent.
-- Isaiah Wynn was impressive in his most extensive action to date. He's not a traditional left tackle but looks extremely athletic and is a technician with his hand placement. With some experience I'd expect him to only get better. Concerns about the left tackle spot have been allayed, but they still need to figure out the swing tackle spot. Dan Skipper and Cole Croston got long looks last night and at this point Croston has the job by a hair.
-- The defense threw back-to-back six-man blitzes in the second quarter. That kind of aggressiveness is a welcomed holdover from 2018. Their ability to play Quarter (7-DB) personnel while also throwing a variety of second-level pass rushers in illustrates how deep and versatile this defense is. Offenses will have no idea who is coming or going.
-- All the rookies have had their ups and downs, with last night serving up some downs for Jakobi Meyers and Jake Bailey on the bad field goal hold though he was great punting. But all the first year players have improved over the course of camp and it's safe to expect they'll bounce back next week in the preseason finale.
Jim McBride of the Boston Globe reports that Brandon King is out for the year with a torn quad. This is a tough blow for the veteran special team standout, who was considered by most to be a roster lock. This now opens up a spot for someone like Duke Dawson or Keion Crossen, bubble players who entered the game late. The addition of Terrence Brooks this season also helps cushion the blow.
Bill Belichick spoke with the media on Friday to regroup on the game. Here's what stood out.
As the Patriots wind down the preseason and prepare to turn the page to the regular season, Belichick was asked about trying to balance everything, between getting players ready for the opener, but also the full season schedule.
Belichick: "That's one of the many balances you have in preseason, trying to get your team ready, work on the things that are fundamental to your system. And you have to deal with different things each week based on the opponent that you're playing. Then you have to look at the bigger picture of the opener and the regular season and what you're gonna need over that time frame. And they don't always fit together. You just have to do the best you can and get the most out of your opportunities. It's more than you have time to do. More than you're able to do so you have to select what areas to try and focus on."
Ryan Izzo joined the team last season as a rookie and was known primarily as a blocker. But after an impressive catch from Tom Brady on Thursday night, Belichick was asked about his progress as a receiver.
Belichick: "I think he has good instincts as a receiver. I think he saw that at Florida State. There are some things that we do from a route tree that are probably little different than he had at Florida State. Again, when you get a route, especially a new route, and you go out and run it a couple times. Each time it's a little different, whether it's man or zone, there's a linebacker over you or a defensive end over you or whatever it is, until you have enough reps on the play where you've done everything on the route, you've seen every look. That takes some time. I think he has good instincts but he has to probably learn different ones and apply different situations here to what he was doing in college."
Rookie quarterback Jarrett Stidham saw extensive action against the Panthers, playing more than a half, showing good pocket presence and the ability to deliver throws into tight windows. Belichick acknowledged Stidham still had a long way to go compared to the veteran quarterbacks on the roster, perhaps quelling any talk of only keeping two quarterbacks on the roster.
Belichick: "I think Jarrett's pocket presence is good. I think there is a lot of room for improvement, certainly when you are comparing him to the other two quarterbacks on our roster, guys who have played a lot football in this league. There's quite a gap in experience. I'm sure those are things Jarrett will get better at. Probably about what you would think it would be given the difference in experience you are comparing him to. Two players that are in our offense running the same plays he does. So it's hard to compare one quarterback in one system to a quarterback in a completely different system. But in our case, you have three quarterbacks all in the same system so it's an obvious comparison. He' getting better. I think he does a good job. But there's room for improvement certainly.