BOSTON (CBS) — About 17 years ago, it was then-Patriots coach Bill Parcells who cautioned reporters to not start thinking Curtis Martin was a Hall of Famer after one good game as a rookie. “Don’t go putting him in Canton yet,” Parcells cautioned.
Today, we should all heed that advice in the wake of Chandler Jones’ preseason debut.
The 22-year-old out of Syracuse whom the Patriots drafted 21st overall this year lived up to the hype and then some in his preseason debut. He showed a variety of moves off the edge, getting the better of Pro Bowl left tackle Jermon Bushrod. Jones drew holding calls on Bushrod on consecutive plays late in the first quarter. Those came after Jones applied heavy pressure on Drew Brees on the second play of the game and just before Jones tracked down scrambling quarterback Chase Daniels on third down to force a punt.
If you only look at the box score, you see one solo tackle and two total tackles for Jones. If you watched the skills, strength and speed on display, though, you know the Patriots have themselves a dangerous edge player in Jones.
Let’s get into more on the potential of Jones, plus all the rest of the leftover thoughts from the Patriots’ 7-6 preseason win over the Saints.
— As much as Jones lived up to the positive hype, the offensive line performed as badly as advertised. For one, they almost got Tom Brady killed, which is generally frowned upon in Foxboro. If you go back and watch the first-quarter strip sack, you’ll see that literally zero linemen were able to sustain any block for more than a second. The only guy who did block his man was Danny Woodhead. You never want your offensive line shown up by Danny Woodhead.
Later, we saw a Marcus Cannon false start and a third-down holding call on Nate Solder that cost the Patriots a first down. For a unit that was considered a mess heading into the game, the O-line didn’t do much to quell any fears in New England.
— Brady loves giving fans heart attacks in the preseason, huh? I know he’s gotta get his reps in and his timing down, but standing calmly in the pocket after evading one of what could have been three different sacks on the same play is a bad idea. Fortunately for Brady and the Patriots, the hit wasn’t half as bad as the preseason squish from Albert Haynesworth in 2009, and the only injury suffered was a million rubber pellets to the face. We think.
— Jerod Mayo’s been outstanding for the Patriots since he was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2008, but the one knock on his game has always been his pass coverage. He looked pretty darn good Thursday night though, blanketing Darren Sproles and breaking up a pass over the middle on one when play when Drew Brees had about a half-hour to settle into the pocket. On the very next play, Brees completed a pass to Sproles on the outside, but Mayo was right there to make the stop well before the marker and force a punt. That type of coverage on a player as shifty as Sproles is nothing to scoff at.
— And if you don’t want to take it from me, a guy who’s never been better than the fourth-best player on any flag football team he’s ever played on, that’s fine. But take it from former NFL scout and current NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah:
— Brandon Lloyd finished with no catches on just one target, but it was a shocking sight to see the player wearing jersey No. 85 look like a capable, explosive wide receiver. After last year’s fiasco, that might take some getting used to.
— The lack of stats is no big deal for Lloyd, because he did have that big third-down catch over the middle that got wiped out by a holding call. Overall, Lloyd looked good not great. The first unit had such a short window to really offer much of a glimpse into how the offense will work, especially at receiver.
— Lloyd being unable to catch the one pass thrown his way was understandable, given that a body stood between him and the ball. But considering that he said every ball is catchable, that was a pretty good opportunity to prove it.
— You know who just loves the preseason? Zoltan Mesko. Kid just lets it fly all night long. Eight punts, 47.8 yard average, and four landed inside the 20. That dude loves punting.
— I just love the way Stevan Ridley runs. His “fumbling issues” from last year are so overblown. It was two plays! One was in Week 17 for a 13-3 team, the other was in a 250-7 win over an awful Broncos team. Forgive me for not burying a player for losing focus in those games.
— Shane Vereen looked good, but don’t put too much stock into his stats (11 carries, 64 yards; 2 receptions, 17 yards),as all of his action came against second and third stringers on the Saints’ D. Still, after not seeing him for the entire first half, he proved in the second half that the running back battle is far from over.
— I’ve never made an NFL roster, so I’m no expert, but I think Martez Wilson is doing it all wrong. The second-year player jumped offside on a fourth-and-1 Patriots punt play, which gave the Pats a free first down, then he ran into Zoltan Mesko on yet another fourth-and-1 punt, giving the Patriots yet another first down.
Neither penalty led to Patriots points, but showing your coaches that you’re capable of making not one but two boneheaded plays in the same game is not a strong idea in terms of securing a roster spot.
— Do you notice that Robert Kraft’s chair is always set a little bit higher than his special guest in his booth? Do you think he has it that way on purpose? John Calipari never looked so small.
— If Dane Fletcher tears his ACL on a punt that didn’t count and technically didn’t happen, does the injury still count?
— At one point late in the game, the Patriots’ defense needed a big stop, and what song came over the PA system? Why, “Welcome To The Jungle,” of course. How awesome and original!
I’d almost prefer “Call Me Maybe” at this point. Almost.
— For all the “Summer of Gronk” nonsense we’ve heard about, it was nice to see him drag a few bodies around the field, just like old times.
— Look, Danny Woodhead is the man. Anyone who would ever try to argue otherwise is a fool. But … your NFL kick returner should have legs that are longer than 3 feet. The guy can do a lot of things, but return a kickoff past the 25 is not one of them.
— It’s nice for Steve Gregory to nab an interception in his first game in a Patriots uniform, but it’s not often he’ll get the opportunity to bobble a pass for 15 minutes again without getting leveled. Good to get those out of the way in the preseason.
— Julian Edelman looked pretty good at receiver on the ensuing drive after the Gregory pick. Maybe they ought to try keeping him on one side of the football this year.
— Ryan Mallett looked downright awful on his first drive. His first pass was intended for apparently nobody, sailing over everyone, and then his second pass didn’t make it over the group of linemen standing in front of him. His third pass to Donte Stallworth should’ve been a simple little completion but the ball was delivered high and behind the receiver cutting across the middle, taking Stallworth off his stride and leading to a punt.
— I was impressed, then, when Mallett rallied really well , particularly on a bullet to Jabar Gaffney along the sideline. Mallett looked like he can throw the ball about 90 mph. (Cue the “Can he pitch for the Sawwwwwwxxxx?!?!?!?” jokes.)
— I give all the credit in the world to Bill Belichick looking like he was at least trying to be respectful to the replacement officials. It’s like when the 15-year-old druggie-looking kid takes my fast food order and screws up. I’m not going to yell at him, because really, I didn’t expect him to get it right in the first place.
— Belichick said all that needs to be said about the replacement officials after the game: “I think Mike Pereira has made his comments on the officials. I don’t know who knows more about NFL officiating than Mike Pereira, so we’ll leave it to him.”
In case you missed it, Mike Pereira, the former head of NFL officiating, said regarding the replacement officials, “It’s just not going to work.”
— Dont’a Hightower must have been pretty surprised to see Chris Ivory stay on his feet after the linebacker delivered a serious shot on the running back. This is the NFL, son. You’re going to have to wrap up.
— It was nice to see Josh McDaniels roll out a nice screen pass to Danny Woodhead during the two-minute drill to end the first half. Woodhead picked up 20 yards on the third-and-10 play, setting the Pats up for a makeable field goal attempt before halftime.
Hundreds of people like to flood talk radio lines crying that the Patriots don’t run enough screens, but fear not! It’s back in the repertoire (provided, you know, Ryan Mallett is in the game and everything).
— The odds are stacked against Britt Davis making the team at receiver. His touchdown will help, but coaches might look more at the 30-plus-yard strike delivered from Brian Hoyer that bounced off the receiver’s shoulder on the same drive.
— Overanalyzing the second half is a risky activity, so I’ll just say this: The preseason predictions of the Patriots going 16-0 are just stupid. They’re obviously going 23-0. Step one: complete.