BOSTON (CBS) — For all of the hype and all of the headlines generated from the signing of Darrelle Revis and the impact it would have on the New England D, we all may have been overlooking the most important player on the Patriots’ defense. That would be one Mr. Chandler Jones.
The third-year defensive end put together a performance on Friday night that shows exactly what kind of impact he can have on a football game.
On the Panthers’ sixth offensive play of the night, Jones saw that he’d have to go through two bodies if he wanted to make an outside rush to get to the quarterback. So he adjusted and made a swim move on guard Chris Scott and then just hopped on pop for the QB sack. It looked like more fun than a barrel full of monkeys.
That first sack forced a punt, and three plays later, Jones was again sacking Cam Newton on third down, forcing another punt.
As powerful and explosive as he looked on the sacks, the 24-year-old looked most menacing with two minutes left in the first quarter, when he tackled DeAngelo Williams before dancing, skipping around and slapping hands.
Before halftime, Jones already had six tackles and two sacks, and play-by-play man Dan Roche had said “Chandler Jones” more often than he said “there’s a flag on the play” in the game against the Redskins in the preseason opener.
Physically, he’s reaching the next level, and mentally, he is having a blast eating up the man with the football. For opposing AFC East offenses — and the rest of the league, for that matter — there should be no scarier sight.
With Mr. Jones covered, let’s take a quick dip into some leftover thoughts from the Patriots’ 30-7 win over the Panthers in a preseason game that doesn’t really matter but nevertheless will provide a full week of fodder.
–It’s only the preseason, and it’s only maybe four total quarters, but man, the Patriots’ defense looks legit. They held Nick Foles and the Eagles to just seven points, and they limited Cam Newton and the No. 1 Carolina offense to zero points in a little more than a half. And it’s more than just Revis on the outside and Jones being a force. Jamie Collins handled Cam Newton in the open field. With two sacks in two games, Rob Ninkovich is doing Rob Ninkovich things. And on just about every running play Carolina tried, the white jerseys attacked the ball carrier like a swarm of bees on a spilled soda can.
The true tests will come when they face Denver, Green Bay, San Diego and Chicago in the regular season, but so far, the Patriots’ D looks up for the challenge.
–Something that might get taken for granted at times is Julian Edelman’s vision as a punt returner. He fielded the first Carolina punt of the game at his own 3-yard line and then burst through a whole slew of bodies at about 100 mph for a 21-yard return. On his second return, he took it from the 19-yard line to midfield, drastically shifting field position. The ensuing drive resulted in a field goal.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that the guy who finished fourth in the NFL in punt return yards last season is pretty good at his job.
–It’s been a “playing with fire” type of preseason for Tom Brady. He first made that ill-advised diving tackle attempt on Cary Williams last week, and this week, after Jordan Devey stepped on Brady’s foot and tripped him, the QB reached up in desperation to hand the ball to Shane Vereen. In doing so, Brady left himself in a vulnerable position, and he ended up taking Dwan Edwards’ knee to the back of the head.
Brady left himself in that position in order to save exactly zero yards, as Vereen got swallowed up rather quickly. Maybe it’s time to put Brady in a bubble suit for the next couple of weeks.
Oh, and Jordan Devey, try to step on the quarterback’s foot a little less often. OK?
–In terms of Brady’s best passes, I’d pick out two passes. First was his bullet to Kenbrell Thompkins, who ran a 20-yard out on a third-and-19. Brady delivered an absolute rocket to move the sticks with a 21-yard gain on that one. I’d also include Brady’s deep lob to Julian Edelman on the first New England drive of the second half, as Brady put the perfect touch on the pass while Edelman ran straight up the seam. Edelman made the over-the-shoulder catch for a gain of 35 yards.
–Those were nice passes, but my favorite Brady play came on an incompletion. It was earlier in that first drive of the second half, and Brady threw to Brandon LaFell on a play that had a chance to move the chains on a third-and-15. LaFell dropped the pass, and the replay showed Brady absolutely freaking out with a rage-filled scream. Mind you, this was in the preseason, in Brady’s 15th NFL season. The man is frighteningly competitive.
The Patriots were bailed out by a hands to the face penalty (which was a pretty weak call, as per usual this preseason) and got a free first down, but that was the final pass of the night intended for LaFell.
–Two encouraging signs for the offense came during a drive in the second quarter. First, just after Thompkins caught the aforementioned pass on third-and-19, Brady went right back to him. Thompkins dropped a ball that hit him in the gut. It was heartening though to see Brady go right back to Thompkins on the following play, a quick slant which Thompkins caught and ran for a gain of 14 yards.
The second encouraging sign came just three plays later. Brady faced heavy pressure on a third-and-7, but Danny Amendola broke off his route to make himself available on a hot read for Brady. Amendola was exactly where Brady thought he’d be, and the two connected for an 8-yard catch-and-run to keep the drive going. Three plays later, the Patriots were in the end zone.
Amendola and Brady showed last preseason that they could very much operate on the same page with each other, so perhaps if Amendola stays on the field, he can be the impact receiver the Patriots want him to be. And then the whole world can follow Edelman’s lead and refer to the receiver as Danny Amen-BRO-la.
—An open letter to the official who was standing directly behind the pylon when Shane Vereen scored yet somehow ruled a touchdown had not been scored: Hi, sir. My name is Mike. I question your ability to perform your job. On a secondary level, are you aware that you ruled Shane Vereen The Touchdown Machine to be out of bounds? Why would he be out of bounds? He is Shane Vereen The Touchdown Machine. Obviously, he scored a touchdown.
In closing, be better, would you?
–The play that got me most fired up was the catch-and-run from Taylor McCuller, a player whom I did not know prior to Friday night. He caught a pass in the left flat and then just barreled through everybody that tried to tackle him. It was a display of willpower and brute strength. It was freaking awesome. If I were in charge of putting together highlight packages, all you’d see is plays like that one. People would probably stop tuning in to watch football, but I’d be entertained.
-Jimmy Garoppolo later threw a touchdown pass to McCuller, who is a bulky white guy with no discernible neck. Garoppolo did the same thing last week, only with James Develin instead of McCuller. I’m no psychologist, but I believe this is an indication that Garoppolo misses his time at Eastern Illinois University, where half of his skill players looked exactly like McCuller and Develin. Jimmy! You’re in the NFL now! Spread it out!
—They say the third preseason game is the “dress rehearsal” for the regular season, and if that’s the case, we all better get ready for some lengthy Bill Belichick press conferences. The man spoke for more than 10 minutes after the game — 10 minutes! — and he appeared as though he was willing to stay all night, so long as the questions kept coming. Personally, I always prefer to see Angry Bill up there, deflecting bad questions by giving bad answers, but Mellow Bill is always an insightful take.
–Only two more weeks until real football. Everybody celebrate!
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