By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Football returned to New England with a … Patriots loss to the Jaguars?
In real life?
Yes, it is true. And while it’s only the preseason, the outcome is nevertheless a bit of a surprise considering the gap in expectations between both teams for the 2017 season. But the Jaguars made some big plays on offense to put up 31 points, and they did enough on defense to fend off a late Patriots comeback, ultimately winning 31-24 at Gillette Stadium.
It’s important to not overanalyze things too much from a preseason game. But still, there’s plenty to examine after the first football game for the Patriots since Super Bowl LI.
Making this team as an undrafted rookie receiver will not be easy. But Carr undoubtedly put his best foot forward in his hopes to make the Patriots.
The 6-foot-1 rookie out of Northwestern was critical in the Patriots’ touchdown drive before halftime. He made a 20-yard reception while tapping his toes and falling out of bounds on the right sideline and caught a pass inside the 5-yard line a few plays later. But it was on third down that Carr made his presence impossible to miss, as he went up and floated in the back of the end zone long enough to go up and get Jimmy Garoppolo’s floater.
Quite the showing for the rookie receiver, who finished with 44 yards and a touchdown on five catches.
Speaking of impressive rookies, Jacob Hollister quickly became receiving option No. 1 for Garoppolo.
The tight end made his bid for a roster spot by catching just about everything thrown his way. That included a pass over the middle in traffic, during which he absorbed a heavy hit but still hung on.
It also included another catch when he held on despite a defender elbowing him in the side of the head at full speed. It included a much easier catch when he was left wide open up the left seam early in the second half for a gain of 38. It included an 18-yard pickup late in the third, which had him leaping over one defender and taking a helmet-to-helmet hit from another defender for a free 15 yards.
And it included a 15-yard reception over the middle from Jacoby Brissett to convert a third-and-15 in the fourth.
All told, Hollister caught seven passes for 116 yards (though he did fail to get out of bounds after a catch on the game’s final drive, when the Patriots needed to stop the clock). It was an impressive step forward for someone hoping to earn a job — either in New England or elsewhere.
At the risk of going heavy with the offensive players, Garoppolo earned this spot. He didn’t get out to a hot start, taking third-down sacks to end his first two drives and misfiring on a third down to end his third drive. But he eventually warmed up and finished strong. By the end of his night he was able to compile a solid stat line: 22-for-28, 235 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
He showed some escapability and creativity along the way too, scrambling to extend plays and keep drives alive.
We still don’t fully know what or who Garoppolo is, but for the task put in front of him on this night, he did his job well.
Bolden has been on the Patriots since 2012, so maybe the fact that he was featured so prominently in a preseason game doesn’t speak to his standing on the team in terms of roster security. Yet while his greatest value to the team remains on special teams, he looked to be a capable running back in this one.
He ran for 33 yards on five carries and gained another 24 yards on two receptions.
Bonus: Ryan Allen
People always say, “Whatever happened to the coffin corner kick?” (No, really, they always do say this. Don’t ask who “they” are. OK? Bill Belichick is among “they.” Ever heard of him?) But for a fleeting moment on Thursday night, it returned, as Ryan Allen artfully dropped a second-quarter punt out of bounds at the Jacksonville 3-yard line. It was just about as good as it gets when it comes to punting.
The second-year pro is looking to change the narrative surrounding him after a very poor rookie season. The early returns are not so good.
Jones got beat in 1-on-1 coverage for a 97-yard touchdown in the first half. He took his first kick return to the 15-yard line. His first punt return went for zero yards. He took his second kick return from five yards deep in the end zone and only made it to the 15-yard line. His other kick returns were average or worse.
He gave up another long touchdown in the second half, a 42-yard deep ball up the left side. On that one, he expected safety help over the top, but he was nevertheless nowhere near receiver Dede Westbrook.
Essentially, it looked like more of the same for Cyrus Jones, and that’s not a good thing.
Deatrich Wise Jr.
There was a lot of excitement in New England to see this rookie in a game situation, but unfortunately for the fourth-rounder out of Arkansas, his night ended early.
Wise stayed down on the turf after a play early in the second quarter. He was taken to the locker room and evaluated for a head injury, as a teammate’s knee did hit Wise in the back of the head as Wise was falling to the turf.
Wise had been the most explosive rookie in camp thus far, but this no doubt represents a setback.
He may not be a big name, but he is an important and impressive run stuffer in the linebacking corps. Yet he too suffered an injury. It was hard to tell exactly what it was that forced him out of the game late in the third quarter, but he did require attention from the trainers for some time before heading off the field. He likewise did not return to the game.
It’s a catch-all, sure, but you just haven’t seen a Bill Belichick-coached team give up so many big plays in a single game. There was the 97-yard pass to Cole, which won’t be a pleasant sight in the meeting rooms. There was a 79-yard touchdown run by Corey Grant. And there was the 43-yard touchdown pass to Westbrook.
That’s a whole lot of yards — and a whole lot of points — given up in just three plays. In total, the Patriots allowed 447 yards on 55 plays. They made zero sacks and forced zero turnovers. They lost on a third-and-goal from the 1-yard line for a Leonard Fournette touchdown. And it was all against many players who aren’t good enough to start for the Jaguars.
While it’s largely backup defensive players, that type of performance doesn’t generally fly in Foxboro.
Bonus: D.J. Foster
You can’t make it on the Patriots if you fumble. You simply cannot. While Foster has a reasonable excuse in that a defender’s helmet popped the ball right out of his arms, the coaching staff will reply by saying there’s always a way to protect the football. Foster’s fumble was especially costly, as it came inside the Jaguars’ 10-yard line and thus took points off the board for the Patriots.
Bonus: Stephen Gostkowski
A 56-yard field goal attempt is a difficult thing to successfully kick. No doubt. So Gostkowski isn’t on this list solely because he missed his long kick. He is, however, on the list because he did not appear to strike the ball well at all on the wobbly kick. It just was not his best strike, and it’s worth putting on the notepad here in early August.