Biggest takeaways from Patriots’ preseason victory over the Eagles

The New England Patriots continued their 2021 preseason hot streak with a dominating 35-0 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night.

To put the game into a little bit more context, the Eagles didn’t play a large majority of their starters, while the Patriots played most of their starters for a good portion of the first quarter. Even with the added context, the Patriots’ all-around team performance was still very impressive. Both the offense and the defense performed exactly how you’d want them to.

Despite the Eagles resting their starters, Thursday’s game held massive implications for numerous position battles on the New England roster. Without furder ado, let’s dive into some of the key takeaways from the Patriots’ second preseason game.

Biggest takeaways from the Patriots’ second preseason game

1: Cam Newton and Mac Jones were dominant

Far and away the most important takeaway from Thursday night’s preseason action was the dominant performances by Cam Newton and Mac Jones. Granted, neither quarterback went against the Eagles’ full starting defense, but it was still encouraging to see them both shine.

Newton started the game and from the jump looked as comfortable running the New England offense as he ever has before. Numerous times we saw him maneuver the pocket and deliver a dime. 

Plus, unlike last week’s game against the Washington Football Team, we saw Newton air it out downfield. Newton successfully connected with Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne for long gains. In a quarter of playing time, Newton was 8/9 with 103 yards and one touchdown.

As for Jones, he put on a show with his command of the offense, and his accuracy. He threw a couple of darts in last night’s action. His best throw of the night came on a deep ball too N’Keal Harry. Unfortunately, Harry wasn’t able to hold on for the catch, but the throw was perfectly placed.

The only real hiccup in Jones’ performance was a near interception he threw in his first drive out on the field. Other than that he was spectacular. Jones went 13/19 with 146 yards.

In terms of the quarterback battle, last night’s action didn’t affect it all that much. Newton is still the most likely to start Week 1, and barring a complete collapse the rest of the preseason, it’s hard to imagine that changing. That’s not to say Jones hasn’t been impressive, but if they’re both relatively even on the field Bill Belichick will opt for the veteran.

2: Jakobi Meyers looks primed for a big 2021 season

The Patriots’ number one wide receiver is Jakobi Meyers, and it’s not particularly close. Meyers had three catches for 56 yards and one touchdown against the Eagles.

The most impressive thing about Meyers is the ease at which he gets open. Meyers isn’t the fastest or the strongest wide receiver on the team, but he’s an excellent route runner with a great feel for the game. It doesn’t matter if it’s man or zone coverage, Meyers is going to get open.

After a breakout season last year, Meyers has only improved since then. He has excelled in training camp and the preseason. A big third-year jump for Meyers seems like a strong possibility.

3: Devin Asiasi failed to seize an opportunity in the passing game

Coming into the game, Devin Asiasi was the Patriots’ only healthy tight end. The expectation was that he’d play a ton of snaps and he did just that. Asiasi was solid when run blocking, which shouldn’t be overlooked.

However, he didn’t do all that much passing game. Asiasi was only targeted once, and on that one target, Asiasi failed to haul in a catchable touchdown pass from Jones. 

His performance last night can best be categorized as a missed opportunity. Asiasi had a chance to show something to the coaching staff and instead struggled. All that said, Asiasi is still young and it would be unwise to give up on him already. 

4: The New England front seven has incredible potential

One of the Patriots’ biggest goals this offseason was to improve their front seven, and though it’s still the preseason, it looks as if they’ve successfully done that.

Free-agent signee, Matthew Judon has looked like a game-changer in his first two outings with New England. Last night, Judon was very disruptive in his limited snaps. He got a couple of quarterback hurries and made plays in the running game. He looks unblockable at times.

Before going down with an undisclosed injury, Josh Uche also had a few nice moments. He combined with Judon to hurry the quarterback early in the game. As long as he stays healthy, Uche is going to be an impact player for the Patriots this season.

Judon and Uche are the most talked-about of the front seven group, but Kyle Van Noy, Chase Winovich, Harvey Langi, Christian Barmore, and Carl Davis all had excellent performances against the Eagles. Langi and Winovich, in particular, were all over the field in the second half. Langi finished with five tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss, one pass breakup, and one interception. His athletism stood out while watching. Meanwhile, Winovich had a productive night rushing the passer. He had two quarterback hits and two sacks.

What makes the Patriots’ front seven so strong is that the high-level starters are combined with strong depth. They’ll be a fun group to watch this season.

5: N’Keal Harry had an all-around rough night

Harry started the game against the Eagles with a nice 19-yard catch. Everything after that catch was a disaster for Harry. Most notably, Harry failed to catch a deep pass from Jones and on that very play wound up injured. He never returned to action and ended the game with only one catch.

Following the game, Harry was pictured wearing a sling as he left the stadium. It would be a real shame if Harry were to need to miss a significant amount of time with injury. Most have described 2021 training camp as the best Harry had looked as a pro. A serious injury would surely stall his development.

6: Quinn Nordin came back down to earth

After an excellent start to training camp and a good kicking performance in the preseason opener, Quinn Nordin has come back down to earth. He struggled mightily against the Eagles going 1/2 on field goals and 2/4 on extra points.

It’s too bad that Nordin had such a down performance, as his hot start to the 2021 season had many, including us, wondering if Nordin would challenge Nick Folk for the starting kicker job. Anything is possible, but after such a down performance, if Folk is healthy, he is the most reliable choice for the job.

7: Roster cuts at the running back position will be extremely tough

Just like last week, the Patriots were once again unstoppable on the ground. J.J. Taylor led the way with 93 rushing yards and one touchdown, while Rhamondre Stevenson had 66 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

Sony Michel and Damien Harris also looked impressive in their more limited roles. Michel seems to be more elusive than he’s ever been before. He also had four catches, which was a nice surprise, as Michel has struggled in the passing game most of his career.

The issue for New England is that they have six final roster caliber running backs (James White, Brandon Bolden, Taylor, Stevenson, Michel, and Harris), but realistically only four and at most five final roster spots. 

That leaves one or two of those six players on the outside looking in. Bolden looks like the most obvious cut candidate but he’s a Belichick favorite and a strong special teamer. However, keeping Bolden means getting rid of a very promising Taylor. The decisions Belichick will have to make regarding the running back position will be tough.

Regardless of which four or five running backs the Patriots end up keeping, one thing is for sure: New England will have one of the best running back rooms in the entire NFL.

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