For the first time since the Brady era ended in Foxboro on January 4th 2020 during that brutally disappointing wildcard game against the Titans, fans returned to Gillette Stadium this past Thursday for the opening preseason game of the 2021-22 season after a whole season of no fan attendance. The Patriots took on the Washington Football Team and won by a final score of 22-13.
But as always with preseason, more important than the final score is how everyone looked. Overall, yet from a very small sample size, this team looks pretty good. Some of the problems that you could sense last preseason weren’t as noticeable this time around but that’s not to say they didn’t show any issues.
Cam Newton looked a lot better than he did last year after getting COVID, he had three incomplete passes but really only missed on one throw. Meanwhile Mac Jones made the best of nearly every opportunity he got in this game. If you didn’t think this was going to be a close quarterback competition this preseason, watching the first preseason game is sure to have changed your mind.
As expected, the running backs looked great including rookie Rhamondre Stevenson out of Oklahoma who turned out to be player of the game with 2 touchdowns and 127 yards in 10 attempts. N’Keal Harry played about the most snaps out of all the receivers but only ended up with 1 catch for 4 yards. This is a big pressure year for him and he needs to get more targets if he’s ever going to live up to his first-round potential.
Matt Judon is going to be a force for this linebacker unit. He looked great in his first couple defensive series but keep your fingers crossed that he doesn’t run into any health issues this season. Judon had to step into the medical tent at one point for his knee but only missed two snaps and came back out to play.
In the fourth quarter Joejuan Williams intercepted a tipped pass and ran it back 36 yards into the red zone for the defensive play of the game. Even if it’s against a third string quarterback, those are the plays that earn you a roster spot.
Special teams are usually an advantage for Bill and the Patriots but after game 1 there’s a lot they need to improve on like kick coverage and taking less penalties. Jake Bailey looks good punting and newcomer kicker Quinn Nordin had a good day, 3/3, despite missing an extra point.
Today and tomorrow the Patriots are joint practicing with the Eagles in Philadelphia ahead of their preseason matchup Thursday night. There’s going to be some good matchups to look forward to in this game like Eagles O-line vs. Pats defensive front, Patriot Corners vs. Eagle Receivers, and the Eagles linebackers vs. the Patriots backfield, as well as some cool storylines like the return of Agholor and Mills to Philly and Bill’s first matchup against the new Eagles coach and former Colts offensive coordinator, Nick Sirianni, in his first ever season as a head coach.