Some preseason games are a waste of time – little talent to get excited about, top guys sitting, bad QBs that can’t help to show off WR prospects, etc. (see NYG v. PIT). And then there is this very telling preseason game between two teams who have been joint-practicing together. We got some good reveals here.
You might look at the box score and see Jimmy Garoppolo’s (22-28 for 235 yards, 2 TD/0 INT) beautiful line, and if you’re an FFM/CFM veteran, you’re like ‘yep‘. It’s what you expect – masterful work. I want those of you that think like me, you think that Jimmy G. is a top 10-15 QB talent in the league right now AND THEN consider that he worked with the second team offense for an entire first-half…and that the Patriots second team is probably a playoff team — so you have a pretty good offense coming at you for a half. The Jags won 31-24…so nothing triggers about the Jacksonville defense. But it should.
With mostly 1st-team/starters, but missing Jalen Ramsey, the Jags 1st team defense thwarted Garoppolo and the Patriots, for the most part, all half. In days gone by with the Jags – no way that happens. The Pats would have dropped 20+ in the first half with their talented 2nd-unit…instead, it was 17-3 Jags with less than two minutes left in the half. Held to just three points.
Then against mostly the second team Jags D, the Pats were finally able to drive down for a score right before the half…aided by a personal foul penalty…clinched by a miracle catch for a TD. The Jags D is something to monitor all preseason. A great showing here.
Onto the player notes…
— I saw what I needed to see with Leonard Fournette (9-31-1) as a runner. No human should be that big with that much speed and burst. He’s almost impossible to tackle and not to go another 2-3+ yards after contact. You want to be a power running team, as the Jags do – they got their ultimate prize.
Now, I want to see Fournette catch some passes at the pro level.
Chris Ivory started, but who are the Jags kidding? Once Fournette came in the difference between them was undeniable…and I like Chris Ivory.
Later, FFM sleeper fave from a year ago, Corey Grant (8-120-1) picked up where he left off and tore up the Patriots defense, springing for a long 79-yard TD jolt among several nice runs.
Fournette and Grant together might launch the Jags into the top rushing team in the league in 2017.
— Speaking of RBs… The Patriots ran with their backups. All the status players were yucking it up in baseball caps on the sidelines…Gronk, Brady, Edelman…we also did not see James White or Rex Burkhead (nor Mike Gillislee, but he’s coming off injury). But we did see Dion Lewis (7-32-0, 4-23-0/5), who I assume is being showcased for a trade…because he was not among the ‘protected’ not-playing. At least, that’s my takeaway from the optics.
Later, D.J. Foster (4-7-1, 3-33-0/3) saw some time, but his sleeper status left when Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee arrived to town. He won’t make this team. His sleeper torch is just about extinguished.
— I isolated a lot on two linebackers in this game. I watched them iso’d for most of the first-half. 2nd-year ILBs Myles Jack (6 tackles, 1 TFL) and Elandon Roberts (7 tackles). Especially, Jack because what I scouted last year was a mess – and liked Roberts much better as a prospect. Jack has been moved to ILB and the play caller, so I was curious to see what progress Jack made with the new staff.
Jack is a mild problem – great athlete, but he’s not a middle linebacker at heart, as I’ve said a million times last year. He’s a terrible tackler – always late to action and uses his arms all the time. He never has a straight up proper tackle. He usually wrangles people from the side/behind or just isn’t on the play. And that’s what I saw all this game. Same guy. He needs to be an OLB or slimmed to OLB/Safety hybrid. I can’t believe the Jags don’t see this on tape…it’s beyond obvious.
Roberts on the other hand – future Pro Bowl’er in waiting. Classic ILB. There’s a difference between an ILB that’s a ‘chaser’ (Jack) and an attacker (Roberts). Roberts moves with purpose and gets in-between lanes and makes textbook tackles. Jack loves to drop into coverage and chase people around.
However, Jack is a starter…Roberts might be a 2nd string opening day – the Patriots are that good. I mean the Patriots are that good on defense. I am looking at the names on jerseys on the 2nd and 3rd+ teams and it’s all guys I’ve liked/seen something in worth a gamble, sleepers, etc. The Patriots defense is deep and is going to be great in fantasy this season.
Even Patriots players I didn’t get in my initial scouting of them, I see working and can appreciate. I didn’t get Belichick’s love of safety Jordan Richards (7 tackles), but I do now. He’s really very good. Fournette was mauling people, and on one play he had a crease and popped through it and was coming full steam one-on-one with Richards – and Richards took him down alone. Shocking. He may have increased his CTE levels on that play, but he took on Fournette like a boss.
The Pats also have Trevor Bates (4 tackles), who no one cares about but I do – he’s a nice, raw talent…and the Patriots just grabbed him off waivers for free this offseason.
Who won’t help this Pats’ defense – Cyrus Jones, high draft pick of NE last year. He got burned so many times last night…I’m surprised they didn’t cut him this week. He was awful last year and is again this year. I mean he’s really bad. Lost.
— Two Jags rookie WRs prospered from Cyrus Jones’ inadequacies with long TD catches. Dede Westbrook (1-41-1/1) was one, but the more impressive of the two is the lesser-known UDFA – Keelan Cole (2-108-1/3). Cole is a guy I did not have on the radar, out of small-school Kentucky Wesleyan…but I wish I had his data before the draft. He looked really good, like he belonged.
6’1/194…4.59 40-time, 6.69 three-cone. Been a guy catching attention in camp. He’ll make the team potentially.
— I liked Wyoming rookie TE Jacob Hollister’s (7-116-0/9) scouting data and grade from our scouting models. He looked pretty solid on tape. Add in some special sauce (a Patriots’ jersey) and the guy looks like an NFL starting tight end already. Very impressive debut performance.
He will put pressure on the team to keep him on the roster a la A.J. Derby last preseason, but if he’s dropped by the team in the numbers’ game – he’ll be snagged in a second by another team. Other teams love Patriots’ cuts. I think other teams watch the Patriots preseason games more than their own.
I’ll bet he winds up on the Jags…they’ve seen a bunch of him between joint practices and in this game.
— The Patriots had so many nice performances by young players, but no one tops WR Austin Carr (5-44-1/7) – a guy I cannot believe wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine, nor drafted.
Carr is Welker/Amendola 2.0 but has to fight to make a loaded roster. If the Patriots cut him, he will be taken by another team in two seconds. We thought he was a draftable prospect, one of the better WRs in the draft. His catch before the half for a TD was wonderful – a leaping grab in traffic and crashing down just inbounds. He later had a terrific diving catch on a misthrown ball. The Patriots basically got a 4th-5th round WR talent for free here.
Honestly, you could make a playoff team off the Patriots 2nd and 3rd-team guys.
— The Jags aren’t as deep as the Pats, but they’re much improved now finally rid of Gus Bradley. Their main problem is QB…because as I’ve maintained from day-one – Blake Bortles shouldn’t be starting in the NFL on purpose. He’s truly terrible. Now, everyone agrees.
I will say this, again, Brandon Allen (5-7 for 85 yards, 1 TD/0 INT) is the best QB on that roster right now. The Jags are a playoff team if he takes over, and I would not be shocked if it happened in-season.
It’s not a dynasty-fantasy alert because Allen is not a superstar, but he’s really good – a mid-range NFL starter a la Alex Smith…minus foot speed.
— One quick kicker note. Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point. The game analyst noted he had missed some in the joint practices. The camera cuts away to Belichick and I think it was his only negative reaction of the night. He was shaking his head and talking to an assistant coach right after. It may have been unrelated, but I’m just saying… Gostkowski struggled with some XPs last year too.
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