What We Saw: Preseason Week 1

The WWS Team recaps the first week of the NFL Preseason

Giants @ Patriots

Final Score: Giants 23, Patriots 21

Writer: Ben Brown (@BenBrownPL on Twitter)


The big story coming out of New England this preseason is the performance of the offense. Two things have happened this offseason – a switch in playcallers, as Matt Patricia and Joe Judge are back in town calling plays in Josh McDaniels‘ absence, and a change in systems, as reports from camp indicate that the offense is implementing a Shanahan-style zone-run scheme this season. The combination of the two has caused alarm bells to ring all around New England as the offense has come out flat in training camp thus far. The offensive line has been the biggest issue, and this is a situation worth monitoring heading into the season as it may lead to a slow start for New England’s offensive players and therefore your fantasy teams.

Unfortunately for Patriots fans (or maybe fortunately), most of the starters on both sides of the ball didn’t suit up for Thursday night’s preseason opener against the Giants, and they didn’t implement any of the new offensive scheme we’ve heard about during training camp. We saw two high-profile rookies take the field in Cole Strange and Tyquan Thornton, and both held their own. We also got to see a lot of rookie signal-caller Bailey Zappe – he was fine, but let’s just say that Mac Jones‘ job isn’t in jeopardy anytime soon.

On the other side of the ball, the Giants’ starters took the field for a few series and we were given a good taste of Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley early on. Barkley looked fresh while Jones looked like his usual self, scrambling out of the pocket, throwing dimes, and also throwing duds. We’ll get into the specifics, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up for a fourth-year breakout from DJ.

All in all, this was a decent game with some highlights, lowlights, and plenty of terrible officiating that you’d expect in a preseason game. New York won it on a walkoff field goal 23-21.




New York Giants




Daniel Jones: 6/10, 69 yards, Sack | 1 carry, 6 yards

Tyrod Taylor: 13/21, 129 yards, TD | 1 carry, 2 yards

Davis Webb: 8/16, 51 yards


I’ve heard some chatter about Daniel Jones breaking out this year and I simply just don’t see it. Yes, Jones has some elusiveness and can make a play on the ground, which he did to keep the Giants’ first drive of the game alive.



But for every good thing he does, there’s always a negative. A QB who’s supposed to break out should be locked in early in the preseason, right? He should be able to make a simple throw to a fullback without overthrowing him by five yards, right? RIGHT?



That QB on the verge of a breakout should also be able to handle pressure in the pocket without looking uncomfortable and moving around like a dancing penguin, right?



Sure, blame the O-Line – they failed to block two Patriots on this play and left Jones out to dry. But Jones simply does not look locked in, and I’m not buying any of the breakout hype.

Did you know that Tyrod Taylor is the Giants’ backup QB? Neither did I. He played about as well as you’d expect Tyrod Taylor to play, and at this point, we all know what kind of player he is.

I don’t have any GIFs of Davis Webb, so I don’t really have much to say. He did drive the team down the field for the game-winning field goal, but he didn’t flash anything special that was worth noting.


Running Back


Saquon Barkley: 4 carries, 13 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 8 yards

Gary Brightwell: 7 carries, 40 yards | 3 targets, 2 receptions, 19 yards

Antonio Williams: 9 carries, 61 yards, TD | 1 target, 1 reception, -1 yard


It was nice to see Saquon Barkley playing in this game, and he looked to have the same burst he’s always had. There wasn’t much running room for him early on, as the Giants’ starting O-Line had some trouble opening up holes against the Patriots’ 2nd-team defensive line.

Gary Brightwell was the 2nd back on the field, taking over for Saquon on the Giants’ second drive. The second and third team defense for the Patriots had a tough time stopping the run all night, so Brightwell flashed a handful of times. One run that didn’t end up counting showed that Brightwell has some dog in him, running through two defenders before putting the jets on for what would have been a 15 yard gain.



He also had a nice cutback through a gaping hole in the Patriots’ defense.



Brightwell is entering his second year with the Giants after getting drafted in the 6th round last year. I liked what I saw from him.

Antonio Williams was the leader on the ground for the Giants on Thursday night, and he also had no trouble finding the gaps in the defensive line.



He didn’t have the same burst that Brightwell had, but he was able to pound his way into the end zone midway through the third quarter.



Brightwell and Williams are fighting for the RB3 job in New York, and given that Matt Breida (who can’t stay on the field) is the RB2 on this team, there is some opportunity for the winner if/when Saquon gets hurt. After one game, I liked Brightwell more than Williams.


Wide Receiver/Tight End


Darius Slayton: 2 targets, 1 reception, 17 yards

Kenny Golladay: 3 targets, 1 reception, 6 yards

Collin Johnson: 8 targets, 7 receptions, 82 yards, Fumble (Lost)

Richie James: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 44 yards, TD

Jashaun Corbin: 6 targets, 5 receptions, 28 yards

Keelan Doss: 5 targets, 1 reception, 6 yards


Rookie Wan’Dale Robinson took the field on the first two drives but wasn’t targeted. Darius Slayton‘s one catch was the result of a poor defensive play by Myles Bryant, who tried to jump the screen but got beat.



Kenny Golladay is not the player the Giants thought he was. He had a brutal drop on 3rd and 5 near the goal line – the type of drop that a man with his salary should never make. Bad, bad, bad.




Collin Johnson was targeted eight times and filled up the box score, but I wasn’t impressed. He was always slow out of his breaks and looked like he was running through molasses, and he kind of stumbles around like a puppy. Good footwork definitely isn’t his M-O. A few of his catches came across the middle against broken coverage, leaving him wide open, so it’s not like he made spectacular plays on any of them. He coughed the ball up on a good punch out by Terrance Mitchell early in the second quarter, which you can’t do if you’re trying to make the team.




One guy who was impressive was Richie James. He found himself in the right spot at the right time midway through the second quarter, catching a tip-drill ball for a big gain.



That play was nice, but he made arguably the play of the game (in my eyes) on his touchdown catch. He made a phenomenal move on former 2nd round pick Joejuan Williams to get open in the middle of the field for the score.



New England Patriots




Brian Hoyer: 5/8, 59 yards, TD | 3 carries, 4 yards

Bailey Zappe: 19/32, 205 yards, TD, INT, Sack | 1 carry, 2 yards


Mac Jones has established himself as the starting QB for this team, but the real question is whether Brian Hoyer or Bailey Zappe will be his backup. Hoyer and his years of experience appear to give him the edge for the job, but Zappe could potentially play his way into the role with a good preseason. Hoyer showed his usual veteran poise on Thursday, but we all know what he brings to the table. Let’s talk about the rookie.

Zappe started off slow. He underthrew the receiver on his first throw, putting too much air on the ball. He looked uncomfortable in the pocket on his first drive, and it didn’t amount to anything. One thing that stood out to me was his release – it took a long time to get the ball out of his hand once he committed to the throw.



Zappe was 3/9 in the first half and looked like a rookie 4th-round QB. In the 2nd half, he looked better. Whether that was due to halftime adjustments or due to the Giants’ third-string defense taking the field, I’m not sure. But there were still some promising signs. He connected with Tre Nixon on a 36 yard bomb on the first play from scrimmage in the half. Watch Zappe look the safety off before coming back to Nixon.



It’s a good thing he did, because the ball was underthrown and the safety would have picked it off with ease if he were helping in coverage. Zappe was also able to feel the pressure a bit better, as shown in this clip where he stepped up in the pocket and got the ball out in time to convert on third and nine.


Zappe ended up leading them down the field for a touchdown, scored by rookie RB Kevin Harris on the ground. Later in the game, he showed his rookie status by trying to force a throw over the middle on 4th and 1.



The ball was picked after he stared the receiver down and didn’t see the linebacker hovering in the area. This is something the coaches will surely be working with him to fix this week.

Zappe threw his first professional touchdown to Lil’Jordan Humphrey late in the 4th quarter to give New England the lead.



The ball was once again underthrown, this time off his back foot, but Humphrey made a good play on the ball against a defender who didn’t even turn around to look for the ball. A touchdown is a touchdown, but it wasn’t an impressive one.

The Patriots are screwed regardless of who lines up under center if Mac Jones gets hurt, but after one preseason game I’d feel much more comfortable with Brian Hoyer as the #2 instead of Zappe. This is important, because there had been some talk about Hoyer being a cap casualty if Zappe impresses. If that doesn’t happen, the Patriots will surely keep three QBs, which could mean either J.J. Taylor or Kristian Wilkerson gets cut as a result. Keep an eye on this competition.


Running Backs


J.J. Taylor: 5 carries, 25 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 11 yards

Pierre Strong Jr.: 6 carries, 25 yards | 1 target, 1 reception

Kevin Harris: 6 carries, 9 yards, TD | 2 targets, 1 reception, -2 yards


With the retirement of James White earlier in the day, all eyes were on the Patriots’ backfield to see who White’s successor would be. The backfield didn’t do much on the night, but the most notable tell as to who the next man up would be was the fact that Ty Montgomery didn’t play a single snap.



Everyone knows that Bill Belichick loves versatile players, and that’s exactly what Montgomery is. He has experience in the backfield and as a receiver, and he’d be a perfect fit for the receiving back role in New England, which can be a valuable fantasy asset. This is a situation worth monitoring as the preseason drags on, and you might start seeing his draft stock creeping up as the situation becomes clearer

As for the guys who actually played, J.J. Taylor was the first back to see the field and took most of the snaps in the first half. He had one nice run up the middle but otherwise wasn’t really involved outside of the return game. He had a few nice moves to create space on kickoff and punt return duty. That might be his only route to playing time this season, if he even makes the team in the first place.

I was looking forward to seeing the two rookies, Pierre Strong Jr. and Kevin Harris, make an impact, but they didn’t really do much. Harris had a drop on a screen pass after taking his eyes off the ball but redeemed himself with a touchdown run later in the game.



Strong was mostly invisible, but he made a nice move on a run up the middle to gain a few extra yards.



The fact that neither stood out makes me believe that they’re nowhere near ready for primetime, which gives Montgomery the edge on the 3rd down RB role at least early on in the year.


Wide Receivers/Tight Ends


Tyquan Thornton: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 9 yards, TD

Tre Nixon: 8 targets, 4 receptions, 81 yards

Kristian Wilkerson: 12 targets, 8 receptions, 99 yards

Lil’Jordan Humphrey: 8 targets, 6 receptions, 62 yards, TD

Matt Sokol: 1 target, 1 reception, 4 yards

Josh Hammond: 4 targets


With the likes of Devante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers, and Nelson Agholor all sitting this one out, all eyes were on 2nd round rookie Tyquan Thornton. The box score doesn’t tell the full story of his first career professional game, and there were some positive things that came out of it for him. First, however, the negatives. There was one play where it appeared that Thornton got confused on what he was supposed to do before the snap, and Brian Hoyer had to direct him.



The second negative came after a positive, though. After making a great move to get open against Giants’ corner Aaron Robinson, Thornton tried to let the ball come to him instead of going up to get it himself. It was deflected away and the pass fell incomplete.



Both of these are coachable moments, and though there’s no slack given (even to rookies) in New England, Thornton should learn not to repeat these mistakes over time.

Thornton scored a touchdown on a broken play in the back of the end zone later in the drive to redeem himself. After Hoyer scrambled out of the pocket, Thornton fought through a defender and found the open space in the back corner.




That quick first step forced the defender to react off his back feet, which led to the hold and gave Thornton the upper hand. There isn’t another receiver on the Patriots’ roster who can get off the line like this, so they would be wise to use him on a lot of quick routes where he can get open within five yards and use his speed to break away from defenders. Thursday night was a small window into his potential, and it’s hard to come to any conclusions about his potential fantasy impact in 2022, but he’s a name to watch late in your drafts.

Tre Nixon was a minicamp standout after being drafted in the 7th round last season and spending the year on the practice squad. He entered camp with a ton of momentum but it fizzled out quickly, and this game was a good opportunity for him to rekindle that fire. Unfortunately, he had a bad drop that stalled out the Patriots’ first drive.



He caught a couple of deep balls later in the game, but the bad outweighs the good and he’ll definitely be hearing about it in meetings this weekend.



I was far more impressed by Kristian Wilkerson. He had a cup of tea with the team last year and caught two TDs in Week 17 against the Jaguars, and he continued that success on Thursday night. He made a nice move down the sideline to get open for a 33-yard gain late in the first quarter.



He was targeted twice in the end zone later in the drive, and continued to play for most of the game. He had a nice catch on the sideline after Bailey Zappe threw a rocket of a pass at him, and he displayed impressive footwork to get open.



Later on, he made a fantastic catch on another bullet of a pass from Zappe.




He also knows he needs to fight for a roster spot at this point with all of the talented WRs ahead of him, and this play showed that he’s willing to play to the whistle. That should go a long way in the eyes of the coaching staff.



Wilkerson isn’t fantasy relevant without a few injuries to key players on the depth chart ahead of him (if he even makes the team), but he’s a nice player who has shown improvement in his time with the Patriots. I could see him latching on somewhere and being a fringe fantasy asset in deeper leagues.


Ben Brown (@BenBrownPL on Twitter)

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