What We Saw: Preseason Week 1

Catch everything you missed from a weekend chock full of football

Texans @ Patriots

Final Score: Texans 20, Patriots 9

Writer: Ben Brown (@BenBrownPL on Twitter)


The Patriots’ offense remains their biggest question mark heading into the 2023 season. Will the addition of Bill O’Brien help alleviate the sudden nosedive that starting QB Mac Jones‘ career took in 2022? Will the additions of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mike Gesicki be enough firepower for Mac to move the football down the field? So far through camp the answer has been no, but time will tell. New England’s best offensive player so far in training camp has been 6th round rookie WR Demario “Pop” Douglas, a name you need to remember as his skillset as an undersized slot receiver is a perfect fit in this New England offense.

Meanwhile, the Texans have gone through a pretty substantial overhaul on offense in 2023. 2nd year RB Dameon Pierce returns from injury to lead the backfield, but he’ll be joined by newcomers C.J. Stroud, Dalton Schultz, Robert Woods, and Devin Singletary. Oh, not to mention John Metchie III, who is returning after his battle with leukemia. Suddenly, this offense has a lot of talent.

Of course, the Patriots’ starters never sniffed the field in this game, but we did get to see Stroud and the Houston starters for a couple of drives. He looked the part of a rookie QB, though his offensive line did him no favors. The star of the show offensively was easily Tank Dell, who had one of the most acrobatic TD catches you’ll see all season. He really impressed and should be jumping up draft boards in the coming weeks.

Rain, wind, and bad offensive line play were the determining factors for both teams in this one.


Houston Texans




C.J. Stroud: 2/4, 13 yards, INT, sack | 2 carries, 6 yards


Stroud only played the first two series in this one and it was tough to get a good read on him. He showed some elusiveness, avoiding pressure on a couple of plays and scrambling for some yards. However, the pressure was constant on practically every play. The Texans’ O-Line had a really tough time blocking the Patriots’ talented front four. It’s still early, but I was hoping for a little more pop out of Stroud.





  • Bad interception on first pass. Stared down the receiver the entire way, Jalen Mills read his eyes and jumped the route for the INT. Rookie mistake
  • Left Singeltary out to dry on a screen
  • Looks like a rookie. Indecisive. O-Line is not doing a good job protecting him, defensive line is getting a ton of pressure


Davis Mills: 9/12, 99 yards, TD, fumble (Lost)


Mills was better than Stroud in pretty much every aspect of this game, but Mills still didn’t quite look the part of a starter in the NFL.


  • Stepped up in the pocket, converted 3rd and short. Nice play

Missed Opportunities

  • Low throw to Tank Dell, ball was behind him. had the open receiver
  • 3rd and 1, had a wide open fullback for a conversion but he dropped it. Forced a punt


Case Keenum: 9/14, 79 yards, TD


Keenum is a vet. You know what you’re gonna get out of him if he ends up on the field.


Running Back


Devin Singletary: 5 carries, 14 yards | 1 target


Singletary didn’t do much, but he did have this awesome jump-cut to avoid a defender in the backfield and earn the first down.



Mike Boone: 4 carries, 25 yards


Had an awesome run up the middle, followed his blocker and made it to the 2nd level for a 12 yard gain. Quiet otherwise


Dare Ogunbowale: 5 carries, 18 yards


Davis Mills was officially credited with this fumble, but let’s be honest – Ogunbowale was the man to blame for letting it slip right through his hands. He was then immediately punished by Patriots’ rookie DE Keion White, who was the best player on the field in this game.



Opposing defenses need to be scared of Keion White.


Wide Receiver/Tight End


Tank Dell: 8 targets, 5 receptions, 65 yards, TD


Offensively, Tank Dell was easily the most impressive player of the night for either side. He was a beast. He flashed his speed, he flashed his hands, his quickness, you name it and Tank showed it off. Tank is going to make an impact on offense this season and the only thing that may hold him back is C.J. Stroud.







  • 24 yard catch and run, coverage played off and he split two defenders for the gain. Impressive speed
  • Catch of the night. HOLY CRAP

Missed Opportunities

  • Was open, Mills threw it low and behind him
  • Nice comebacker catch on the sideline, got the feet in bounds. Negated by a holding call
  • Beat his receiver off the line, Mills overthrew him


Nico Collins: 1 target, 1 reception, 8 yards


Nico didn’t do much in this one but this was the opening play of the game and it caught my attention.



That’s rookie Christian Gonzalez, the 17th overall pick, trying to tackle him and Nico yeeted him like a ragdoll.


Steven Sims: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 17 yards

John Metchie III: 1 target, 1 reception, 5 yards


I was looking forward to seeing something out of Metchie tonight. He only caught one ball, but he didn’t play too much. Hopefully that’s an indication that he’s viewed as the #3 in this offense behind Collins and Robert Woods, but Tank Dell might push one or all three of them for targets if he continues his upward trajectory.


New England Patriots




Bailey Zappe: 12/14, 79 yards, 2 sacks | 1 carry, 6 yards


Zappe has had an up and down camp. There was a point where Boston media was speculating about a legitimate battle for the starting QB spot, but Zappe has put that to rest with a few consecutive days of straight-up bad play. He struggled to move the ball in this game, but I don’t fault him. The offensive line was straight up atrocious tonight, and the pressure was consistently in his face all night. Zappe had some good moments as noted below, but it was tough to get a good read on him based on the struggles up front.


  • Quickly progressed through his reads, had nothing, hit Tre Nixon on the sideline for a short gain
  • Two plays later avoided pressure, had nothing, smartly threw it away
  • O-Line doing him no favors. Really struggled on obvious passing plays, protection a big issue

Missed Opportunities

  • 3rd and four, secondary blitz, didn’t catch it and adjust protections accordingly. Got smoked


Trace McSorley: 1/3, 4 yards, sack | 1 carry, 3 yards


Malik Cunningham: 3/4, 19 yards | 5 carries, 34 yards, TD


Is he a QB? Is he a WR? The undrafted free agent out of Louisville is seemingly open to doing whatever this team asks of him, and he’s spent time at both positions so far in camp. I personally believe he is on this team to act as the scout team QB for when they end up facing guys like Lamar, Hurts, Allen, etc., but time will tell if he’s relegated to the practice squad or if he actually makes the team. Regardless, he has the speed to play in the NFL and he will be on a 53 man roster at some point in the next few years.

Malik didn’t come in until near the end of the 4th quarter, but he quickly drove the team down the field in the best offensive showcase by New England all night. He threw an absolute dime that was dropped in the end zone and should have been a touchdown. A few minutes later he juked a defender out of his shoes on a TD run. It was mad impressive and I want more. After almost zero offensive output all night, he put on a show, orchestrating a 14 play, 75 yard scoring drive to end the game. It was so much fun. Give me more Malik, please.








  • Multiple designed draws up the middle
  • Boy is he fast
  • Nearly had his head ripped off his shoulders by a defender grabbing his facemask

Missed Opportunities

  • Absolute dime to Tre Nixon in the end zone, drop


Running Back


Kevin Harris: 8 carries, 10 yards


Harris appears to be behind Strong in the RB pecking order, but I don’t understand why. He runs hard and keeps the wheels moving even after getting hit. He was hurt by a bad OL tonight, but Harris just seems like he’ll eventually be Rhamondre’s true backup when all is said and done.


  • Good strong run up the middle to earn a first down
  • Harris runs forward and doesn’t hesitate. Strong hesitates
  • Angry run but couldn’t break it


Pierre Strong Jr.: 6 carries, 21 yards | 3 targets, 3 receptions, 12 yards


The offensive line was bad, but Strong just doesn’t pass the eye test for me. He’s a speed guy, but the Patriots have always struck out when trying to draft for speed. He has too much hesitation in his game, which doesn’t bode well when you need to break something to show off that speed. It seemed that he ran straight into the back of an OL every time he carried the ball in this game.


  • Notable that he was the first RB on the field in this game, followed by J.J. Taylor
  • Screen out of the backfield, slipped and couldn’t convert 3rd and 2. Disappointing


J.J. Taylor: 4 carries, 4 yards | 2 targets, 2 receptions, 11 yards



  • 2nd RB on the field, ahead of Kevin Harris


Wide Receiver/Tight End


Demario Douglas: 2 offensive snaps, one ELITE fair catch on a punt


Douglas played only a handful of snaps tonight, an unfortunate turn of events for the rookie that so many Patriots fans were excited to watch in this one. However, I see this as a positive development for his chances to not only make the team but be viewed as a contributor in his rookie year. He has been taking reps with Mac Jones alongside some guys you may have heard of (DeVante Parker, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kendrick Bourne), which could mean he’s on the fast track to meaningful regular season snaps. It’s still early in the preseason and there’s plenty of time for him to take a step back, but all signs are pointing up for Douglas. You absolutely need to know this name as we enter draft season.



Tyquan Thornton: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 31 yards


With the emergence of Douglas, all eyes are on Thornton as he has battled injuries and inconsistencies through his first year + in the league. He’s been taking snaps with Bailey Zappe and the backups, a bad sign for the former 2nd round pick. However, he stepped up in this game with a fantastic leaping grab on 3rd and 8 to extend a drive.



He didn’t play much more in this one, but this was a great sign for the young receiver.


Kayshon Boutte: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 7 yards


Most non-Patriots fans will probably view Boutte as the most likely of the two 6th round rookie WRs to make the team based on his pedigree at LSU, but Demario Douglas has outshined him from day one of minicamp. Boutte, who has struggled with focus and effort issues in his career, has actually stacked some good days of practice coming into this game. He’s still likely the #6 receiver on the depth chart after this game, so he has his work cut out for him, but he’s got all the talent in the world and the Patriots need as much talent at the WR position as they can get.


  • Received a punt return rep

Missed Opportunities

  • Called for a hold while blocking, jk the flag was picked up


Tre Nixon: 6 targets, 4 receptions, 23 yards



  • Bad drop in the end zone on a near perfect throw from Cunningham


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