What We Saw: Preseason Week 2

Panthers @ Patriots

Final Score: Patriots 20, Panthers 10

Writer: Ben Brown (@BenBrownPL on Twitter)

 

Carolina and New England battled each other on the field Friday night, but not before they literally fought on multiple days of their joint practices. The tensions didn’t totally boil over into the game, but there were a couple of unsportsmanlike penalties that likely stemmed from the bad blood generated during the week of practices. Mac Jones hooked up with Nelson Agholor for a bomb down the sideline, the highlight of the night in an otherwise routine game. Nobody stood out on the offensive side of the ball for Carolina, as the Patriots’ defense came to play from the get-go. Carolina’s lone touchdown came on a pick-six, and New England also scored a defensive touchdown in the final moments of the game after P.J. Walker was strip-sacked in the end zone.

Two very important things to note from this game: Matt Patricia called the plays for the entirety of the game for New England, and we were all reminded that Johnny Hekker is now a Panther.

 

Carolina Panthers

| Preseason Week 1 |

 

Quarterback

 

P.J. Walker: 8/15, 107 yards, 2 INT, 4 Sacks, Fumble (Lost)

Matt Corral: 9/15, 58 yards, Sack | 3 carries, 6 yards

 

Both of Carolina’s quarterbacks struggled in this game. Much of the credit should go to the Patriots’ defense, as they were able to get pressure on the QB early and often, while the secondary did a good job in coverage as well. P.J. Walker started the game and didn’t flash much, to be honest. His first pass was on the run and he missed his receiver badly. His second throw came a couple of plays later and was a deep ball down the sideline and he overthrew the receiver by a good five to seven yards.

Later on, Walker drove the team down the field and made a nice throw on the run for a big gain. 15 more yards were added after a roughing the passer penalty was called on Christian Barmore.

Walker came back for the first drive of the third quarter. He threw a ball into coverage and cornerback Shaun Wade made a good play to go up and grab it for the interception.

 

 

At the very end of the game, Walker was nearly sacked for a safety, and then he fumbled in the end zone on the very next play. The Patriots recovered and scored the touchdown. If P.J. Walker plays for the Panthers in 2022, they’re in trouble.

Matt Corral played some of the second quarter and almost all of the second half. He showed some ability to scramble outside of the pocket to extend the play and gain some yardage on the ground, but I wouldn’t call him quick or fast. Above average maneuverability for a QB.

He made a nice deep throw to Keith Kirkwood, who beat his defender one-on-one and was open in the end zone. Corral looked off the safety before coming back to Kirkwood and dropping it in the bread basket, but Kirkwood’s arm was held by the defender and he wasn’t able to come up with it. A penalty should have been called on the play but it wasn’t.

Corral should have been picked on two occasions. First, he stared down a receiver and tried to force a ball to him when he shouldn’t have. Mack Wilson read it the entire way and jumped the ball, but it went through his hands. It should have been a pick six. Later in the game, Corral threw a deep ball that landed right in the hands of Jack Jones, but Jones couldn’t secure it. I would describe Corral’s night as inconsistent at best. Unfortunately for him, he suffered a season-ending Lisfranc injury at some point in the night. I don’t recall seeing him go down with an injury at any point, but either way it’s a terrible way for the rookie’s season to end.

 

 

Running Back

 

D’Onta Foreman: 7 carries, 16 yards

Chuba Hubbard: 6 carries, 22 yards | 2 targets, 1 reception, -4 yards

Spencer Brown: 3 carries, 7 yards | 3 targets, 2 receptions, 10 yards

John Lovett: 4 carries, 6 yards | 1 target

 

Of the backs who played in this game, D’Onta Foreman was the best. He is a large man that runs with a lot of power and hits the hole hard. It appears that whatever he learned in Tennessee last year will translate over to Carolina, it will just depend on how much they choose to use him.

Chuba Hubbard was swamped by the defense on a screen pass. He made a nice cut on a six-yard run at one point, showing a quickness that Foreman doesn’t possess. Otherwise, he was quiet on the night.

Starting LT Ikem Ekwonu struggled mightily in this game. He gave up back-to-back sacks on their second drive, and the offense had a difficult time running to the left side of the field. Hopefully, the rookie will learn and improve on his mistakes before the start of the season.

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Keith Kirkwood: 7 targets, 2 receptions, 31 yards

Derek White: 3 targets, 1 reception, 32 yards

Jared Scott: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 19 yards

Rashard Higgins: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 11 yards

Spencer Brown: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 10 yards

 

Honestly, I watched the entire game without taking a single note on any of these guys. The only thing worth mentioning was the touchdown that should have been for Keith Kirkwood on the ball from Matt Corral that was near perfect, and Kirkwood would have come down with it had his arm not been held by the defender. Derek White‘s 32-yard catch came on the second to last play of the game.

 

New England Patriots

| Preseason Week 1 |

 

Quarterback

 

Mac Jones: 4/8, 61 yards, Sack | 1 carry, 7 yards

Brian Hoyer: 2/3, 30 yards

Bailey Zappe: 16/25, 173 yards, INT, Sack | 3 carries, 11 yards

 

If I had to use one word to describe Mac Jones on Friday night it would be “alright.” With both of his starting tackles sitting out for this game, Mac faced some pressure and struggled as a result. His first throw to Davonte Parker was a little behind the receiver but should have been caught. This resulted in a three-and-out. On the next drive, Mac overthrew Jakobi Meyers on a good play-action fake and it should have resulted in a first down. Mac definitely wishes he had that one back. On the very next play, he and Rhamondre Stevenson weren’t on the same page, and Stevenson didn’t turn around for a ball that Mac threw his way. This resulted in another three and out.

Finally, on their third drive of the night, the offense clicked. Mac had the throw of the night to Nelson Agholor for a perfectly placed 45-yard bomb.

 

 

He went 4/5 for 61 yards through the air and also gained another six yards on the ground on this drive alone, and it was a glimpse into what we should see plenty of from Mac this season.

Brian Hoyer came in for one drive and apparently missed a wide-open Tyquan Thornton deep downfield on his first pass attempt. It was complete to DeVante Parker, but Patriots’ color analyst Scott Zolak exclaimed that Thornton was wide open downfield and Hoyer just didn’t see him. One play later, Thornton caught a pass and never came back to the field after sustaining a collarbone injury.

Bailey Zappe has fantastic arm strength and an ability to throw the ball from multiple arm angles. His problem thus far in the preseason has been his consistency and his decision-making. He threw another bad interception, this time on a designed roll-out to the left side when he stared down his receiver and the defender jumped the route for a pick-six. Zappe has also shown that he’s an accurate QB with the ability to hit a crossing receiver in stride in the numbers, but he still overthrew a couple of receivers on occasion.

This throw on the run to Devin Asiasi was the highlight of the night for Zappe:

 

 

Running Back

 

Damien Harris: 3 carries, 18 yards

Rhamondre Stevenson: 2 carries, 4 yards | 1 target

Ty Montgomery: 4 carries, 13 yards, TD | 1 target, 1 reception, 5 yards

J.J. Taylor: 6 carries, 33 yards | 1 target

Pierre Strong Jr.: 7 carries, 23 yards

Kevin Harris: 3 carries, 17 yards  | 1 target, 1 reception, 8 yards

 

The Patriots’ top three RBs rotated series in the first half, with Damien Harris taking the first and fourth series of the game, Rhamondre Stevenson getting the second and fifth series, and Ty Montgomery getting the third series. The second half of the game saw a good chunk of J.J. Taylor and a sprinkling of Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong Jr.

Harris had a nice seven-yard run early on, and the offense utilized the new zone-blocking scheme that they’ve been struggling to perfect in training camp. It was the first example we’ve seen of the new system working, and I’d expect some growing pains early in the season that will likely impact Harris and Stevenson’s fantasy output as a result.

Ty Montgomery looked spry on his feet, making a nice cut on one run to gain five extra yards, and then made a defender miss on his only catch of the game and earned the Patriots’ first touchdown of the game on a short run. He got two red zone carries later in the drive and ran one in for the score. What’s interesting to note is he didn’t line up in the slot at all.

J.J. Taylor dropped an easy dump-off, which seems to be a theme for him in preseason action dating back to last year. He’s got the speed to win the receiving back role but not the hands, unfortunately. He is a good runner on the ground and broke off multiple long gains in this game after squeezing through some holes and getting to the second level. He’s a good back, I’m just not sure where he fits on this team after they spent two draft picks on Pierre Strong Jr. and Kevin Harris.

Kevin Harris had a great run, making multiple cuts, spinning, and fighting for extra yards all on the same play. Two plays later he caught a screen pass and pushed it upfield for a first down.

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

DeVante Parker: 2 targets, 1 reception, 17 yards

Nelson Agholor: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 52 yards

Tyquan Thornton: 1 target, 1 reception, 13 yards

Jakobi Meyers: 3 targets, 1 reception, 4 yards

Lil’Jordan Humphrey: 6 targets, 5 receptions, 71 yards, X TD, X Fumbles (Lost) | X carries, X yards, X TD

Tre Nixon: 8 targets, 6 receptions, 56 yards

Devin Asiasi: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 32 yards

 

DeVante Parker had a drop on the first drive, which ended up going three-and-out as a result. This was his only involvement in this game but should go into the season as the de facto WR1 on this team.

 

 

Nelson Agholor picked up their first first down of the night, a quick throw on third and short while Mac was blitzed. Mac then looked at him on the next play while under pressure, but Agholor wasn’t able to bring it in for the catch. Later in the drive, Agholor caught the bomb down the sideline that all of Patriots nation has been talking about this weekend.

 

 

Agholor has been very good in camp this season and had shown a clear connection with Mac Jones. He spent a lot of time playing catch with Mac in the offseason, and Mac had this quote after Wednesday’s practice:

We put in a lot of work together in the offseason. He was at all the throwing sessions, and that’s what we’re trying to grow from. Remember that one time we were throwing it, I told you to do this, let’s try it next play.

Between the Tyquan Thornton injury and Kendrick Bourne‘s status up in the air (more on these in a moment), Agholor might find himself as the WR 2/3 in this offense to start the year. Agholor is currently WR126 with an ADP of 328 according to FantasyPros.

This is where things get interesting for fantasy purposes. Kendrick Bourne, who is being drafted as the PPR WR78 right now per FantasyPros, did not suit up for this game. He has struggled in training camp per multiple reports, and he was ejected in practice earlier in the week due to his participation in one of the multiple fights that broke out during intra-squad practices. It’s safe to say that he’s on the hot seat in Foxboro at the moment, making him a risky guy to draft at the moment.

Regarding Tyquan Thornton, he showed a lot of promise in his first preseason game and was turning a lot of heads in practices as well. He was hurt while trying to fight for extra yardage on his only catch of the night, and word is that it’s a collarbone injury that will keep him out for 8-10 weeks. This is an unfortunate development for the young speedster who was starting to ride some momentum as we draw closer to the season.

 

 

Per NESN’s Zack Cox, Thornton is ineligible for the PUP list and has to make the initial 53-man roster before he can be placed on IR.

 

 

This is important because someone will initially be cut but likely signed back once Thornton is placed on IR, and that guy will likely be either Kristian WilkersonLil’Jordan Humphrey, or Tre Nixon, who are all battling for a roster spot.

Wilkerson sustained a concussion in joint practices this week, an injury that sparked the fighting between teams on day two. He didn’t play in Friday’s game and his status is up in the air for this week’s game in Las Vegas. He shined in week one of the preseason and deserves a shot to make the roster.

Lil’Jordan Humphrey was signed by the team in July and caught a touchdown pass last week. This week, he showed off his talents again in multiple facets of the game. He showed off his chemistry with Bailey Zappe, catching multiple passes deep downfield to help move the chains. He also made one heck of a play on special teams:

 

 

Bill Belichick called Humphrey a WR/TE in his postgame press conference, which may be a sign as to how they would use him were he to make the team. That designation would also be bad for Devin Asiasi, who is fighting for a roster spot in his third year. Asiasi made all three of his catches before halftime but was a ghost for the rest of the game.

Tre Nixon had a bad drop on a perfectly placed deep ball in the end zone after creating space against the corner. He also seemed to give up early on Bailey Zappe’s interception and wasn’t expecting the ball to come his way. After flashing in minicamp, I haven’t been impressed by Nixon in the preseason and he seems to be on the outside looking in for a roster spot.

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