|08.07.14 at 4:46 pm ET|
LANDOVER, Md. — Nearly seven months after the season came to an untimely end in Denver, the Patriots begin anew Thursday night on the other side of the country as they visit the nation’s capital for the preseason opener against the Redskins.
The sun will still be out for the 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff with temperatures expected around 83 degrees, falling to only the mid-70s by the end of the contest.
Ryan Mallett is expected to get the start, according to multiple reports, as Tom Brady sits. This should not come as a surprise as Bill Belichick indicated on Tuesday at Mallett would see “a lot of action” in the preseason. It is also not unusual for Tom Brady to sit out the first and last preseason games as he gets a bulk of his serious reps in practice.
WEEI.com’s Chris Price has a detailed breakdown of what to expect and look for from Mallett in his preseason opener.
Some of the other Patriots expected to get the night off are Rob Gronkowski, Brandon Bolden, Aaron Dobson, Jeremy Gallon, D.J. Williams, Michael Hoomanawanui and Dominique Easley.
With the possibility of three tight ends sitting out, rookie Justin Jones will likely see the bulk of playing time at tight end. Some other notable rookies to keep an eye on during the game include running back James White, who saw some first-team action with Brady toward the end of joint practices, cornerback Malcolm Butler, who saw some snaps with the first team defensive secondary this week, running back and punt returner Roy Finch, who has looked quick in practice and second-year receiver Brian Tyms, a favorite target of Mallett during practice.
Also, don’t be surprised if Vince Wilfork sits as well as the nose tackle is still building up to game competition, though he got a good number of reps with the first team this week in the joint practices in Richmond.
Many of the defensive starters and Ryan Mallett took the field and began stretching and running at 4:45 p.m., with Mallett throwing passes and the linebackers running wind sprints from sideline to sideline.
One highlight came when Darrelle Revis, expected to play just a limited amount, lined up at the 10, backpedaled and then turned and sprinted to catch a pass in full stride, with hands extended, at the 35.
This is the first preseason meeting with the Redskins since 2009, and 21st overall. The Patriots have won the previous five and lead the preseason series, 13-7. The Redskins lead the overall regular season series, 6-3, losing to the Patriots here at FedExField on Dec. 11, 2011, 34-27.
For the Redskins, the game marks the NFL head coaching debut of former Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, who said Wednesday that Robert Griffin III will get between eight and 10 starts as quarterback. However, he will likely not have two of his top receivers as Pierre Garcon (hamstring) and DeSean Jackson (ankle) were expected to sit. Gruden said Jackson was “cleated” in the final joint practice on Wednesday and tweaked his ankle.
UPDATED (6:15 p.m): The Redskins announced 75 minutes before the game that Jackson, Garcon, corner Tracy Porter, safety Ryan Clark, tight end Mike Caussin, safety Phillip Thomas and offensive lineman Mike McGlynn are all not expected to play. Santana Moss starts for Garcon. Meanwhile, Andre Roberts, who worked out with Ryan Mallett and Larry Fitzgerald in Minnesota, starts for Jackson. Bacarri Rambo starts in place of Clark at safety.
Teams are not required to officially submit scratches for preseason games and the Patriots did not make any such declaration prior to the game.
|08.07.14 at 12:52 pm ET|
Ryan Mallett is scheduled to get the start Thursday night for the Patriots in their preseason opener against the Redskins. Here are three things to keep an eye on when it comes to measuring Mallett’s performance:
1. Does he have that touch with the short and intermediate passes that he’s struggled with in the past? Mallett has terrific arm strength — where he’s had problems is in putting touch on the ball. No one doubts his ability to go deep to a wide receiver. What the Patriots want to see is Mallett’s ability to deliver the ball with some finesse to running backs and receivers.
2. Can he execute situationally? Mallett will inevitably be placed in some situations where he will be asked to execute specific assignments: Two-minute work, red-zone and an ability to dictate offensive pace will all likely be on the menu Thursday night for Mallett. If he can manage the offense when presented with a variety of responsibilities and scenarios, it will be considered a good outing for Mallett.
3. How does he deal with failure? No matter how good you are as a quarterback, you will have setbacks. How does Mallett respond to a blown block that leads to pressure (or a sack) or a dropped pass?
|08.07.14 at 11:43 am ET|
With 11 practices in the books — and the preseason opener looming Thursday night — here’s a look at the practice attendance to this point in the summer. (As we’ve previously stated, It’s important to remember that in some cases, players like Tyler Gaffney and Greg Orton have been shuffled on and off the active roster since the start of camp — that’s one of the reasons why they don’t have more official absences than the ones we have listed here.)
Wide receiver Aaron Dobson (foot)
Wide receiver Jeremy Gallon
Defensive lineman Dominique Easley (knee)
Offensive lineman Chris Martin
Defensive back Jemea Thomas
Linebacker Deontae Skinner
Running back Tyler Gaffney
Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui
Special teamer Matthew Slater
Center Bryan Stork
Linebacker Cameron Gordon
Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard
Tight end Rob Gronkowski
Running back Brandon Bolden
Defensive lineman Tommy Kelly
Cornerback Daxton Swanson
Linebacker Ja’Gared Davis
Wide receiver Greg Orton
Offensive lineman Dan Connolly
Linebacker Chris White
Wide receiver Josh Boyce
Tight end D.J. Williams
Defensive lineman Sealver Siliga
|08.07.14 at 11:18 am ET|
Jeff Triplette will work as the lead official for Thursday’s preseason game between the Patriots and Redskins.
Triplette, a retired Army reserve colonel, became a referee in 1999. The last regular-season New England game Triplette was assigned to work was the Patriots-Bucs last September at Gillette Stadium.
Triplette has found himself in the spotlight in recent years for a string of questionable calls, and it angered and confused some around the league last year when he landed a postseason assignment.
Expect Triplette and his crew to be in focus in the preseason opener, as the renewed emphasis on illegal contact and defensive holding for defensive backs has already become an issue around the league.
For more on Triplette and his work as a referee, check out his page here at Pro Football Reference.
|08.07.14 at 11:05 am ET|
Ryan Mallett will start Thursday’s game for the Patriots, according to several media reports.
If he does indeed get the call to start, it means Mallett is likely being showcased for a potential trade. The Arkansas product, a third-round pick in 2011, has not played a significant snap in his time with New England. Thursday would mark the first start of his career with the Patriots, either in the regular season or preseason.
As for starter Tom Brady, this would mark the third time he has not started a preseason opener for New England since 2007 — he sat in the 2008 and 2011 preseason openers.
Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald was the first to report the news.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|08.07.14 at 8:39 am ET|
Cary Williams received some flak after calling the Patriots “cheaters” last week in reference to the Spygate scandal, but the Eagles cornerback isn’t backtracking.
“I give them all the credit in the world, but one fact remains: They haven’t won a Super Bowl since they got caught,” Williams said last week.
Said Williams on Tuesday (via The News Journal of Delaware): “Did I say the wrong thing? No. I stand firm on what my beliefs are, and that’s just that. I didn’t tell a lie. At the end of the day, that did happen. It’s in the history books. As far as I’m concerned, I made a comment about it and that’s that.”
The Eagles and Patriots will have joint practices next week, but Williams — who was kicked out of one of the teams’ joint practices last year after a dust-up with receiver Aaron Dobson — isn’t concerned that he’ll be a target.
“I don’t care,” said Williams, a former Raven. “That’s the whole point. I don’t care if they come after me or not. That doesn’t scare me. My mentality is I’ve never been a punk, never been a sissy, never been a guy that’s going to be a scared guy. I don’t play this game in fear at all. I don’t fear no man. As far as I’m concerned, you put your pants on as well as I put my pants on. We’re going to man up when we get there.”
|08.07.14 at 7:00 am ET|
Here are seven things we’ll be looking for Thursday night when the Patriots meet the Redskins in the preseason opener for both teams:
1. The interior of the offensive line: For a position that prides itself on consistency, continuity and stability, it’s been an interesting few months for the offensive line. While the tackle position figures to be pretty stable from here on out with left tackle Nate Solder and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and the left tackle spot remains the domain of veteran Logan Mankins, the rest of the interior has become a comparatively fluid situation. Rookie center Bryan Stork has missed a handful of practices with an undisclosed injury and is not expected to play against the Redskins, so incumbent Ryan Wendell should get the bulk of the snaps in his place. In addition, right guard Dan Connolly has seen some time at center, and while that’s happened, Marcus Cannon and Jon Halapio have taken some reps at the right guard spot. Meanwhile, Cannon has also seen some time at both guard and tackle, and could be in the mix to serve as the backup swing tackle behind Vollmer and Solder. (Rookie Cameron Fleming could be in line for some snaps at that position as well.) Expect lots of different personnel combinations as the Patriots — and new offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo — try and find the right mix.
2. Quarterback play: If Thursday’s game is anything like preseason openers of the past, expect starter Tom Brady to play between 20 and 30 snaps (like two or more series) in hopes of knocking some of the rust off and getting back to game action. We took a look at these numbers Wednesday, but they’re worth revisiting as the opener looms — a look at his workload in preseason openers the last six years (the snap counts include penalties):
2013: 19 snaps against Philadelphia – 7-for-8, 65 yards, 1 TD
2012: 19 snaps against New Orleans — 4-for-7, 30 yards, 1 sack
2011: DNP against Jacksonville (Brady was not injured, but the opener came roughly two weeks after the end of the lockout. It what was likely a preventive measure to guard against starters being injured, most of the No. 1 offense and defense had the night off.)
2010: 17 snaps vs. New Orleans — 5-for-8, 67 yards
2009: 24 snaps vs. Philadelphia — 10-for-15, 100 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
2008: DNP against Baltimore
In addition, expect backup Ryan Mallett to get a heavy workload — likely the bulk of the second and third quarter — while rookie Jimmy Garoppolo figures to be in line to close things out.
3. The combinations at backup linebacker: The Patriots have to be encouraged about the state of their starting linebackers. It’s the backups that might give them some concerns. New veteran James Anderson has held up well in camp as the backup middle linebacker, and done well when running with tight ends and running backs in coverage. Steve Beauharnais will look to build off a mostly positive rookie year where he was one of the primary special teamers and transition to a more regular spot on defense. Meanwhile, newcomer Darius Fleming will also be fighting for a spot, and could make a strong statement if he has a good preseason opener against Washington Thursday night.
4. Who is playing strong safety: For what it’s worth, in the first depth chart of the preseason, the Patriots had second-year defensive back Duron Harmon listed as the starting safety opposite Devin McCourty, with Patrick Chung and Kanorris Davis listed as the second- and third-stringers behind Harmon. While the position is up in the air at this point, it certainly appears that Harmon has the inside track: He’s been the one at the spot next to McCourty when the bulk of the No. 1 defense has appeared together on the field. In addition, he frequently serves as the fourth when the three other de facto starters (McCourty, Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner) are gathered together talking before, during or after practice.
5. Kick returner: There have been a variety of players vying for the job that was left open after LeGarrette Blount left for Pittsburgh in the offseason as a free agent. Josh Boyce, Shane Vereen and Matthew Slater are all veterans who have handled the job at the NFL level, while Roy Finch and Travis Hawkins have also seen time at the spot this summer. At this point, Boyce figures to have first dibs on the position, but that could change between now and the start of the regular season. Look for some of the rookies to get a chance to show what they can do at the NFL level Thursday against the Redskins.
6. Tight end: Rob Gronkowski didn’t make the trip to D.C., and back D.J. Williams didn’t practice on Wednesday. That means that Patriots fans will get a real opportunity to see what youngsters Justin Jones and Asa Watson can do. Jones is a massive presence at tight end, and the 6-foot-8, 275-pounder out of East Carolina certainly presents a massive catch radius. (More often than not, when the ball has been sent in his direction, he’s managed to come away with it.) He’s not the fastest guy in the world, but his bulk certainly makes for a tough cover for opposing defenders. In addition, Watson has had a fair camp to this point, but with ostensibly the two primary tight ends on the shelf, the younger brother of former New England tight end Ben Watson will almost certainly get an extended look against Washington.
7. How do the referees handle things when it comes to the renewed emphasis on illegal contact and defensive holding: The Patriots have yet to have referees work their practices — that will come next week when the Eagles come to Foxboro — and so there’s not much of a feeling as to how things are going to work out with the New England defensive backs and the emphasis on the rules regarding what defensive backs can and can’t do when it comes to pass defense. Browner, who comes from a physical background in Seattle, has been very hands-on with receivers over the course of the summer (both his own teammates and the Redskins), and he will certainly be a player to watch when it comes to whether or not officials will truly crack down with the new approach and how much they’ll allow defensive players to get away with.
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