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Patriots crush Jaguars in preseason opener

08.11.11 at 10:39 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The Patriots rolled to a 47-12 win over the Jaguars in the preseason opener for both teams Thursday night at Gillette Stadium. Despite sitting most of their starters on both sides of the ball, New England was in control for most of the evening, taking the lead early in the second quarter and cruising throughout most of the second half. Here’€™s a quick rundown of what happened.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE PATRIOTS

Brian Hoyer: The backup quarterback, who got the start in place of Brady, had himself an excellent night, playing the entire first half and going 15-for-21 for 171 yards and a touchdown. (Aaron Hernandez had six catches for 68 yards, thanks to Hoyer.) The Michigan State product, entering his third season with the Patriots as the top backup to Brady, was at his best when New England put together a quick four-play, 32-yard drive that ended with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Taylor Price early in the second quarter that gave the Patriots the lead for good. (For what it’€™s worth, Hoyer certainly appears to be further along in his development at this stage of his career than Matt Cassel was.)

Taylor Price: The second-year receiver, who was used hardly if at all as a rookie, looked to be the star of the show, at least early on, for New England’€™s offense. He had a pair of catches in the first half from Hoyer, including one that ended up going for a touchdown, and ended up with five catches for 105 yards. In addition, he showed up in the return game. Price appears to be making his case as the No. 5 receiver, behind Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Chad Ochocinco and Julian Edelman. In addition, the positional versatility as a special teamer will be a huge boost when it comes to playing time.

Stevan Ridley: The rookie out of LSU had a great start on Thursday night, accounting for more than 100 total yards and scoring three touchdowns (including two on the ground and one in the air). With the Patriots deciding to sit Kevin Faulk, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Shane Vereen, Ridley made the most of his opportunity, running hard, showing a deft touch in the passing game and keeping his head about him. He just made an already complicated positional battle in the backfield even more difficult.

New England’€™s third-down defense: The Patriots’€™ third-down defense was apocalyptically bad last season, but through the first half on Thursday evening, it was thoroughly impressive. Jacksonville was just 2-for-9 on third down through the first half, as New England did a good job creating some third-and-long situations and then following that up with some excellent pressure on the quarterback. Mark Anderson was good at creating pressure off the edge for the Patriots, commanding double-teams and freeing things up for defensive tackles to get after the quarterback.

Dane Fletcher: How far has this guy come? Last season, he was an undrafted free agent struggling to make the team. In the preseason opener, with Jerod Mayo on the sidelines, the middle/inside linebacker from Montana State was the guy with the green dot on his helmet, making the defensive calls. He blew up a couple of Jacksonville running plays up the gut and showing good read-and-react ability

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE PATRIOTS

Special teams: The New England special teams struggled in the first half, but things hit bottom when the Patriots botched a point-after attempt, a play that ended with Zoltan Mesko kicking the ball out of bounds around the 50-yard-line. Following that, the Jags got great field position from a kick return from Deji Karim, who dodged the likes of Brandon Meriweather and Jonathan Wilhite before finally being taken down by Wilhite at the 18-yard-line. In the second half, a penalty on Jonathan Wilhite brings back a big punt return for Taylor Price.

Darius Butler: The cornerback out of UConn, already in a positional battle for one of the final spots on the roster, had a rough night, as the Jaguars went back to him time and again. Butler has dug himself a hole, and must bounce back with a solid performance this week if he wants to stay off the roster bubble going forward. (Wilhite also didn’€™t do himself any favors with his play at corner or his ill-timed gaffe on special teams.)

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