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Monday January 23, 2017
Posted: Aug 16, 2014

Some quick thoughts after Patriots second preseason game

In The Huddle

Well, that was something, wasn't it?

No, I'm not talking about the play of the Patriots three quarterbacks in their 42-35 preseason victory over the Philadelphia Eagles Friday night - although Messieurs Brady, Garoppolo and Mallett were pretty impressive (21-of-33 combined, 245 yards, four touchdown passes) - I'm talking about the penalty flags.

Too many.

Twenty-one penalties for 169 yards were accepted in the game. (And it boggles my mind that there were some that weren't accepted.)  At one point, there were penalties on four consecutive plays.

I know the NFL wants  to crack down on defensive holding in the secondary, but they've got to let the players play too.

Okay, enough ranting.

Here are some things that popped out to me:

- The back-up quarterback race is no where near settled. Jimmy Garoppolo seemed to have an edge after the first preseason game, in which Ryan Mallett didn't play well. And then Garoppolo came out with a strong first-half against the Eagles, with two touchdown passes.

Garoppolo said he didn't know he was going in behind Brady until they told him to get in the game. "But you always have to be ready,'' he said. "Whenever the opportunity comes up you have to take advantage of it.''

But Mallett came back with an equally strong second half. Like Garoppolo, Mallett was just glad to play.

"I just want to get out there and try to get better as a player and I felt like I did that tonight and I've just got to keep building on it.''

Maybe that increased his trade value, but I don't think the Patriots want to move him just yet. Garoppolo has a lot to learn yet about the NFL, and the Patriots know the value of a good back-up. All they have to do is put on the tape of the 2008 season and watch Matt Cassel, who didn't even start at USC, lead them to 11 wins after Brady went down the first week with a knee injury.

Someone will be named the No.2 quarterback eventually. It just might take all of the preseason to make that distinction.

- Malcolm Butler, an undrafted Division II cornerback out of West Alabama, is making the very most of every opportunity he gets. You look up, he's making a play. You look down, you miss a play that he makes.

Butler led the team with seven tackles, forced a fumble and recovered the same fumble. He's going to make the 53-man roster.

- Veteran Patrick Chung didn't help his cause to stick as a safety Friday night. He had a holding penalty called on him, then was late twice in pass coverage, the second time allowing a touchdown pass.

- Meanwhile, with Tavon Wilson not dressed for the game, second-year player Duron Harmon took a big step toward solidifying his spot as the safety opposite Devin McCourty. He defended one pass and intercepted another - expertly reading Mark Sanchez' eyes and stepping in front of the receiver - to set up a second-half touchdown.

- Dan Connolly started at right guard last year. He might be the starting center this year. He appears to have the edge over incumbent Ryan Wendell right now, based on  how the line was rotated throughout the game. With injured rookie Bryan Stork lurking, it's possible that whoever doesn't win that competition won't be on the team come September 7.

A bigger question might be this: If Connolly wins  the center spot, who moves in at right guard. Friday night it was Jordan Devey, who spent last year on the Patriots practice squad. There's also Marcus Cannon available, so there's a lot of decisions to be made in those positions as well.

- Interestingly, starting right tackle Nate Solder lined up as a tight end on several plays, with Cannon taking over at left tackle. With three tight ends not dressed for the game, the Patriots were short at that position and Solder had some experience there.

"We'll see what happens,'' said Solder. "Whatever it takes, I'll be there.''

- Eagles cornerback Cary Williams, who returned a Brady pass 77 yards for a Pick-6 Friday night, said he apologized to Bill Belichick after the game for saying last week that the Patriots were cheaters - a sentiment he has said several times.

"I respect the organization and I told him I was sorry for the words that I said,'' said Williams. "That was just pure emotion and sometimes you say things that you don't really think about.''

He said his comments were fueled by the Patriots rivalry with his former team, the Baltimore Ravens.

"I could have chosen my words a little bit wiser,'' said Williams.

- Darrelle Revis started at left cornerback and none of the Eagles' quarterbacks even looked his way. Smart move on their part. If he can lock down an entire side of a field, the Patriots defense is going to be pretty tough.




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