The Patriots closed out their week in Philadelphia by a 35-0 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night. Despite the Eagles not playing any of their starters, there was a lot to like on both sides of the ball for New England.
The Patriots rushing attack picked up right where it left off, rushing for 207 yards and four touchdowns. Rhamondre Stevenson and JJ Taylor led the way with 159 rushing yards and three touchdowns while Harvey Langi, Chase Winovich, and Ja’whaun Bentley led the way on defense. The Patriots showed for the second straight week that they’ll be a team that’s going to win up front — and they’ll be difficult to push around once the regular season begins.
With that said, let’s take a look at those who stood outThursday night.
Winner: QB Cam Newton
Newton only played three series on Thursday night but it was arguably the sharpest he’s looked throwing the ball since week-2 in Seattle last season. Newton finished 8 of 9 for 101 yards. The highlight was Jakobi Meyers 28-yard touchdown catch late in the first half. Newton looked relaxed and confident in his pocket, stepping up well and delivering the ball on schedule to his receivers. It was a glimpse at the changes Newton has made since last year. Once the Patriots really start to open up the playbook come week-1 and Newton’s legs become involved, the Patriots offense will be tough to stop — especially if he throws as efficiently as he did on Thursday night.
Winner: QB Mac Jones
Jones threw the football with precision and poise in Thursday’s win, just like Newton. In his first series, Jones help lead a 17-play, 94-yard drive that ended in a JJ Taylor touchdown that started with Jones’s 19-yard strike to N’Keal Harry on 3rd and 13 with the Patriots backed up inside their own ten. He completed the night with 13 of 19 yards for 146 yards, and showed a comfort in the system. The Patriots launched a two-minute offensive to open the second half for the second week in a row. Jones was 7-7 for 66 yards in a drive that ended with a highlight reel touchdown run by JJ Taylor. Jones best ball of the night was a dime up the left sideline on a ball that traveled 50+ yards in the air that led N’Keal Harry for what should have been an easy touchdown. Harry dropped the ball while diving for it, and was shaken up by the play and didn’t return. There’s no question that the Patriots opening day starter will be Cam Newton, but if you’re a Patriots fan, you have to be pretty happy with where Mac is at in his development.
Winner: RB Rhamondre Stevenson
Rhamondre Stephenson was the Patriots’ best offensive player for the second consecutive week. Coming off his 127-yard, two-score performance a week ago, Stevenson followed it up with 66 yards on the ground and two more touchdowns in Thursday night’s win. Stevenson has demonstrated that he is capable of providing the Patriots with a change in pace, even though he stumbled in the fourth quarter. Stevenson’s ability to run inside and out, bounce off defenders while keeping his balance has been a standout. Whether Stevenson will play a significant role in 2021, the Patriots running room has a lot of versatility and depth going into the future.
Winner: RB JJ
Taylor was the Patriots’ most efficient runner on Thursday night leading the team with 93 yards on just 12 carries. Second year man from Arizona, Taylor, once viewed as a bubble player at one time, is slowly taking on a more prominent role thanks to his strong training camp. Taylor’s speed and shiftiness make him tough to bring down in the open field. He was able to perform a clever spin move while running for his 3-yard touchdown. He also caught 3 passes for 18 yards. The Patriots have solid depth with Harris and White handling the passing and running game situations. JJ Taylor is a future special-teamer.
Winner: LB Matthew Judon
One of the Patriots’ big-money free agent acquisitions in the offseason was all over the field once again. On the opening series, Judon chased down Joe Flacco after a poor snap, knocked the ball loose, and Jalen Mills recovered the fumble which helped set up the Patriots’ opening score. Judon’s motor and energy has shined all tgrough training camp and the first two preseason games. He is quickly proving why he is the X factor for a Patriots defense which looks to improve greatly in 2021.
K Quinn Nordin, Loser
There had been nothing but positive things surrounding Quinn Nordin’s training camp unit; Thursday night. The Patriots’ undrafted free agent was automatic and seemed to be gaining ground in their kick competition with Nick Folk still out. However, Nordin’s perfect start ended on Thursday night as he missed a 36-yard field goal as well as two extra points. After missing his first three kicks, Nordin bounced back with a field goal and two extra points. Bill Belichick said consistency was the most important thing in the kicking position last Wednesday. Nordin is struggling to find his groove Thursday night so it seems that the Quinn Nordin Era may have to wait.
Winner: LB Harvey Langi
Langi rebounded from a tough game last week and had probably the best game of any Patriots defensive player on Thursday night. Langi was a standout on defense, contributing a sack and a tackle for loss as well as two QB hits, an interception and a tackle for loss. Langi is unlikely ever to be on the initial 53-man roster. But Bill Belichick values depth and Langi’s contribution to special teams. If there were any injuries, Langi may be able find his way onto the field in 2021. After signing with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2019, having a tough recovery back after a car accident followed by a brief stint with the Jets in 2020, Langi is one of the ‘feel good’ stories of training camp.
Winner: CB Joejuan Wilkes
Williams was able to start at the outside corner, across from JC Jackson, on Thursday night. Williams had the opportunity to shadow Devonta Smith (2021 Heisman) for most of the quarter, with Stephon Gilmore still out and Jalen Miles struggling on the outside. Smith didn’t register a catch as Williams was consistently in his back pocket in the times he lined up across him. After being buried on New England’s depth chart due to his secondary position experience, Joejuan Williams is now in contention to be one the Patriots most versatile defensive backs in 2021. He can play safety and contribute on special team. He even got his chance to play outside corner on Thursday night. At 6’3, 225 lbs , Williams has the size and length to be able to play anywhere in the secondary when given a fair opportunity.
Loser: WR N’Keal Harry
I don’t mean to kick a man while he’s down, as N’Keal Harry left the stadium in a sling after he hurt his shoulder diving for a Mac Jones deep ball at the end of the first half, but Harry was a non-factor once again. With Devin Asiasi the lone tight end active for the Patriots on Thursday night, many saw it as an opportunity for Harry to thrive given his 6’4 frame and the ability to add some much needed size on the outside. Harry was injured and only made one catch for thirteen yards. Harry was able to beat the cornerback on a well-run go-route but failed to catch the ball in stride, resulting in a disappointing 50-yard touchdown. Once again, it’s hard to judge him based on one half after leaving due to injury, but as a bubble player with limited targets, Harry wasn’t able to stand out on Thursday night, which makes his status for the team’s initial 53-man roster up in the air.
Winner: Edge Chase Winovich
Chase Winovich was fresh from the Patriots PUP list this week. After a rough start to the series, Winovich was penalized for roughing the passer. However, he bounced back and finished strong with a tackle and two sacks. He was knocked to the ground trying to get to Mullens. He then got up and beat his man before chasing down the QB to get the sack. It was a high motor play and something Winovich will need continue to do if he wants to keep snapping at a positional group that is filled with talent.