Forget the score. Preseason games are all about what you can learn about your team and this week there was just a few things we had our eyes on as the Patriots took on the Carolina Panthers.
The Patriots continued to mix up the combinations of offensive and defensive players with roster spots and playing time on the line. With the first cuts just days away (Aug. 26), that’s the main focus of our takeaways.
1. Has Patrick Chung taken the lead? — If you’re like me, and you were zoned in on the Patriots safeties, you know that the competition has not been one of the easiest to decipher. Whether it’s judging by snap counts or quality play — even 1s vs. 1s in the preseason— it’s been hard to get a gauge on who the Patriots want to play opposite of Devin McCourty. For Chung, who has made two starts in the team’s three preseason games, there may be an all-too-quick negative reaction to his abilities, particularly in pass coverage. There’s never been a knock on him for his physicality or his nose for the football. But Patriots fans have too many memories of missed tackles, poor angles, and deep passes on his watch in his first stint with the team. Despite all this, it appears that he has taken the lead at strong safety over Duron Harmon and Tavon Wilson — but with a caveat. The Patriots showed us a wrinkle in Friday’s game against Carolina, which could help explain how the team views each player. Chung played in the base defense while Harmon came onto the field in sub defenses, usually the nickel, to help with pass coverage which is his strength. While minimizing Chung’s weakness in pass coverage, Bill Belichick and company appear to be utilizing Harmon’s strengths in what will likely be a safety-by-committee role. (Wilson was marginalized.) Could these specialized roles be the answer for the team? For right now, that would make the most sense. Of course, we’ll just wait till teams start targeting one or the other to see if they are forced to adapt.
2. Expect Jordan Devey and Josh Kline to make the team — We watched Jordan Devey play right guard and left tackle Friday night, and left guard earlier in the preseason, so we know he has the versatility that Belichick craves. The same for Kline, who we’ve seen at right and left guard, but has also subbed in as an eligible tight end to help in power packages. There’s an allure to both of these two, who may not be the most polished players, but are certainly cheap and useful. Once the Patriots decide which offensive linemen they’re going to keep, they can be moved around at will if any injury arises. There’s an attraction there that I don’t think the team will want to pass up.
For the rest of my takeaways, view the original post on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.