Here are some thoughts and observations from the Patriots second preseason game, a 42-35 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
1. Nothing is safe at safety — Kyle Arrington started at safety for the Patriots opposite Devin McCourty. Arrington’s play and toughness has often been referenced by Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who he has used both as a starting cornerback, a slot corner and now back deep, a new and different look for all involved. Belichick actually addressed Arrington’s possible use at safety early on in the week.
“I think Kyle has a really good skillset to play anywhere back there,” Belichick told reporters Monday. “He’s fast, he’s tough, [and] he’s a good tackler, which your safeties need to be. Not that your corners don’t need to be, but I’d say it’s even more important at safety. He tackles well, he runs well, he’s a very athletic player. So I’d say his toughness and his tackling are similar to Devin [McCourty], same type of player who played corner to safety with similar type skills – speed, range, toughness. Those assets you need at safety, and Devin has them and Kyle has them.”
Arrington, who is waiting to see how he looks on film before declaring whether or not he was comfortable, has disrupted the training camp competition at the position. Along with Logan Ryan, who got his first snaps at safety Friday, the Patriots appear to be uncomfortable with Duron Harmon (two tackles, one interception), Patrick Chung (one tackle), and Tavon Wilson. Wilson sat out of Friday’s game with an injury after starting last week against Washington.
What’s more, with the integration of Alfonzo Dennard into the Patriots lineup after his injury, the emergence of cornerback Malcolm Butler, and both Arrington and Ryan’s versatility, the Patriots may not need the plethora of defensive backs they have now. The select few — McCourty, Arrington, Dennard, Ryan, Butler, Darrelle Revis, and Brandon Browner — are ahead of the rest of the pack. And now, it appears the coaches view an all cornerbacks secondary (including McCourty) as an option that can’t be passed up. Others will certainly feel the squeeze.
2. Ryan Mallett shows growth — Call it baby steps. But it did appear that backup quarterback Ryan Mallett improved over his last outing, finishing 7 of 11 passing for 92 yards and a touchdown Friday against the Eagles. His touchdown strike, a 17-yard pass on a fly route to Brian Tyms, was precisely the kind of bold decision making that he had lacked in previous outings. And for once, he put the ball in a position where a number of receivers could make plays. (Tyms had another opportunity to catch a pass from Mallett in the end zone that was dropped.) And then he gave us some added value by showing off his (limited) mobility. He ended up with nine yards rushing after taking two sacks. But he also had a 6-yard rushing touchdown. It was a win-win for Mallett on Friday despite entering the game after rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (who continued to impress). Mallett’s journey is all about small wins now. He needs to have as many good outings as possible for his next job and he’s got only two more opportunities left.
Read the rest of my takeaways on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.