The Patriots remain undefeated in the 2019 preseason with a 22-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night.
The Patriots didn’t execute at the same level as they did against the Detroit Lions last week.
But the Titans were a better opponent and played their starters against New England’s reserves in the first quarter.
Bill Belichick will certainly have a few coaching moments in the film room this week, including 12 penalties that cost the Patriots 99 yards and sloppy ball security from the quarterbacks.
However, with most of the starters resting, the younger players on the roster stole the show.
Left tackle Isaiah Wynn and rookie running back Damien Harris made their first appearances in the preseason while many others picked up where they left off against the Lions.
Here are ten things we learned as the Patriots improved to 2-0 in the preseason:
1. Isaiah Wynn’s First Game Reps Since Torn Achilles
Patriots left tackle Isaiah Wynn made his first appearance in a game since tearing his Achilles almost exactly one year ago. Wynn played three offensive series in the first half, a total of 19 snaps. On initial viewing, he held up well protecting Brian Hoyer’s blindside. Wynn worked well with left guard Ted Karras on some stunt games that the Titans threw at them and kept his feet moving to anchor against power. He fell off a few run blocks firing out of his stance with a little too much urgency but showed off the foot speed and hand strength that made him a first-round pick. Since he’s on the smaller side, Wynn has to have an aggressive mindset, and he plays bigger than his listed height and weight as a result. We’ll see how it looks upon review.
2. Jarrett Stidham Finishes With 99-Yard TD Drive After Rough Start
After setting the world on fire last week, rookie quarterback Jarrett Stidham had an up and down performance against the Titans. Stidham threw three interceptable passes in the second half, two of which went in and out of the hands of Tennessee defensive backs. The fourth-round pick was late to a throw on the goal line intended for tight end Eric Saubert, those you hope will go away with faster processing speed. But the other two were wild attempts that you can’t have. The rookie did recover nicely going seven-for-seven for 89 yards on the Patriots’ game-winning drive.
On the 99-yard touchdown drive, Stidham got the drive started with a 16-yard completion to Jakobi Meyers throwing from his own end zone. Meyers ran a crossing pattern against zone coverage, and Stidham fit the ball in against decent coverage from Titans corner Josh Kalu.
A few plays later, Stidham stood in against pressure to complete a 17-yard pass to Dontrelle Inman on an in cut.
And then he capped off the drive with a back-shoulder dime to Damoun Patterson for a 23-yard go-ahead touchdown.
There was a lot of hype thrown Stidham’s way after his performance against the Lions. Saturday night was a reminder that he’s still developing, but the high level throws on the game-winning drive serve as more signs of his potential.
3. Rookie Chase Winovich Dominates Titans Backup OL
In the first half alone, rookie Chase Winovich had the following stat line: one sack, two quarterback hits, two tackles for loss, one hurry and a special teams tackle. He finished the night with six total tackles along with five quarterback pressures. He was everywhere, and Titans backup right tackle Tyler Marz was his punching bag.
Winovich’s first QB hit came on a second-down play in the first half. Rushing from a two-point stance, Winovich saw Marz leave the inside door open setting to protect against Winovich’s speed around the corner. The Pats rookie used a swim move to jump inside and force an incompletion.
Before the half, Winovich added a sack showing great awareness and a nifty counter to his speed rush. Winovich came off the ball like he was going to turn the corner but then saw Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill drifting up in the pocket. Winovich used Marz’s momentum against him, slamming on the breaks to climb up the pocket to sack Tannehill.
In the second half, Winovich’s pursuit speed and hustle were on full display making this tackle 15 yards downfield.
The Pats rookie does similar things in practice, and as a result, his play in games is not surprising. He’s an athletic beast and a brilliant football player that has a plan on every snap. Winovich knows how to read offensive tackles and blocking schemes; he studies his opponents and reacts quickly to what he sees. He’ll be an instant contributor for the Patriots.
4. Undrafted Rookie Jakobi Meyers Stays Hot
The hype around undrafted rookie wideout Jakobi Meyers is real. After holding his own against Tennessee’s starters in practice, Meyers caught all six of his targets for a team-high 82 yards on Saturday night. Meyer’s catch radius and strong hands were his calling card in college, but his route releases are exceptional.
On this third-down conversion, Meyers broke Titans defensive back Dane Cruikshank’s ankles with a three-step release. Meyers closes down the space between him and the defender with three quick steps then drops him with a crossover-like move at the top of the route into a slant.
Meyer’s releases, like the one above, are usually something we see from veteran wide receivers that work on their craft for years. Not from undrafted rookies.
5. Rookie Damien Harris Makes Patriots Debut
We got our first look at third-round pick Damien Harris on Saturday night, and it was an exciting start for the rookie. Harris averaged 5.7 yards per rush and caught four passes for 23 yards. At this stage, Harris is noticeably ahead of where Sony Michel was last season as a pass catcher. The rookie from Alabama is already flexing out wide as a receiver and contributing out of the backfield. Although his receiving skills are helpful, his 20-yard rush was the highlight of his night.
The Patriots called one of their power plays from an I-formation with the backside guard pulling out in front to give the Patriots a numbers advantage to the left. However, the off-ball linebacker shot the gap before Hjalate Froholdt could complete his pull and the Titans had the Patriots out-leveraged to the left side. Harris saw the entire Titans defense crashing down and cut the run backside to a vacated area.
Harris’s all-around game was exciting, but his vision to see that cut back lane this early is impressive.
6. Rookie Cornerback Joejuan Williams is Quickly Improving
After a strong week of practice, rookie cornerback Joejuan Williams is starting to look comfortable at the NFL level. Against his hometown Titans, Williams had two pass breakups against top wideout Corey Davis.
On his second pass breakup, Williams is in off-coverage defending a deep out from Davis. The Pats rookie does well to transition his hips at the top of his backpedal and then uses his insane length to disrupt Davis at the catch point.
If Williams can continue to change directions like that, it’ll be challenging for quarterbacks to complete passes on him with his long reach getting into the passing lane.
7. Brian Hoyer Comes Back Down to Earth
Hoyer wasn’t as sharp in his second start of the preseason with a rough opening drive that ended with an interception. On Hoyer’s first throw, Pats receiver Dontrelle Inman had inside positioning on Malcolm Butler, but Hoyer sailed the throw resulting in an incomplete pass.
On Hoyer’s interception, the throw could’ve been sooner and had more heat on it, but that’s on Braxton Berrios. Berrios is running a crossing pattern. He sets himself up well at the top of the route by leaning into Ryan’s trailing coverage, but when he cuts across the field, he drifts upfield on the route. Berrios’s route needs to be flatter there.
After a clean sheet last week, Hoyer was under pressure more often against Tennessee. He also came back and made a nice throw to Jakobi Meyers for 16 yards. Both Pats QBs got some humble pie on Saturday night.
8. Danny Shelton Playing Over Free-Agent Addition Mike Pennel
In the player participation department, it’s safe to say that second-year Patriot Danny Shelton passed free-agent addition Mike Pennel on the depth chart. Pennel was an under-the-radar signing as a Pro Football Focus darling with the Jets last season. But Shelton, who struggled to get on the field a year ago in New England, is playing over him at nose tackle in the Patriots’ base 3-4 defense. Shelton has improved his first-step quickness and upper body technique against the run. He’s getting into the backfield faster off the snap, and pressing blockers with improved arm extension as a run defender. At this rate, he’s going to have a much larger role this season.
9. Fifth-Round Pick Byron Cowart Impresses
Add another impressive rookie to the mix for the Patriots with fifth-round pick Byron Cowart. Cowart is extremely physical in the trenches and has some versatility to play from different alignments. On the play above, the rookie from Maryland tossed Titans starting left guard Rodger Saffold to the ground with a bull rush for a sack. Cowart is a powerful man that fits the scheme, but it won’t be easy to fit him on the 53-man roster with the depth on defense.
10. Rookie Punter Jake Bailey is Making Ryan Allen Nervous
In the latest installment of Punter Battle 2019, rookie Jake Bailey had himself a night in Tennessee. Bailey boomed a 54-yard punt with 5.4 seconds of hang time out of his own end zone on his lone attempt. He also launched a 67-yard free-kick following a safety. The only blemish on the night for Bailey was a sloppy hold on kicker Stephen Gostkowski’s missed field goal, which is noteworthy considering that was Allen’s job last season. But Bailey’s talent is undeniable. He’s making Ryan Allen nervous, and it’s going to be extremely difficult to part ways with him in favor of Allen.