The New England Patriots are in the win column, outscoring the Carolina Panthers 20-10 in their second preseason game of the year. Mac Jones played three series in all while a handful of other Patriot regulars played deep in the contest.
Here’s who caught our eye on Friday night for better or worse.
Winner: WR Lil’Jordan Humphrey. For the second straight game, Humphrey was a playmaker on New England’s offense. He caught five receptions for a team-high 71 yards and continued to delight in the seam and in the middle of the field. Humphrey’s playing skills also extended to special teams when he had one of the plays of the night, throwing a punt back down the field that was knocked down at the four-yard line.
Humphrey has been going strong of late and has gained ground toward a spot on the 53-man roster. With his ability to create plays in the middle of the field and his 6-foot-4 height, one might wonder if he could transition to a hybrid tight end, something Bill Belichick alluded to after the game.
Winners: LB Mack Wilson Sr. and LB Raekwon McMillan. The Patriots’ new linebackers played a lot Friday night and impressed. Wilson’s speed and physicality continue to show up all over the field. In one race, he perfectly read Matt Corral’s eyes and nearly intercepted a double-banked combo route. A few plays later, he ran to the ball and helped Terrance Mitchell stop Rashard Higgins before the sticks on third down. Belichick called Wilson an “explosive” player who adds speed to the defense, and he has shown it continually this offseason.
As for McMillan, he remains a big part of the team’s plan for this season. He showed his athleticism Friday night by recording six tackles and making life difficult for Carolina’s pass receivers from the backfield.
Loser: OL James Ferentz. Ferentz was the starter at right guard as New England continues to shake up its battered offensive line. It was not a pretty night for the veteran. On New England’s opening drive, Ferentz was hauled off the line by Julian Stanford, prompting a sack by Mac Jones. Later in the game, he stopped a promising drive with a late hit on Kenny Robinson, the instigator of this week’s Carolina. Ferentz still seems primed for the role of Ted Karras with his versatility on the offensive line, but it was a tough week.
Winner: CB Jonathan Jones. As he has been doing in camp, Jones saw most of his snaps at outside cornerback for the Patriots. Jones held his own on a pair of third-down routes, hitting a ball away from the 6-foot-5 Keith Kirkwood on one try. Jones has filled the role that has helped create quality depth in the Patriots’ cornerback room.
Winner: The passing race. New England’s passing rush was marked on Friday night, recording five sacks and a handful of pressure. Josh Uche, who smoked sixth overall pick Ikem Ekwonu in a sprint, and Anfernee Jennings continue to provide value on the rim.
Deatrich Wise Jr. continued to terrorize Carolina’s tackles by also beating Ekwonu for a sack. Ronnie Perkins recorded a sack and had a heavy chase against Matt Corral early in the fourth quarter. DaMarcus Mitchell recorded a sack and forced fumble in the final minutes that Sam Roberts recovered for a touchdown.
The Patriots showed a strong pressure package on Friday night and could have some hidden gems on the depth chart.
Loser: WR Tre Nixon. Nixon’s final stat line of six receptions (a team-high) for 56 yards may look promising, but the second-year receiver was on the tail end of some negative plays for New England. To start the fourth quarter, Nixon was unable to get a deep touchdown from Bailey Zappe. It wasn’t a perfect pass and there was some content, but it was a ball that a player fighting for a roster spot would rather go down with. He was also the intended receiver in Zappe’s pick-six and didn’t seem to be expecting the ball to come his way. With another strong game from Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Nixon may have taken a step back on the depth chart.
Other players worth mentioning include Ty Montgomery, who continues to be involved in the offense. Montgomery was on the field during his first scoring drive, finding profitable ground and making the most of various bunts. Sticking with running backs, Kevin Harris and JJ Taylor provided some blast from the backfield in the second half. Nelson Agholor continued his strong week with a 45-yard completion from Mac Jones.
In the turnover department, Joshuah Bledsoe forced a fumble while Shaun Wade and Brenden Schooler had interceptions. Student and fellow UDFA student DaMarcus Mitchell also started the game on the kickoff drive. On the other end of the spectrum is Bailey Zappe, who threw a lousy-looking pick-six.
Nick Folk went 1-for-1 on field goal attempts (38 yards) and extra point attempts. Tristan Vizcaino made a 51-yard field goal and an extra point, but also drove in a 53-yard attempt to the right.