The New England Patriots is in the win column, surpassing the Carolina Panthers 20-10 in their second preseason game of the year. Mac Jones played three total series as a handful of other Patriot regulars played deep into the contest.
This is who paid attention to our Friday night for better or for worse.
Winner: WR Lil’Jordan Humphrey. For the second straight game, Humphrey was a playmaker in New England’s offense. He hauled in five receptions for a team-high 71 yards, continuing to feast up the seam and in the middle of the field. Humphrey’s playmaking skills extended into special teams as well when he had one of the plays of the night, throwing a punt back downfield that was downed at the four-yard line.
Humphrey has come on strong recently and gained traction on a 53-man roster. With his playmaking ability in the middle of the field and with his 6-foot-4 frame, one might wonder if he could transition to a hybrid tight end, something Bill Belichick alluded to postgame.
Winners: LB Mack Wilson Sr. and LB Raekwon McMillan. The Patriots’ new linebackers got plenty of playing time Friday night and impressed. Wilson’s speed and physicality continue to pop all over the field. On one drive, he read Matt Corral’s eyes perfectly and nearly caught a double slant combo route. A few plays later he piled onto the ball and helped Terrance Mitchell stop Rashard Higgins short of the sticks on third-down. Belichick called Wilson an “explosive” player who adds speed to the defense, and he’s shown that off and on this offseason.
As for McMillan, he continues to be a big part of the team’s plan for this season. He showed off his athleticism Friday night by recording six tackles and making life difficult for Carolina pass catchers out of the backfield.
Loser: OL James Ferentz. Ferentz has drawn the start at right guard as New England continues to shuffle around its battered offensive line. It was not a pretty night for the veteran. On New England’s opening drive, Ferentz was blown off the line by Julian Stanford leading to a sack on Mac Jones. Later in the game he stopped a promising drive with a late hit on Kenny Robinson – this week’s Carolina instigator. Ferentz still seems primed for the Ted Karras role with his versatility across the offensive line, but it’s been a rough week.
Winner: CB Jonathan Jones. As he did in camp, Jones saw the majority of his snaps at outside cornerback for the Patriots. Jones held his own on a pair of third-down rush routes, knocking a ball away from the 6-foot-5 Keith Kirkwood on one attempt. Jones played himself into the role that helped create quality depth in the Patriots cornerback room.
Winner: The pass. The New England pass rusher was marked on Friday night, recording five sacks and a handful of pressures. Josh Uche, who smoked sixth-overall pick Ikem Ekwonu on speed, and Anfernee Jennings continue to provide value along the edge.
Dietrich Wise Jr. continued to terrorize Carolina tackles also hitting Ekwonu for a sack. Ronnie Perkins recorded a sack and had a strong tackle on Matt Corral early in the fourth quarter. DaMarcus Mitchell recorded a sack and a forced fumble in the closing 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 catches (team-high) for 56 yards may look promising, but the second-year receiver has been on the receiving end of some negative games for New England. To start the fourth quarter, Nixon couldn’t haul in a deep touchdown run by 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 prefer to come down. He was also the intended receiver on Zappe’s pick-six and he didn’t seem to fully expect 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 is still involved in the offense. Montgomery was on the field on their first scoring drive, finding pay dirt himself and making the most of several touches. Sticking with the running backs, Kevin Harris and JJ Taylor provided some explosion out of the backfield in the second half. Nelson Agholor continued his strong week by hauling in a 45-yard completion from Mac Jones.
In the turnover department, Joshuah Bledsoe forced a fumble while Shaun Wade and Brenden Schooler hauled in interceptions. Schoolboy and fellow UDFA DaMarcus Mitchell also opened the game on the kickoff. On the other side of the spectrum is Bailey Zappe, who threw a nasty looking pick-six.
Nick Folk was 1-for-1 on field goal attempts (38 yards) and extra point attempts. Tristan Vizcaino made one field goal of 51 yards and one extra point, but also pushed a 53-yard attempt wide right.