After months and months of waiting, the New England Patriots finally took the field for the first time in 2018. While Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and several big name players didn’t see the field, there were still plenty of takeaways from the first game of the season. Who were the New England Patriots winners and losers of the preseason opener?
New England Patriots Winners and Losers – Preseason Week One
With Sony Michel sidelined for the preseason, the Patriots need a running back to step up. In the first two quarters, Jeremy Hill made his case for the roster. Playing with the starters for the duration of the game, Hill recorded 51 rushing yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Additionally, Hill recorded 14 receiving yards, including a huge 12-yard gain on third and eight.
Hill showed an explosion and burst he hasn’t shown since 2015. The former Bengal underwent off-season surgery to address a nagging ankle injury, and it appears to have done the trick. If Hill can regain his early career form, the fifth-year running back could be the steal of free agency.
While Hill impressed with the starters, undrafted free agent Ralph Webb dominated in the second half. Granted, he was playing against the bottom of the depth chart, but Webb certainly made the most of his opportunities.
The undrafted running back put on a show every time he touched the ball, finishing his game with 13 carries for 45 yards and two touchdowns. Additionally, Webb converted two separate two-point conversions. The Patriots always have an undrafted rookie make the team, and Webb could very well be this year’s undrafted star.
One of the biggest issues on paper with this Patriots roster is the linebacker depth. While Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy are the unquestioned starters, there are serious questions about the talent behind those two.
After one game, Bentley looks to have an inside shot at one of the top depth spots. The fifth-round rookie impressed in his preseason debut, recording 11 tackles on the evening, including two tackles for loss. He didn’t see many snaps in coverage, but he certainly looked the part as a run-stuffing linebacker.
While Hill and Webb put on a show, fellow running back Mike Gillislee struggled in his 2018 debut. Coming on the heels of a disappointing 2017, Gillislee needed a strong preseason in order to make the roster. However, his ugly performance could bury him on the depth chart.
While he had some decent runs, Gillislee finished his night with 14 carries for 41 yards, averaging a team-worst 3.1 yards per carry. Additionally, Gillislee fumbled late in the fourth quarter. If there’s one thing Bill Belichick cannot tolerate, it’s bad ball security. Barring injury, it’s hard to see a way for Gillislee to make the roster.
Braxton Berrios/Riley McCarron
The Patriots have an opening at the slot receiver position, and sixth-round pick Braxton Berrios and former practice squad member Riley McCarron both had a good chance to claim the job. However, both players unable to make much of an offensive impression in their 2018 debuts.
While he flashed promise as a punt returner, Berrios recorded just one reception for three yards on the game. While that production isn’t great by any means, it was still better than McCarron’s night. The former Houston Texan recorded zero catches on just two targets.
Granted, the first-team offense struggled as a whole, so the blame doesn’t rest with Berrios and McCarron alone. However, with Julian Edelman set to miss the first four games of the season, New England needs a reliable slot weapon. So far, neither Berrios nor McCarron managed to inspire confidence.
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