The focus after Saturday’s game between the Patriots and Packers was on Isaiah Bolden.
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Players made it very clear that they were shocked by the play that led to him being sent off the field. And they made it very clear that they appreciated the league’s willingness to suspend play with more than ten minutes left to appreciate.
Remember, Matthew Slater told reporters after the game that this is preseason. It’s not the AFC title game. If the players involved didn’t want to go any further, why would they insist? Bill Belichick initiated the untimely end through consultation with Slater and Packers coach Matt LaFleur. The competition is signed. That was that.
Easy calling. Correct call.
It’s worth noting that this particular preseason game came after two lengthy joint practices, with Belichick estimating that the two teams played nearly 200 games against each other. Another ten minutes, especially after Bolden’s injury and its impact on his teammates, felt unnecessary.
The Patriots announced after the stoppage of play that Bolden had feeling in his extremities and was held overnight at a local hospital for further testing and observation. On Sunday morning, they announced that Bolden had been released from the hospital and is traveling back to New England with the team. The Patriots’ upcoming joint workouts with the Titans have been canceled, and the team will remain in Foxboro this week before heading to Nashville on Thursday for the preseason finale on Friday.
In the meantime, here are a handful of football observations from Saturday’s match…
Kayshon Boutte, WR
The post-capture flash of explosiveness that Boutte showed during his house-to-house strike was dazzling.
He has shown excellent body control during training camp. He’s made catches down the sidelines, diving grabs, and he’s got a one-handed toe tapper in the back of the end zone on his practice band. But there was an outburst after his touchdown grab from Bailey Zappe.
It looks like the Patriots have found two sixth-round rookie receivers to play. Boutte’s roster spot doesn’t look as safe as fellow Day 3 pick Demario “Pop” Douglas appears to be. But Boutte exploded on Saturday. And he could make the conversation about the selection of 53 men to this position very, very interesting.
Kendrick Bourne, W
Bourne appears to have a stranglehold on the No. 3 receiver appearance in the Patriots offense.
Tyquan Thornton made an impressive dive hold on Thursday, but left the practice session injured and did not return. And while Douglas has impressed in camp, Bourne has the kind of size and versatility that seems to make him the choice alongside DeVante Parker and JuJu Smith-Schuster in eleven-man situations.
He made an impressive jump hold on a negative throw from Mac Jones. He was the “pass option” on an early game RPO that went for a first down. And his block was… powerful. He says he feels as strong as ever — he’s noticeably bigger and stronger as he enters his third season with the Patriots — and he looked good during Rhamondre Stevenson’s 23-yard run.
Malik Cunningham, QB/WR
The man had no catch on five targets. He never played quarterback. So why is he on the rise? It’s pretty clear that the Patriots see potential in Cunningham as a versatile football player.
That was seen in Green Bay. Maybe they’re trying to figure out if he brings enough value as a receiver and a special teams option (he’s practiced as a shooter on the punt team and returned on Saturday’s kickoff) to warrant a 53-man roster spot. And maybe that 53-man spot would buy him time to develop as a quarterback. But they don’t try him out in different roles just to giggle. They see something in him. They give him chances. That is a good sign for his future tenure with the team.
Remember when they told that to college quarterback and receiver Julian Edelman after he was drafted they didn’t know where he would play, but they would find out?
The Michigan State rookie gambler put on a show—albeit short-lived—Saturday with two monster points. He shot down a 61-yarder and a 59-yarder. With hang time. One pinned the Packers on their own seven-yard line after a penalty. The other was returned only three meters.
After what felt like a bad spell in camp, where Baringer wasn’t as consistent in football, he came through with an excellent preseason number 2 game.
Sam Roberts, DE
To succeed on the defensive line, it is not uncommon for players to live exactly within the limits of what is allowed. Roberts crossed that line more than once at Lambeau Field.
He hit Jordan Love illegally at the end of the quarterback’s early game. Then he started with Packers players after the whistle. Later in the match, he was caught on an illegal hands-to-the-face penalty. The Northwest Missouri sophomore player was impressive at times in camp, but Saturday wasn’t his best.
Andrew Stueber, OT
The sophomore year tackle missed his entire rookie season injured and started this summer well on the depth chart at tackle. But due to an injury to Conor McDermott, with Calvin Anderson on the non-football sickness list, and with Riley Reiff going to guard, he found himself playing a left tackle for starter Mac Jones early in the second quarter. Soon after, he was cleanly beaten by Kingsley Enagbare and Jones was fired.
That’s not a position Stueber should have been in. Could starter Trent Brown hold out as Jones’ left tackle a few more times? – but it was a missed opportunity for the young lineman.
Sidy Sow, OL
Again, it can be unfair to have an inexperienced player in this category. Especially since he’s been asked to play tackle after playing guard most of his college career. Especially since he’s been asked to play for Jones and against the best pass rushers the Packers had on Saturday night. But Enagbare’s bull rush in the first quarter drove Sow back into Jones’ lap and helped blow up the Patriots’ second drive of the game.
There’s a chance Sow is the right tackle for this team in Week 1 – he’s been consistently in that spot for the past week – but they’re going to need more steady play from him on the edge as he crosses the New England line wants to help hold their own against the deep stable of pass rushers the Eagles will have to offer in the season opener.
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