Some notes and nuggets from the New England Patriots’ 25-14 preseason loss to the Carolina Panthers on Friday night:
— Eric Decker hasn’t done much to help his chances of sticking around past final cuts. The veteran wide receiver again failed to make a significant impact Friday night, catching two passes of five targets for 12 yards.
All of those targets came from backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, as Decker did not play a single snap with Tom Brady and the first-team offense. He also had a false start penalty.
At this point, it’s difficult to pencil Decker into the 53-man roster, even with all the uncertainty surrounding the Patriots’ receiving corps.
— Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett caught four passes on four targets for 36 yards — all from Brady — in what might have been his best game in a Patriots uniform.
— The Patriots made some interesting decisions in the return game, as wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson and cornerback Cyrus Jones both returned kickoffs and punts.
Patterson’s kick return ability is well known — he’s a two-time All-Pro at the position — but the Patriots chose not to utilize him in that capacity in the first two preseason games or in several of the later training camp practices. Seeing him back deep to field punts was even more intriguing, considering he’s returned a grand total of one punt in his NFL career.
Patterson didn’t get the opportunity to actually return any kicks or punts, though. One of his attempts resulted in a touchback, and the two others were kicked short and caught by upbacks James Develin (kickoff) and Riley McCarron (punt).
Jones handled all returns after halftime. He ripped off a nice 27-yard runback on the opening kickoff of the second half but had it nullified by a penalty.
Friday was the first game appearance in nearly a year for Jones, who missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in the 2017 preseason finale. He also saw extensive defensive snaps as a slot cornerback while Patterson played all four quarters on offense.
Patterson was targeted a game-high nine times by Brady and Hoyer, finishing with five catches for 37 yards. He also drew two defensive pass interference penalties.
— Braxton Berrios’ chances of making this team are rapidly evaporating. The rookie wide receiver/return man missed his second straight game with an undisclosed injury.
The Patriots selected Berrios, a former Miami standout, in the 2018 NFL Draft, and he entered training camp as one of the top candidates to serve as New England’s punt returner until Julian Edelman returns from his four-game suspension.
Berrios hasn’t impressed in that role this summer, however, and hasn’t been consistent as a receiver, either. Plus, as the saying goes, you can’t make the club in the tub.
— After manhandling the Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive line last week to the tune of eight sacks, the Patriots’ pass rush was largely nonexistent against Cam Newton and the Panthers. New England finished the game with zero sacks and just one QB hit, which came in the second half after the starters had exited.
The Patriots, who have had trouble containing Newton in the past, will face another mobile quarterback, Houston’s Deshaun Watson, in Week 1 of the regular season.
— Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski wasn’t much of a factor in his preseason debut, finishing with zero catches on one targets. The same could be said for Gronk’s position group as a whole, as Will Tye (one target) and Dwayne Allen (two targets) also finished without a reception.
Tight end Jacob Hollister and Ryan Izzo both missed the game with undisclosed injuries.
— We’re now three-quarters of the way through the preseason, and rookie punter Corey Bojorquez still has yet to see the field. Ryan Allen’s job is safe.
— The Patriots parted ways with Kenny Britt earlier this week, releasing the veteran wide receiver Wednesday after he’d been unable to fully recover from a hamstring injury suffered in early June.
Asked about Britt’s release during 98.5 The Sports Hub’s pregame show, Belichick simply said: “He missed a lot of time.”
Thumbnail photo via Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports Images
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