FOXBORO, Mass. — Here are some notes and nuggets from Thursday night’s preseason opener in New England, which the Patriots won 26-17 over the Washington Redskins:
— Geneo Grissom came this close to scoring the first touchdown of his NFL career.
With the Patriots leading 18-17 late in the fourth quarter, rookie defensive end Trent Harris sprinted untouched into the Redskins’ backfield and knocked the ball from quarterback Kevin Hogan’s hand. Grissom, who had been bearing down on Hogan’s blind side, scooped the ball off the turf and took off, lumbering toward the lighthouse end of Gillette Stadium.
The 6-foot-4, 265-pound edge rusher made it 53 yards before wide receiver Simmie Cobbs chased him down from behind and tackled him at the 1-inch line.
So close, yet so far.
Cornerback Ryan Lewis, who began celebrating early and didn’t notice Cobbs closing, owes Grissom a free lunch.
Asked about the play after the game, the soft-spoken Grissom credited Harris for the strip that made his mad dash possible.
“It was a great play by Trent,” Grissom said. “We practice picking up fumbles every day, so just try to make it happen and work out.”
— There were several Patriots players who dressed for the game but did not play. Some of the DNPs were expected, like stars Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski and others like Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Jones and Nate Ebner, who recently returned from injury.
That list also included some surprises, however, most notably cornerback Jason McCourty and offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn. Both have been running with the second units for much of the summer but didn’t leave the sideline Thursday night.
Rookie punter Corey Bojorquez also was an observer, with Ryan Allen taking care of all six Patriots punts.
— Though second-round draft pick Duke Dawson has been the Patriots’ top slot cornerback for much of training camp, Jomal Wiltz served in that role against the Redskins, joining starters Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe when the team brought a third corner onto the field.
Dawson wasn’t part of the second defense, either. That honor went to seventh-round pick Keion Crossen, who had a third-down pass breakup but also allowed a long completion. Dawson’s first snap came late in the second quarter.
Wiltz, who spent most of last season on New England’s practice squad and has yet to make his regular-season debut, also saw time as an outside corner later in the game.
— Gilmore struggled in this game, allowing three catches on three targets for 39 yards on the Redskins’ first two drives. That was unexpected given how dominant he’s been in practice this summer.
— Wide receiver Chris Hogan is another Patriots starter who won’t enjoy watching this film. He had two drops on two targets and also was called for offensive pass interference.
Julian Edelman and Eric Decker both played but were not targeted, much to Edelman’s chagrin.
— Backup quarterback Brian Hoyer played the first three-and-a-half quarters before ceding the stage to third-string rookie Danny Etling.
Hoyer was awful in the early going (3 of 9 for 9 yards over the Patriots’ first five possessions) but improved as the night went on and finished with a respectable, albeit unimpressive statline: 16 of 23 for 144 yards with zero touchdowns and zero interceptions.
The journeyman did guide New England on one seriously impressive drive during the third quarter, though — a 19-play, 84-yard odyssey that took 10:06 off the clock and resulted in a 1-yard Jeremy Hill touchdown.
“I tapped a few times for Mike (Gillislee) to come in because I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can make it,’ ” said Hill, who touched the ball on seven of the 19 plays. “But that was a great opportunity for us as a team. We talk about those kinds of drives all the time, and to get one and see their defense getting so tired, it was a great opportunity for us. Hopefully we can string more of those together.”
Hoyer completed passes to seven different receivers during the drive: tight end Ryan Izzo, tight end Will Tye, wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, wide receiver Devin Lucien, fullback Henry Poggi and Hill.
— Slot receivers Riley McCarron and Braxton Berrios handled all punt and kick return duties for the Patriots. Both are on the roster bubble and likely will need to establish themselves as reliable returners in order to stick around.
Neither contributed much offensively, with Berrios catching one pass on one target for three yards and McCarron finishing with zero catches and one drop on two targets.
— The award for best postgame fashion goes to right tackle LaAdrian Waddle, who started in place of the injured Marcus Cannon.
Thumbnail photo via Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports Images
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