While it’s definitely nice to have football back in our collective lives, NFL preseason can be a tough watch.

Patriots fans experienced that early in Thursday night’s game against the Washington Redskins when backup quarterback Brian Hoyer had trouble marching New England’s offense down the field. But the preseason ultimately is for roster battles and those who are deeply invested in the sport enough to care about them.

So, who on the Patriots helped and hurt themselves most Thursday night? Running back Jeremy Hill was the big winner, which probably means Mike Gillislee was the game’s loser.

Let’s dive into this week’s takeaways and metrics to find out why.

Keion Crossen: 1-3, 57 yards, PBU
Stephon Gilmore: 3-3, 39 yards
JC Jackson: 2-4, 27 yards
Kyle Van Noy: 1-2, 25 yards, TD
Eddie Pleasant: 3-3, 18 yards
Ryan Lewis: 1-1, 16 yards
Christian Sam: 1-1, 13 yards
Derek Rivers: 1-1, 11 yards
Jordan Richards: 1-1, 11 yards
Ja’Whaun Bentley: 2-2, 10 yards
Eric Rowe: 1-2, 5 yards, PBU
Damarius Travis: 1-1, 3 yards, TD
Duke Dawson: 1-2, 2 yards
Patrick Chung: 1-1, 0 yards

— Crossen, a rookie, was having a really solid performance until he misjudged a pass and tried to leap in the air to break it up instead of continuing to run downfield. His miscue resulted in a 57-yard play. Crossen had a pass breakup and quarterback hit before the long reception.

— There was a lot to take away from Gilmore’s performance. It wouldn’t have been surprising to see him sit out the first preseason game and get similar treatment to tight end Rob Gronkowski and safety Devin McCourty, both of whom didn’t pay. It was odd to see Washington quarterback Colt McCoy target Gilmore so frequently early in the game, and it was surprising to see the cornerback allow three catches. He’s been the Patriots’ best defender in training camp. His performance isn’t cause for concern, but it is notable.

— Bentley impressed in coverage. There were times last season when Purdue took Bentley off the field in obvious passing situations. He stayed with Washington running backs out of the backfield well.

— Lewis delivered a massive hit to Trey Quinn that knocked the Washington wide receiver out of the game.

— Jackson missed some tackles in the open field.

— Rowe had a solid showing as a starter.

Ja’Whaun Bentley: QB hit, two hurries
Trent Harris: Sack, forced fumble, hurry
Eric Lee: Sack, hurry
Adrian Clayborn: Two QB hits
Deatrich Wise: QB hit, hurry
Adam Butler: Two hurries
Lawrence Guy: Sack
Keion Crossen: QB hit
Derek Rivers: QB hit
Dont’a Hightower: Hurry
Kyle Van Noy: Hurry
Malcom Brown: Hurry
Keionta Davis: Hurry

— The Patriots brought solid pressure all game, but hurries and quarterback hits turned into sacks late. Harris and Lee are viewed as long shots to make the roster, but if they keep making plays, then they could force the Patriots’ hand to carry an extra pass rusher.

— Bentley turned in a performance we’d usually see out of Hightower. He brought pressure, covered running backs well and delivered in the run game. It was a very impressive preseason debut for the fifth-round pick.

— Rivers, not Clayborn, drew the start with Trey Flowers inactive. The Patriots might view Clayborn as more of a situational pass rusher. It’s also possible Rivers drew the start because Flowers plays left defensive end, and Clayborn can’t play that position because he was born with Erb’s palsy. He’s limited to playing on the right side or in the middle of the line. Clayborn might still be battling with Wise for the starting right defensive end job.


— Bentley was the standout in run defense, generating two tackles for loss.

— Rivers and linebacker Elandon Roberts also made splash plays in the run game early.

— The Patriots were stout against the run for most of the game save for a 41-yard carry by Washington running back Kapri Bibbs with 3:27 left in the fourth quarter. The Patriots were using a small four-man front with Davis, a defensive end, playing in the middle. Washington offensive lineman Isaiah Williams got away with a hold on Bentley, and Patriots defensive tackle John Atkins whiffed on a tackle.

Henry Poggi: QB hit, hurry
LaAdrian Waddle: Sack
Matt Tobin: QB hit
Shaq Mason: hurry
Joe Thuney: Hurry
Trent Brown: Hurry
Cole Croston: Hurry
Luke Bowanko: Hurry

— Backup quarterback Brian Hoyer held onto the ball for too long on the sack allowed by Waddle.

— Offensive linemen who played and were clean on the stat sheet: Ulrick John, Ted Karras, James Ferentz and David Andrews.

— The Patriots’ offensive line had a solid performance overall. They have more experience than they usually have at this time of year at the position. Players like Tobin, Bowanko, John, Karras and Ferentz are competing for roles and have plenty of NFL snaps under their belts.

Brian Hoyer:
1. Thrown out of bounds
2. Dropped by Phillip Dorsett
3. Throwaway. Poor timing on screen pass
4. Dropped by Chris Hogan
5. Dropped by Chris Hogan
6. Pass to Devin Lucien broken up
7. Dropped by Ralph Webb

Danny Etling:
1. Overthrow to Lucien
2. Dropped by Riley McCarron
3. Batted at the line of scrimmage

— Etling didn’t play much, but he certainly wasn’t an outright disaster, which is pretty much all you can ask for out of a late-round quarterback in his preseason debut. He made a nice throw to Lucien with 7:09 left in the fourth quarter on an 18-yard pickup.

— Lucien was the star of the Patriots’ passing game. He hauled in four passes for 71 yards with no drops. His experience in the Patriots’ system helps. He spent the last two summers with the Patriots and knows the playbook well.

— Hoyer appeared to complete a pass to wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson by mistake. It looked like he skyed a pass to tight end Will Tye that Patterson just happened to come up with.

— Too many drops. Hogan is a lock for the roster, but he didn’t help himself. On one of his drops, he also was called for offensive pass interference. McCarron has to rebound if he hopes to crack the 53-man roster as a future slot option. He had one nice kick return but didn’t otherwise stand out positively. His direct competition, Braxton Berrios, didn’t do much either.


— Hill was running hard and making quick cuts. He wound up with 11 carries for 51 yards with a touchdown and two catches for 14 yards. He asserted himself well in the Patriots’ roster battle.

— Ralph Webb had a splashy stat sheet with two touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions, but he seemed more like a benefactor of circumstance. He averaged just 3.3 yards per carry and had the drop. It took him two tries to get into the end zone from 1 yard out.

— Running back Mike Gillislee will have to claw for a roster spot. He wasn’t as productive as Hill or Webb and was in on a fumbled handoff from Etling.

Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images