Have been under the gun a little bit getting Sunday NFL Notes done while also re-watching the Patriots-Saints game. Will be back with more thoughts on the game Saturday morning, but wanted to give you this snippet, which will be a part of Sunday’s notes.
Five players who impressed the most
- Chandler Jones, DE: Yeah, we know, breaking news here. In just 26 snaps, Jones led the team with four of the Patriots’ 16 total quarterback pressures (sacks, hurries and knockdowns combined). More impressive was that he shared two stuffed runs (carries of 1-yard or less).
- Jerod Mayo, LB: Wasn’t totally flawless – he and Kyle Arrington covered the same player on one play – but Mayo was really good all-around. His takedown of RB Darren Sproles on third down for just 4 yards was a rare play. Mayo added a standout run tackle, and he caused Steve Gregory’s interception when Mayo read Chase Daniel’s eyes before tipping the pass.
- Zoltan Mesko, P: Nobody cares about the kickers in the preseason (or in the regular season until they screw up) but Mesko started off what could be a Pro Bowl season with a punting clinic. On eight punts, Mesko averaged 47.8 yards and 45.0 net (both coverage units were outstanding). The net average would have led the NFL last year. And Mesko averaged 4.64 seconds of hang time. That’s terrific.
- Trevor Scott, DE: Going to grade on a little bit of a curve because he did it in the second half against reserves, but production is production. Scott had a sack, led the team with 2½ knockdowns, forced a fumble and had a half stuffed run. But if Scott really wants to play, he’s going to have to show more variety in his pass-rush moves. Right now it’s just coming on effort.
- Ryan Wendell, C: Had a completely clean sheet during his competition with Dan Koppen (botched snap), who was solid in pass protection but was slow in the run game (two poor blocks). Wendell did a very nice job controlling the middle against a very stout and active Saints front.
Just missing the cut: DE Rob Ninkovich (2.5 pressures), DE Jermaine Cunningham (2.5 pressures), DT Marcus Forston (pressure, 1.5 run stuffs), CB Ras-I Dowling (two pass breakups, tough tackle), RB Shane Vereen (broken tackle, great run), OG Donald Thomas (hurry).
Five players who had their struggles
- Marcus Cannon, RT: His statistics are a bit skewed because he played most of the game, but Cannon was overpowered much of the game with six total quarterback pressures (sack, three hurries, two knockdowns). Cannon also didn’t execute a run and pass, and was (unfairly) flagged for a false start.
- Ryan Mallett, QB: Had a couple of nice throws sidestepping pressure and stepping up to deliver the ball, but had five poor tosses, including an interception. He just didn’t look comfortable and the game is not coming naturally to him. Mallett appears to be thinking way too much. He can’t play like that. Mallett had one practice where he just played, and he looked the part. Haven’t seen it since.
- Nate Solder, LT: Allowed three hurries (including penalties) so between Cannon and Solder, the Patriots’ tackles combined to allow nine of the 13 total pressures allowed (and the Saints hardly blitzed). Solder also had additional poor run and pass blocks. Still, he wasn’t quite as bad as people made out. Most of his problems had to do with minor technique stuff that can (and will) be cleaned up.
- Dan Connolly, RG: Not a very sharp performance from a player who is normally more steady. Connolly had all sorts of trouble containing Saints third-round pick Akiem Hicks, who is a load at 6-5 and 324 pounds out of Regina, Canada). Connolly gave up a hurry and knockdown to Hicks, and an additional hurry.
- Dont’a Hightower, LB: Nothing to be alarmed about, it was a typical debut for a player playing multiple positions – he played all three spots against the Saints – where he has to do a lot of reading and reacting. Hightower got caught leaning on a couple runs, appeared to take too deep a drop to allow an easy catch underneath, and seemed a step behind at times (likely from thinking too much). He did, however, have one play where he just cut it loose, and stood the running back up in the hole (didn’t wrap up, however).
Just missing the cut: CB Kyle Arrington (coverage, penalty, missed tackle for 13 yards), TE Alex Silvestro (two stuffed runs), OL Nick McDonald (two stuffed runs), RB Stevan Ridley (wrong hole, failed to get out on screen pass), S Patrick Chung (two bad angles in coverage).