FOXBOROUGH — The New England Patriots beat the Philadelphia Eagles in their second preseason game in a shootout, with a final score of 42-35.
We only saw limited action from quarterback Tom Brady on Friday night before Jimmy Garoppolo came in to play the remainder of the first half. Both offenses were on fire, as evidenced by the final score, and both teams had more than their share of penalties called against them.
Specifically, the Patriots offensive line seemed to struggle with illegal use of hands to the face, and the Eagles defense seemed to struggle with illegal contact downfield.
There is still plenty of time for both sides to get those penalties cleaned up, but for now, here’s a look at some of the players whose on-field performance stood out for better or worse.
Malcolm Butler: With one strong performance after another in training camp, the coaching staff has had a hard time keeping him out of the starting lineup. He made the start at cornerback opposite Darrelle Revis on Friday night. He also had a nice pass break-up in the end zone for the second week in a row. Butler also forced and recovered a fumble in the third quarter. With some shake-ups at safety (including potential position changes for Kyle Arrington and Logan Ryan) that may open up a spot at cornerback, Butler looks like a strong candidate for the roster.
Kyle Arrington: The complexion of the Patriots strong safety battle has taken a turn lately, with Kyle Arrington getting some opportunities to play in the deep part of the secondary in practice. He started the game at strong safety next to Devin McCourty, and stayed there for much of the night, moving down to slot cornerback when the Patriots went to their nickel defense. Arrington also made a nice play on a screen pass, closing downhill in a hurry to stop the play for just a four-yard gain. It will be interesting to see whether Arrington continues to get reps at strong safety.
Kenbrell Thompkins: The second-year wide receiver has had an up-and-down training camp, though mostly up, and his performance on Friday was a solid continuation of his work in practice. He showed off some nice open-field wiggle to take a screen pass for 11 yards even with a defender square in his face, and hauled in a 15-yard pass on a back-shoulder fade in the front of the end zone for a touchdown. There appears to be a lot of mixing and matching going on at wide receiver, but Thompkins refuses to give up his spot without a fight, and appears to be on the good side of the roster bubble.
Stevan Ridley: After a troubling season of fumbles for the Patriots former bell cow, the last thing Ridley could afford was more fumbles in the preseason. After fumbling in the first quarter and being benched for the remainder of the game, Ridley may be having some deja voux to 2013, when he was benched nearly every time he fumbled the ball. James White didn’t do much to impress when he came in after Ridley left the game, but Brandon Bolden rattled off a couple of nice runs to keep the Patriots offense moving in the red zone. Ridley is entering a contract year, and if he keeps this up, he could be fumbling his way out of Foxborough.
Offensive line: Nate Solder was the only offensive lineman to escape the first half without a single negative play to his name. The line was flagged for four penalties total, three for illegal hands to the face (one each for Sebastian Vollmer, Jordan Devey, and Marcus Cannon) and an illegal roll block (Cannon). The line created some nice holes in the running game at times, but also missed a number of blocks that could have helped open things up even further.
Tyler Ott/Darius Fleming: The two men responsible for the blocked punt in the first half. This is disconcerting for Ott, who has been embroiled in a battle with Danny Aiken over the long-snapping duties. That battle appeared to be a dead heat headed into tonight, so this miscue could really hurt Ott’s chances of winning the job.