14 thoughts from the Patriots’ preseason loss to the Panthers

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Fourteen thoughts on the Patriots’ 25-14 loss to the Panthers on Friday night . . .

1. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m pretty sure I have company in this. We have a knack around here of exaggerating the possibilities when an unheralded or unsung wide receiver delivers an impressive performance in a preseason game.

I’m not saying we thought Austin Carr and Brian Tyms were going to be the second coming of Wes Welker and Terry Glenn. But we might have suggested in the moments of highest preseason hopes that they were the next, oh, Stephen Starring and Vincent Brisby. They were not.

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Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson are recent former first-round picks, players with a pedigree rather than anonymous rookie free agents trying to do something, anything, to catch the football and a coach’s attention.

But the goal is the same: To make a good impression, stick around, and ultimately work their way into Tom Brady’s tight circle of trust, which has a few openings for competent receivers at the moment.

Dorsett, a former Colts first-rounder, was terrific Friday night, with four catches on four targets for 36 yards. Patterson had five catches for 37 yards, got wide open deep (Brian Hoyer missed him), and even drew a couple of flags.

Dorsett, who always seemed to be in the right place, has been inconsistent in his career, but appears to be getting comfortable in his second year in the Patriots’ system. There’s hope for him, and Patterson, while perhaps more likely to be erratic, could be electric in short bursts.

Nope, I’m not going to compare either one of them with Stanley Morgan or Harold Jackson, but I’m almost convinced that they’re both going to be assets this year. I wouldn’t have said that a week ago. It’s the kind of progress you want to see in preseason.

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2. Julian Edelman seems to be running sharp routes and getting open, and that’s the important thing coming off a major knee injury. But he should probably get acquainted with the Jugs machine when his four-game suspension kicks in. He had a couple of drops Friday night in the second quarter.

3. Torry Holt, Reggie Wayne, and Eric Decker have combined for 2,429 catches in the NFL. All three have been on the Patriots’ roster at one point. I’m not sure their combined total of catches as a Patriot is going to exceed zero, if you get what I’m saying about Decker’s chances.

4. Decker did get some run in the second half with backup quarterback Brian Hoyer. They nearly connected on a deep ball down the right sideline — Decker did get wide open — but Hoyer’s throw sailed out of bounds. I don’t know if that play counts in Decker’s favor on not.

Eric Decker (81) can’t come up with a catch against the Panthers’ Corn Elder in the second half Friday. —Jason E. Miczek/Associated press

5. Panthers safety Mike “Pops’’ Adams is entering his 15th season, which is impressive enough even without noting that he went undrafted in 2004 and began his career at the bottom — by making the Niners as a rookie free agent.

6. Devin McCourty played two seasons at cornerback before the Patriots moved him to safety. Jason McCourty played two preseason games at cornerback before the Patriots moved him to safety. I don’t think that necessarily means he’s in trouble. It’s a versatility check.

7. Patterson’s kick and punt returns are going to be must-see events this season. It was actually a small disappointment when it looked like he was going to get a chance to return a punt with seven minutes left in the second quarter, only to have the Panthers punter leave it short for Riley McCarron.

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8. Good to see Rob Gronkowski out there for his semi-annual preseason cameo. Better to see him get out of there in good health with the cameo behind him.

9. The frustrating thing about this one is . . . well, I suppose it’s the score, if you actually care about preseason football scores. I do not believe you do. Quick, how’d the Patriots fare in preseason Week 3 in 2004? In 2007? In 2014? Yeah, no one remembers. Other than Bill Belichick and Ernie Adams, I suppose.

Coach Bill Belichick argues a call during the first half Friday. 2018. —Jason E. Miczek/Associated press

10. No, the frustration is about who wasn’t there rather than anything to do with who was. I wanted to see Jacob Hollister and Ryan Izzo in the battle to enter Brady’s circle of trust at tight end, but both were out with injuries. So, too, was first-round pick Sony Michel — and fellow first-round pick Isaiah Wynn is already lost for the year.

11. Am I the only one who wants to see Cyrus Jones make this team? His Patriots career has been a disaster in multiple ways, but he was such a dynamic player at Alabama just a couple of years ago. That’s still there, somewhere.

12. Periodic reminder that Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson went 0 for 39 with 37 strikeouts for the 2012 Gulf Coast League Red Sox, where his teammates included Tzu-Wei Lin. He did walk eight times, though. I think John Henry Williams had a more productive minor league career.

13. As a color analyst, Scott Zolak is a cult hero and yet somewhat polarizing, too. The unicorns-and-show-ponies Zo-isms aren’t for everyone. But in terms of pure analysis, I’m not sure how anyone could have a problem with him. His knack for identifying and explaining what Brady is seeing as he sets up behind the center is constantly impressive.

14. Convinced that Panthers backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke is wearing a slightly altered leftover Chris Weinke jersey. What’s that? Why yes, I am ready for the regular season to get here. Just one more dress rehearsal to go.

Carolina’sTaylor Heinicke (6) is congratulated by Ian Thomas after his 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter Friday. —Jason E. Miczek/Associated press
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