NFL News & Analysis

NFL Preseason Week 2 Game Recap: New England Patriots 20, Carolina Panthers 10

Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) at the line of scrimmage against the Carolina Panthers in the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

With the Patriots starting first-teamers and the Panthers playing second- and third-stringers, it wasn’t shocking to see New England prevail over Carolina, 20-10, off a strong defensive performance in Week 2 of the 2022 NFL preseason.

Editor’s note: All grades in this article are subject to review. All PFF player grades will be finalized by 12 pm ET tomorrow.


NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

QUARTERBACK

  • The Patriots’ starting offense got off to a slow start against mostly Panthers backups with two consecutive three-and-outs. Then quarterback Mac Jones led New England on a scoring drive to cap his third and final series, headlined by a deep 45-yard completion to wide receiver Nelson Agholor. Jones went 4-of-8 for 61 yards with one big-time throw and earned a pending 74.2 PFF grade on 16 snaps. 
  • Bailey Zappe, a rookie fourth-round pick, outplayed Corral, going 16-of-25 for 173 yards with an interception. He made one big-time throw and had the one turnover-worthy play. Wide receivers dropped three passes with Zappe at the helm.

RUNNING BACK

  • The Patriots used their running backs by series on Friday night, with Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson and Ty Montgomery each receiving one series. Of Harris’ 18 rushing yards, 16 came after contact. He also forced one missed tackle on three carries.
  • Montgomery carried the ball four times for 13 yards with a touchdown. He picked up eight yards after contact and two first downs.

RECEIVERS

  • Earlier this summer, some people around the NFL believed Nelson Agholor would be the odd-man out in New England’s wide receiver corps amid the emergence of rookie Tyquan Thornton. Agholor sparked the Patriots’ first touchdown drive with a 45-yard catch. He caught two passes on three targets for 52 yards with a drop. Thornton, meanwhile, suffered a shoulder injury.
  • Kendrick Bourne wasn’t present for Friday night’s game for undisclosed reasons. He was ejected from practice Tuesday for fighting and then wasn’t included in initial first-team reps Wednesday morning.
  • Wide receivers Tre Nixon, Josh Hammond and DeVante Parker and running back J.J. Taylor also dropped passes.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • First-round left guard Cole Strange earned an 85.1 pass-blocking grade on first review, letting up one hurry on 20 pass-blocking snaps.
  • Top tackles Trent Brown and Isaiah Wynn didn’t play, putting Yodny Cajuste at left tackle, kicking Michael Onwenu from right guard to right tackle and inserting James Ferentz at right guard. Onwenu has always shown the ability to slide from guard to tackle and didn’t allow a pressure on 27 pass-blocking snaps against Carolina.
  • Cajuste struggled, letting up five hurries on 27 pass-blocking snaps.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Edge defenders Deatrich Wise and Josh Uche both beat Ikem Ekwonu for sacks.
  • Defensive tackle Carl Davis finished with two run stops on just five snaps.
  • Rookie defensive tackle Sam Roberts made three defensive run stops and beat his blocker on four of 15 pass-rush snaps.

LINEBACKER

  • Starting linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley finished with three run stops on just nine run-defense snaps.
  • Raekwon McMillan showed off his blitzing prowess with two hurries on just four pass-rushing snaps. He also had two run stops.
  • Anfernee Jennings, who started, played deep into the game and brought down Matt Corral for a sack. He also had a hurry and quarterback hit on 14 pass-rush snaps.

SECONDARY

  • Cornerback Jonathan Jones, who primarily played in the slot since going undrafted out of Auburn in 2016, has been an outside cornerback recently in training camp. He let up one seven-yard catch on three targets with one forced incompletion while playing 24 of his 30 snaps outside.
  • Safety Joshuah Bledsoe was a playmaker early in camp and forced a bang-bang fumble after a reception by Panthers tight end Stephen Sullivan. That was his only target, and he let up just two yards before the forced fumble.
  • Cornerback Shaun Wade, a 2021 fifth-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens who was traded to New England at the end of last summer, is making a push for a roster spot. He intercepted Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold in joint practices this week and then picked off P.J. Walker on his only target Friday night.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

QUARTERBACK

  • The Panthers planned to play mostly second- and third-stringers, which meant quarterback P.J. Walker handled the first and third quarters (plus a cameo in the fourth quarter) and rookie Matt Corral took over in the second and fourth quarters.
  • Walker went 8-of-14 for 107 yards with two interceptions. He was 0-for-2 with the pick on deep throws and fumbled in the end zone late for a Patriots defensive score.
  • Corral, a third-round pick out of Ole Miss, was 9-of-15 for 58 yards and earned just a 35.9 passing grade on first pass. He didn’t make a big-time throw and had two turnover-worthy plays.

RUNNING BACK

  • Panthers backup running backs likely won’t get many touches as long as Christian McCaffrey stays healthy, but both Chuba Hubbard and D’Onta Foreman did a nice job racking up yards after contact Friday night. Hubbard picked up all 22 of his rushing yards after contact. Of Foreman’s 16 rushing yards, 15 came after contact.
  • Hubbard and Foreman each forced one missed tackle apiece.

RECEIVERS

  • Panthers receivers really didn’t get many chances to catch the ball with Walker and Corral at quarterback. Keith Kirkwood, Rashard Higgins and Shi Smith led the way in snaps. Higgins and Smith are competing with Terrace Marshall Jr. for the No. 3 wide receiver spot behind D.J. Moore and Robbie Anderson in Carolina’s offense.
  • Tight end Tommy Tremble caught one pass for four yards on a contested target and forced a missed tackle.
  • Undrafted rookie wide receiver Derek Wright, who’s had some standout moments in practice, led the team in receiving with one catch on one target for 32 yards.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Rookie first-round pick Ikem Ekwonu was one of few Panthers starters to play Friday night. He struggled in pass protection, letting up two sacks on back-to-back plays.
  • Brady Christensen and Michael Jordan are competing for the starting left guard spot. Christensen played just 19 snaps, while Jordan was on the field for 38 plays. On first pass, Christensen earned a 58.2 grade to Jordan’s 40.5 mark.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Rookie edge defender Amare Barno provided three hurries on 15 pass-rushing snaps.
  • Defensive tackle Bravvion Roy earned an 82.1 grade on first pass across 30 snaps.

LINEBACKER

  • Rookie linebacker Brandon Smith took on a heavy workload. He finished with a sack and a hurry and let up two catches on three targets for 24 yards on 48 snaps.
  • Khalan Tolson earned a 76.1 grade on first pass across 20 snaps. He made one run stop and wasn’t targeted in coverage.

SECONDARY

  • Cornerback Tae Hayes picked off Patriots rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe and allowed three catches on five targets for 34 yards.
  • Cornerback Myles Hartsfield didn’t allow a catch on two targets while primarily playing in the slot.
  • Safety Sean Chandler earned an 81.3 grade on first pass. He had one hurry and three run stops, and he let up one five-yard catch on two targets.
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