Here's how Patriots' starters fared in preseason win over Panthers


The New England Patriots didn't play many starters in their preseason opener against the New York Giants last week. Those players finally saw some game action Friday night when the Patriots beat the Carolina Panthers 20-10 at Gillette Stadium on Friday night.

The most anticipated debut was that of quarterback Mac Jones and the rest of the offensive starters. The Patriots have installed a new offense in training camp and the results have been mixed, to put it kindly. 

It took a while for this unit to get going against the Panthers' second- and third-string defense Friday.

The first possession began with a good 6-yard run by Damien Harris. The next two plays were poorly executed. DeVante Parker dropped a pass that was thrown behind him on second down. Jones was sacked on third down and the Patriots punted.

The second possession was even worse. An overthrow intended for Jakobi Meyers and another incomplete pass intended for Rhamondre Stevenson forced the punt team to trot back out on the field. Jones and Stevenson clearly weren't on the same page, as Stevenson didn't turn his head around to find the ball until after it had passed him.

The Patriots started to find their groove offensively on the third drive. They picked up three first downs, including one on a perfectly placed 45-yard throw from Jones to Nelson Agholor.  The drive ended with Ty Montgomery running up the middle for a 2-yard touchdown and a 7-3 Patriots lead with 12:23 left in the second quarter.

It was a confidence-building drive for the Patriots' mostly-first team offense. This was also the point when many of the starters began to exit the game.

Here's a look at how the Patriots starters on both sides of the ball fared in preseason game No. 2.

Mac Jones, QB

Jones missed on his first three passes, but he connected on four of his next five attempts, highlighted by a 45-yard deep pass to Agholor -- the kind of explosive play downfield along the sideline that the veteran wide receiver was brought in last offseason to make.

Jones' other important throw also went to Agholor. It was a 7-yard completion on a third-and-5 play that prevented a third consecutive 3-and-out for New England. 

Jones' night ended after the Montgomery touchdown. He was replaced by backup Brian Hoyer. Jones finished 4-of-8 for 61 yards with zero touchdowns and zero interceptions. He was sacked once.

Running Backs

The Patriots' top two running backs didn't see a ton of work.

Harris made the most of his carries. He picked up 18 yards on three attempts, including a 7-yard run in the second quarter that was the team's longest of the game. Stevenson tallied just four yards on two carries. Neither Harris nor Stevenson caught a pass.

Ty Montgomery ran the ball four times for 13 yards and a touchdown. He also had one reception for five yards. Montgomery could play a Cordarrelle Patterson-lite role for the Patriots this season given his impressive versatility.

Wide Receivers

It was a bit of a rough start for the wideouts, but things started to improve on the third drive.

Here are the stats for the top three wide receivers in the Patriots offense Friday:

  • DeVante Parker: One reception, 17 yards, two targets
  • Nelson Agholor: Two receptions, 54 yards, three targets
  • Tyquan Thornton: One reception, 13 yards, one target

Thornton was ruled out in the second half with a shoulder injury.

Kendrick Bourne did not play at all against the Panthers. He was thrown out of Tuesday's joint practice against the Panthers for his role in a fight between the two teams. He did not factor much in Wednesday's joint practice, either. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick might have been trying to send a message to Bourne with his lack of playing time post-fight.

Tight Ends

Hunter Henry did not play Friday. He left Tuesday's joint practice with an undisclosed injury and also didn't see the field Wednesday.

Jonnu Smith and Devin Asiasi were the starting tight ends. Smith was not targeted in the passing attack. Asiasi hauled in three receptions for 32 yards on three targets. 


The Patriots' defensive starters played well, although it's worth noting that the Panthers' top two quarterbacks -- Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold -- didn't play a single snap. In fact, most of the Panthers' offensive starters, including running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receiver DJ Moore, didn't see the field. 

That said, there was a lot to like from New England's defense. The starters allowed only three points. The Panthers didn't score a touchdown until the third quarter, and it was a defensive score on a Bailey Zappe pick-6. The Panthers started PJ Walker at quarterback, and he completed just six of 12 pass attempts for 65 yards with zero touchdowns and one interception.

Here are some individual highlights from the defensive starters:

-- Ja'Whaun Bentley had a team-leading six tackles in his brief time on the field. His best play came on a Panthers screen pass that he anticipated and made a tackle for a loss.

-- Josh Uche had one of the Patriots' five sacks.

-- Matthew Judon broke through the offensive line on a few occasions and also got his hand on this PJ Walker pass attempt. Judon and Anfernee Jennings started opposite each other at linebacker and they looked like a solid combo, especially in the pass rush.

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