The New England Patriots took on the Las Vegas Raiders in their final preseason matchup before the beginning of the 2022-2023 NFL regular season on Friday night, losing the game 23-6.
Throughout the week leading up to the game, the Patriots had made headlines for their poor showings during the joint practices they held against the Raiders. The leg up that the Raiders seemed to have on the Patriots throughout the entire week of practice seemed to translate into the game, rendering much of the matchup hard to watch for Patriots fans.
While the team as a whole had a very underwhelming performance, here are some individual winners and losers from tonight’s matchup that stood out to me the most.
Winner: J.J. Taylor
I mentioned Taylor as a potential cut candidate earlier this week despite the fact that I love what he brings to this Patriots roster. While I do think he likely could end up on New England’s practice squad or off the team entirely, the ways that the team used him in Friday night’s game showed that there’s a chance he could still earn himself a spot on the 53-man roster.
After veteran running back Ty Montgomery went down with an injury in the first quarter, the Patriots turned to Taylor for reps with the first-team offense. This could be due in part to the fact that starting running back Damien Harris did not dress for the matchup and that the team had been using their other running back, Rhamondre Stevenson, in earlier drives. However, Taylor was able to show off his open-field agility and ability to make other players miss tackles upon catching some passes from Jones.
Later on in the game, he also showed his instincts and grit when he sprinted about 15 or so yards to recover a fumble lost by quarterback Brian Hoyer. Taylor wasn’t even in the same camera shot as Hoyer and the Patriots’ offensive line when the ball was lost, but he used his speed and quick reflexes to run back to the pocket and retrieve the lost ball.
He seems to have a very similar skill set to the aforementioned Montgomery, although he is limited a bit more by his smaller stature (Taylor is only 5-foot-6, 185 pounds). While he does have experience in New England’s system and plays hard, Taylor’s road to making the final roster seems difficult to say the least.
Winner: Jack Jones
While the rest of New England’s secondary seemed to have a bit of an off night, even while their starters were playing against Las Vegas’ second-team offense, Jones played very well to the tune of multiple pass breakups and even a forced fumble.
The 5-foot-11 cover corner out of Arizona State seems to have a clear path to making the 53-man roster given the losses of corners Malcolm Butler and Joejuan Williams for the season. While Butler and Williams were mostly in line for reserve roles with the team, their departures have opened up space for Jones to make the team in their stead.
Cover corner seems to be the Patriots’ largest area of concern on the defensive side of the ball going into the regular season, and it will be interesting to see what the team ends up doing with Jones if their current top options at the position (Jalen Mills, Jonathan Jones) don’t perform well or go down with an injury.
Loser: The offensive line
I don’t know why all of a sudden New England’s offensive line decided to play terribly in this game, but their performance against Las Vegas’ second and third-team defenses did not look too promising.
The starting offensive line was on the field with the rest of the starting unit for most of the first quarter and well into the second. During that time frame, they allowed two sacks of quarterback Mac Jones and forced him to use his legs to make offensive gains on multiple occasions—something that one really does not want to see their starting quarterback having to do in a meaningless preseason game.
After the starters came out of the game, the second-team offensive line didn’t look too much better. All in all, the team allowed four sacks and five quarterback hits throughout the game, while mostly playing against the Raiders’ reserve defensive personnel.
Hopefully, this was a bit of a fluky game for the offensive line, and these warning signs won’t continue into the regular season. However, if the Patriots’ offensive line plays as poorly in the regular season as they did tonight, the already shaky offense could have far more troubles to deal with.
Loser: Mac Jones
This one goes a bit with the offensive line woes, as Jones didn’t seem to have a ton of time to throw while he was in the game. However, even when he did get time, he didn’t look very sharp on his passes.
Mac Jones (9-13 for 71) vs. Raiders backups:
🏈3-and-out after initial 8-yard completion
🏈8 plays — ends with bad INT
🏈 3-and-out (not great deep ball on 1st down)
🏈 11 plays –TD to DeVante Parker negated on ticky-tack OPI call, ends w/ FG
Never looked fully comfortable
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) August 27, 2022
The interception he threw was nowhere close to a receiver, and while he did lead the team on a scoring drive in the final series with the first-team offense, he didn’t do anything flashy.
This performance comes after a month of poor reports coming out of training camp detailing New England’s offensive woes thus far and inspired some hot takes all around Twitter.
It’s official. The Patriots have stunted Mac Jones’ development in the process of installing the new offense.
There’s a chance it ends net positive. But it’s not starting that way.
— Henry McKenna (@McKennAnalysis) August 27, 2022
While this is a meaningless preseason matchup, the way Jones and the rest of New England’s offense played against a Raiders backup defense speaks to their inability to get the offense truly going strong before the season begins.
The onus isn’t necessarily on Jones as much as it is on the coaching staff as well, but he and the rest of the team will need to work hard over the next few weeks and figure out what is going wrong, or else we could be in for a long season.