NE-CAR grades: Brady, Garoppolo struggle in Patriots' win over Panthers
New England Patriots 19, Carolina Panthers 17
Here are the biggest takeaways and highest-graded players from the New England Patriots’ 19-17 preseason win in Carolina.
Quarterback grade: Tom Brady, 45.8; Jimmy Garoppolo, 44.3; Jacoby Brissett, 72.3
Jimmy Garoppolo, Tom Brady both grade poorly
New England came out with its third win of the preseason, but the team won’t be particularly pleased with the performance of either signal-caller. Garoppolo got the start and there wasn’t much to get excited about. He was fairly risk-averse, ending with more passes thrown behind the line of scrimmage (four) than balls that traveled more than 10 yards downfield (three).
Brady got his first action of the preseason late in the first quarter, and over 15 snaps there was some good and some bad. The good was his touchdown pass at 10:10 of the second quarter, a dime that hit WR Chris Hogan in stride against fairly tight coverage. But otherwise Brady showed signs of rust, with several misfires and a bad coverage misread at 3:50 of the second quarter that should have been picked off by Panthers safety Kurt Coleman.
Top offensive grades:
FB James Develin, 83.8
C David Andrews, 81.1
T Marcus Cannon, 80.4
T Nate Solder, 74.6
QB Jacoby Brissett, 72.3
Develin lead the unit with an 83.3 overall grade at fullback; he only played eight run snaps (12 total), but made a pair of key blocks in that time, including at 13:15 of the first quarter, when he opened the edge for a 14-yard gain by RB Tyler Gaffney. Both of New England’s starting tackles had solid games, particularly right tackle Marcus Cannon, who finished with a clean sheet in pass protection, a feat he managed just three times in 14 games last season.
Top defensive grades:
LB Jamie Collins, 80.9
DI Vincent Valentine, 80.8
CB Logan Ryan, 80.7
DE Chris Long, 80.6
LB Dont’a Hightower, 80.4
Several front-seven players stand out for New England
New England’s front seven had a solid showing, particularly from linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower, who combined for three stops in 16 run snaps. Up front, Vincent Valentine picked up two stops of his own, and was otherwise a general nuisance for Carolina’s front five, squeezing the point of attack and clogging running lanes on multiple plays.
On the outside, DE Chris Long converted three of his 20 rushes into pressure, and was close a few other times. He also had a strong game in run defense, notably giving TE Ed Dickson trouble, including at 12:26 of the second quarter, when he forced a holding penalty. On the opposite side, Trey Flowers notched a pair of defensive stops to go with three pressures (one sack, two hurries), one of which helped force an errant throw and interception.
Get the Patriots’ in-depth 2016 season preview right here.
Quarterback grade: Cam Newton, 77.3
Cam Newton bounces back from early misfires, but gets little help from his WRs
This was a rough game for Newton, who was off-target early and ended with two interceptions, although neither throw was egregious. But across 46 snaps, there was more positive about his play than negative, which unfortunately isn’t reflected in box score due to the play of his receivers. Carolina’s pass-catchers dropped five of Newton’s passes (eight for the game), including multiple drops from Ted Ginn Jr. All five of those plays would have resulted in either a first down or touchdown. New England’s secondary also deserves credit, as Newton was frequently forced to check down or stay in the pocket well past four seconds. For the game he averaged 3.44 seconds in the pocket, substantially longer than any QB averaged in 2015 (Tyrod Taylor led the league at 3.23 seconds).
Top offensive grades:
G Trai Turner, 79.2
FB Mike Tolbert, 79.0
QB Joe Webb, 78.7
TE Marcus Lucas, 77.5
QB Cam Newton, 77.3
Devin Funchess stands out among a struggling receiving corps
While several Panthers receivers struggled, notably Ginn and TE Ed Dickson, second-year player Devin Funchess (76.7) was not one of them. He saw a team-high nine targets, hauling in five of them against four different defenders in primary coverage. On the ground, RB Cameron Artis-Payne made several impressive plays, creating yards in spite of poor blocking. He forced three missed tackles on 10 offensive touches, although three mishaps in pass protection substantially lowered his overall grade.
Top defensive grades
LB Shaq Thompson, 83.5
LB Luke Kuechly, 82.2
LB Thomas Davis, 80.2
DT Kawann Short, 79.0
DT Star Lotulelei, 78.1
Panthers’ starting linebacker trio grades very well
Predictably, Carolina’s top performers on defense came in the middle. The trio of linebackers – Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, and Shaq Thompson – combined for nine defensive stops, four of them coming from Kuechly, and in coverage allowed a lone seven-yard pass in four targets between them.
Get the Panthers’ in-depth 2016 season preview right here.