By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
It's been easy to identify the Patriots' camp battles to date: They have a ton of quality running backs (more on that in a second), their cornerback group might be too talented for their own good, and the wideout situation seems to be all anybody's focused on given the pure uncertainty at the position once you get beyond Phillip Dorsett at the No. 3 spot.
But the duel between New England's two backup quarterbacks, veteran Brian Hoyer and rookie Jarrett Stidham, on Thursday was certainly worth the full viewing of a 31-3 win over the Lions at Ford Field.
Hoyer got the start, and picked the Lion defense apart, with completions on 12 of his 14 passing attempts for 147 yards and two touchdowns. He hooked up with Maurice Harris for a 14-yard strike in the first quarter to complete what was a 2:37 drive, and finished a 13-play, 87-yard touchdown drive with a three-yard dart to Jakobi Meyers.
Stidham, meanwhile, looked every bit capable in his relief appearance, finishing with 179 yards through the air, a touchdown (to Meyers), and completions on 14 of his 24 passing attempts. What you liked about Stidham's game went beyond the stats, though, as the 23-year-old rookie showed some veteran poise and really took care of the football on each and every passing play and drive.
There didn't appear to be any glaring stupidity in Stidham's effort, for lack of a better word. Does this mean he's the next Jimmy G and the heir apparent to Brady's throne? Who the hell knows. It's one game against Detroit's third-stringers and rookies. But it's impossible not to like the first sample put forth by the Auburn talent.
...And most of all, we may have a real battle for the No. 2 spot behind Brady brewing here.
Now, it's worth mentioning that carrying three quarterbacks on the roster isn't exactly foreign to the Patriots.
They did exactly that when they had Jacoby Brissett and Jimmy Garoppolo backing up Tom Brady, so there is the possibility that they opt to carry both Stidham and Hoyer on their roster should they continue to perform at a high level this preseason. But given some of the aforementioned battles and logjams elsewhere on the roster, going with two backups behind Brady would come with a seemingly significant sacrifice elsewhere. For this year's team, and considering that Brady is going to play every non-blowout snap and game, that might be a tougher move than usual.
Here are four other thoughts and takeaways from a blowout victory in The Motor City...
Undrafted free agent RB Nick Brossette gets bulk of ground work against Lions
I can't pretend to have watched extensive film on undrafted free agent Nick Brossette, but I did think that New England's move for the free agent rusher back in April was a tad interesting. An accomplished back at LSU (Brossette is one of 13 backs in LSU history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in a single season), it feels worth mentioning that former Patriot great and Belichick favorite Kevin Faulk was the director of player development for the Tigers during Brossette's time there. Perhaps Faulk put in a good word for the 5-foot-11 back, or perhaps the Patriots' interest in Brossette was backed up by Faulk. (Of course, I'm galaxy-braining something that may not require any such thing, but hey, it's the preseason.)
Earning the start with Brandon Bolden on Thursday night, it was Brossette that got the majority of the carries for the Patriots, with a team-leading 22 rushes for a total of 66 yards (his longest rush was for 10 yards) and a touchdown.
Nick Brossette for the touchdown and 2-point conversion! pic.twitter.com/JtgFbvZmQ3
— PatriotsNation™ (@PatsNationTM) August 9, 2019
The problem for Brossette, of course, is that he's currently behind *the deepest of deep breaths* James White, Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, Bolden, and 2019 third-round pick Damien Harris on New England's depth chart.
I would be curious to see if Burkhead's health and availability opens the door for Brossette, though, as the Patriots could certainly be in need of a short-yardage back in the event that Burkhead can't stay on the field or doesn't make the team.
This defense might actually kill somebody
It's easy to fall into the preseason hype machine, but if Thursday was any indication of what's to come when the fun gets real for this year's Patriots team, this may indeed be one of the deepest New England defenses in recent memory.
In a game without pretty much every projected starter, including new Patriot and noted quarterback devourer Michael Bennett, the Patriots bullied Detroit's offensive line and finished with nine sacks and 10 quarterback hits.
With that havoc coming from the front seven, it was Derek Rivers who led the sack party with two, while rookie Chase Winovich finished with 1.5 sacks by the night's end. Even last year's big preseason standout on defense, linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley, also got in on the fun with a sack. And Jamie Collins Sr., now on his second stint with the Patriots after a two and a half year exile to Cleveland, looked like his old self, which would be a welcomed bonus in 2019.
This looks like the old Jamie Collins we saw early in New England. pic.twitter.com/fL1IYPoivu
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) August 9, 2019
Even John Simon got in on the fun with an interception at the line of scrimmage.
Feelin' for Jermaine Kearse
I'm going to be honest: I hate the preseason. Hate, hate, hate it. Not because of the fact that it's "fake football" -- what a completely outrageous statement, by the way -- but because you watch almost every snap with bated breath. The last thing anybody wants to see is a severe injury in a game that quite literally doesn't matter for close to 50 percent of your camp roster. Hell, I don't even like seeing a roster bubble guy carted off. Everything about it is just the worst.
Naturally, I hated seeing Lions wideout Jermaine Kearse injured, and badly, on the fifth effin' play of the preseason.
You could tell it was an ugly injury from the reaction on the New England sideline, and as Michael Bennett, Kearse's teammate during their run with the Seahawks, came out to the field to support his former teammate. Then came the aircast and the cart, and that was the last we saw of Kearse for the remainder of the evening.
#Lions WR Jermaine Kearse, who was carted off earlier, suffered a broken leg and also associated injuries to his ankle, source said. In what was supposed to be a bounce-back year, it’s a brutal injury instead.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 9, 2019
I get the feeling that you're all going to fall in love with Chase Winovich
This one just feels obvious.
Chase Winovich: “They didn’t give me much time to take my jersey and shoulder pads off, so here I am.” pic.twitter.com/FCQgjsW3dH
— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) August 9, 2019