By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Patriots rested most of their starters on Saturday night, so it's hard to figure out where this team really is until next week's "dress rehearsal" game. But it was certainly a good night for a bunch of players who didn't make an impact last year for one reason or another. Those players could collectively make a big difference in 2019.
Saturday's 22-17 win over the Titans belonged to the rookies, three of whom will be covered here. But it was also a promising step forward for Isaiah Wynn, who looks like he's continuing to inch toward securing the starting left tackle job for the Patriots. More on him below.
Although this game looked sloppier than last week's dominating win over the Lions, there wasn't a whole lot that stood out in terms of negatives. Also, It's The Preseason™. But here's what we saw that bears mentioning among the players who boosted their profile and others who took steps backward.
LT Isaiah Wynn. The second-year pro started and played three series at left tackle, with Dan Skipper taking the right side. That's as strong of an indication as we've seen that Wynn remains the projected starter to begin the regular season, with Skipper ultimately taking the swing tackle role. Wynn looked like his feet moved well. That's supposed to be a strength of his, even coming off an Achilles injury. All good things for Wynn to play well in a starter's role and escape without setbacks.
DE Chase Winovich. It felt like Winovich was in the backfield on every play. That's not far off. Matching last week's solid performance against the Lions, Winovich showed great speed around the edge and got good leverage underneath his blockers. He's a lock to make the 53-man roster. The question is how much of a workload he gets as a rookie, but he's clearly a dominant player against backups. If Winovich can prove capable of beating starting-caliber players off the edge, he'll be hard to keep off the field in pass-rushing situations.
RB Damien Harris. The rookie turned heads when he made a nice cutback to the right edge to spring for a 20-yard gain at the end of the first quarter, setting up Brandon Bolden's touchdown to start the second. On the previous play, he caught a pass in the flat from Brian Hoyer and took it for a solid 10-yard gain. Harris made good decisions with the ball in his hands and showed decent burst in this one. The rookie out of Alabama could bring real value to the Patriots offense at some point this season.
CB J.C. Jackson. The second-year pro out of Maryland is in no danger of missing the team, but he didn't have his best night in coverage. He surrendered a 21-yard catch to Titans receiver Corey Davis in the first quarter, and drew a pass interference flag that led directly to a Delanie Walker touchdown. Jackson is still way ahead of where he was a year ago, according to Bill Belichick. But he'll need to be more consistent and disciplined if he wants to be a starting cornerback on this team.
K Stephen Gostkowski. Maybe there's not much of a point to put the kicker here, because his job is secure. But it doesn't exactly bode well for the season that Gostkowski missed a field goal attempt for the second straight game. Yes, It's The Preseason™. But Gostkowski and the field goal-kicking unit have not been sharp in the first game action of 2019.
OL Hjalte Froholdt. The rookie committed a pair of penalties and allowed pressure through the middle early on. He ended up playing the whole game at right guard. Froholdt is still likely to make the 53-man roster, but he clearly has a long way to go. It would probably take multiple injuries on the interior of the offensive line for him to play as a rookie. He's not going to squeeze out Ted Karras just yet.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].