By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The outcome didn’t matter, because It’s The Preseason. But the individual performance for a lot of players meant a good deal to their standing on the roster.
Whether it’s a roster lock who’s trying to earn a bigger role or a bubble player losing ground, there were plenty of risers and fallers to go around in the Patriots’ 10-3 preseason win over the Panthers on Thursday.
In fact, they came in all three phases of the game. Yes, there’s a couple of special teamers in here. Check below for this week’s Rise & Fall picks.
WR Phillip Dorsett. In what felt like an important game to prove he still has a place in the Patriots’ offense, Dorsett really showed up. He caught all five targets from Tom Brady for 41 yards, consistently getting open in the right spots and showing a strong rapport with No. 12. He may lack the size or upside of other receivers on the roster, but Dorsett appears as comfortable as ever in the offense and deserves to stick around.
TE Ryan Izzo. The second-year pro out of Florida State started at tight end alongside Ben Watson in the running game. He’s looked solid as an in-line blocker and that would be his primary role if he makes the team. But Izzo also showed impressive hands on a catch from Brady, snagging a contested ball in a tight window to set up a first-and-goal at the time. Izzo probably has the upper hand over Lance Kendricks for a reserve tight end role at this point.
QB Jarrett Stidham. It may not have mattered much how Stidham played after he entered the game. It was a good-enough sign for the rookie that he came in as the No. 2 quarterback in the first place. It could also mean that Bill Belichick simply wanted to test him against at least some of the Panthers’ starters. He did lose a fumble, which showed how he can still stand to improve his decision-making and ball security. But Stidham went 15-for-19 for 134 yards in another encouraging outing, one that may earn him the full-time backup job.
DE Chase Winovich. The rookie out of Michigan wasn’t as disruptive as he was against backups while going against the Panthers’ starting defense, but it was notable that he started in the first place. The Patriots are deep everywhere on defense and Winovich still found a place with the main units. The rest of the defensive starters weren’t a surprise. Winovich could be playing himself into a surprisingly big role in his rookie year.
WR Gunner Olszewski. The rookie former defensive back’s chances of making the 53-man roster are slim-to-none, but he’s making a strong case for the practice squad – if he can clear waivers. He showed excellent speed and vision as a punt returner all night and can simulate multiple positions for a scout team. Of all the players who need to showcase themselves in this game, Olszewski arguably did the best job of it.
WR Jakobi Meyers. The undrafted rookie played better once backup QB Jarrett Stidham came in (seven catches on 10 targets from Stidham for 74 yards). But he missed all three targets from Brady and also committed a holding penalty while running with the starters. On an early third-down play, Brady had time to throw and targeted Meyers deep, but the receiver stopped running. Meyers is still going to make the team, but Thursday showed that he’s far from starting material at this point. He’s likely going to be fourth or fifth in the pecking order when Brady has a full complement of receivers.
QB Brian Hoyer. The mere fact that rookie Jarrett Stidham came in first after Brady is a bad sign for Hoyer, who didn’t play at all. At this point it wouldn’t be shocking if the Patriots released Hoyer before final cutdowns to give him a chance to look around for a new team. It also wouldn’t shock if the Patriots held on to him anyway. But it’s clear that they were comfortable enough sticking with Stidham as the first backup in the dress rehearsal.
DT Mike Pennel. The veteran interior lineman barely saw the field and played zero snaps in the first half. Danny Shelton has severely outperformed him for most of the summer and he’s mostly run with the backups. Pennel felt like a safe bet to make the team when they signed him, but he hasn’t shown any reason to believe that now. He looks like the odd man out for D-linemen on the bubble.
P Jake Bailey. The rookie can absolutely smash the ball on punts and should be valuable in that area, but he’s also going to be depended on to hold for kicker Stephen Gostkowski. The laces were in on Gostkowski’s miss late in the third quarter, so that one’s on Bailey. He’ll need to clean that up quickly.
G/C Hjalte Froholdt. It’s been a rough preseason for the rookie. He’s still very likely to make the 53-man roster, but it’s almost as if he’d benefit from finding a way to be stashed during his rookie season. It’s unlikely he’ll get in there at all as long as the starters (and Ted Karras) are all healthy. Froholdt got blown up on a play up the middle that led directly to Stidham’s lost fumble. He clearly has a long way to go.
There will be one more Rise & Fall after next Thursday’s preseason finale. Due to the nature of that game, it will likely focus entirely on who made the best and worst cases for filling out the end of the roster.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.