×

Patriots have the potential to get younger, but better?

Here’s a few takeaways from Saturday night’s New England Patriots 22-17 preseason snoozer over the Tennessee Titans, while wondering what Bill Belichick ate before the game to put him in a less than cheerful mood:

——We can’t remember a preseason when the Patriots played so many rookies who look like they belong. Chase Winovich, Damien Harris, Joejuan Williams, Jarrett Stidham, Jakobi Meyers, the list goes on. And you also have to basically include Isiaah Wynn from the last draft class. The last two years the Patriots have drafted well.

—– Speaking of the rookies, it used to be you’d get maybe three questions with Patriots rookie in the locker room after a preseason game, under the watchful eye of a media relations staffer. Now they are all trotted out to the podium, basically. But the reason is they’re all playing as the Patriots have chosen to sit most of their starters in the first couple of preseason games. A wise move. The guess is we’ll see some or most of the main names, including quarterback Tom Brady, this Thursday night at Gillette vs. Carolina, and then they will disappear unitl the Sunday Night opener vs. Pittsburgh on Sept. 7.

Defensive end Winovich, who was all over the place (five tackles, a sack) on Saturday night, is a character and will be a huge fan favorite in Foxborough if he plays when it counts like he has this summer. He quotes Shakespeare on Istagram (to which Brady replied, “Study your playbook”.

The one word that’s always associated with Winovich is “motor” .

“Chase is a high motor player, he plays hard,” Belichick said. “Very good in pursuit, you see it in the kicking game, you see it on defense. He’s got a good motor, plays hard.”

“He has a motor,” rookie QB Stidham said, “like no other.”

“I’m just taking it one step at a time,” Winovich said. “Honestly today was a day like any other. Ever since high school my Grandma has been promising me if I played hard and didn’t get hurt she’s been promising me $5 and a chocolate bar. … Today was just another day where I said I’ve got to play hard. I need that five dollars and that candy. … I joke, but at the end of the day I know I have a lot of support and a lot of people that believe in me.” While a character, he does give credit to his teammates and coaches. “I deflect any success that I have goes back to my teammates, helping me make calls, adjustments or in practice going against each other. And my coaches, day-in, day-out, just staying on top of me.”

Oh boy. You wonder if his locker was filled with chocolate bars when he got back to Gillette early Sunday morning.

We finally got a glimpse of rookie running back Damian Harris, the former Alabama rusher who averaged nearly six yards a carry last year. Harris looks like a guy who will pound ahead, has a few moves, and will take a lot of the pressure off Sony Michel once the Patriots feel comfortable enough to give him carrys when it counts. He had 14 carries for 80 yards, 20 of them on one run, the other night.

“It was just part of the game plan,” Harris said. “Just being able to go out there and playe with these guys, it was my first opportunity to play with this team, I was really excited.”

If Isaiah Wynn is indeed the starting left tackle, as he was on Saturday, the days of the beheamoths at the position are over. He’s no Trent Brown or Nate Solder, and even rookie corner Joejuan Williams (6-3) is bigger as Wynn is 6-2. But he’s quick, and it certainly looks as if the Patriots want him to command that spot.

Stidham didn’t look as polished as he did in the preseason opener vs. the Lions, although he went 14 of 19 for 193 yards and a TD. Still, he made a couple of good decisions (to go with some bad ones), and we still think he will be the No. 2 once the season starts. Chuckles Belichick seemed annoyed the other night with having to explain that the Patriots knew Stidham has a strong accurate arm from Baylor to Auburn to now. Next question.

The Josh Gordon topic is a hot one that none of these Patriots seemingly wants to tackle. Belichick issued a statement on Gordon on Saturday that said “For the past eight months, Josh’s situation has been entirely a league matter. When Josh returns to our program, we will evaluate the entire situation and dowhat we feel is best for the Josh and the team.”

And of course he didn’t want to elaborate when asked by WBZ-TV’s Steve Burton at halftime, a classic Belichick interview if you haven’t seen it.

Patriot captain Matthew Slater after the game talked about the concern for Gordon’s well-being, etc., and ended with these words: “What’s good, what’s not good remains to be seen.”

The regular season can’t get here soon enough, but names will change over the next couple of years. But don’t get too excited yet. Remember the words of the rookie corner Williams, who said “At the end of the day, it’s a learning curve for me,” he said. “I’m a rookie.”

The Patriots are getting younger, and that’s a good thing.

Tom King may be reached at 594-1251, or@Telegraph_TomK, or tking@nashuatelegraph.com