The 2018 NFL preseason is officially upon us with the New England Patriots beating the Washington Redskins 26-17 on Thursday night in their preseason opener.
But we all know the final score is the least important factor of a preseason game – so what did we learn from seeing Brady, Gronk, Belichick and co. back together at Gillette?
After an offseason packed with speculation, rumors and a dash of pure fiction, everyone looked pretty damn happy to get back to work and shut out the white noise (we’re sure Bill was smiling on the inside).
Brady out, Hoyer in
Having just celebrated his 41stbirthday, Brady took a well-deserved night off from the action on Thursday, leaving the QB duties to backup Brian Hoyer. The Boston Globe reported that a league source said Tom has a sore back, with the news coming on the same day that it was announced that No. 12 had secured a new contract with the team that includes $5-million in performance-based incentives, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Compensation update: Patriots are adding up to $5 million in performance-based incentives to Tom Brady’s contract, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 9, 2018
Hoyer ended the game 16-for-23 with 144 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions and an 86.1 passer rating. “It was too slow to start,” he later told reporters during the post-game press conference. “We have to be better. It was more just basic execution than anything else."
Brian Hoyer postgame press conference: https://t.co/vUKh3aur5D— New England Patriots (@Patriots) August 10, 2018
Belichick being Belichick
Belichick gave a lengthy response on Friday when asked by reporters if he had anything to say about Brady not playing: “No. Sorry.” OK … moving on.
The Hoodie also started Thursday night off with his usually dose of dryness, saying that the Pats had played about “38 seconds of good football” in the first half of the game. Thankfully, the only way to go from there was up.
Brady and Gronk are sideline MVPs
Gronk and Brady are rarely on the field together during preseason, so with neither of them playing, the best pass of the night from QB to TE came in the corridors of Gillette Stadium with this awesome banter.
"Gronk's too good looking"
Brady: "I know"
Gronk: "Thank you"
Brady and Gronk in the building for tonight's preseason opener. Everyone's in a good mood, football is finally back. #Patriots— Chad Amaral (@Chad_Amaral) August 9, 2018
"Gronk's too good looking"
Brady: "I know"
Gronk: "Thank you" pic.twitter.com/ahPbtdPACI
And that, kids, says it all!
Former Bengals running back Jeremy Hill – playing his first game in a Pats jersey since signing with them in March – made a fast impact on fans as the top rusher of the night and scoring his first New England touchdown. He carried 11 times for 51 yards, including a 1-yard flight over the goal line for a third quarter touchdown, earning him the honor of being a top trend on Twitter in the process.
“It was a little shaky at first, but I’m glad we kept fighting. It paid off in the second half,” Hill said after the game, according to Patriots.com. As for his role on the team, Hill was more than amiable. “I have to do everything I can on special teams and on offense to help this team win games. Whatever the coaches ask me to do, I’m going to try to execute at a high level and have fun. Hopefully, that’ll put me in the position I need to be when the regular season comes.”
Many assume that will mean battling for a roster spot with Mike Gillislee (who had 43 yards on 14 carries).
In Ju’Whaun we trust
Aside from having the coolest name on the roster, fifth round draft pick Ju’Whaun Bentley led the defense with five tackles. The rookie linebacker from Purdue has already made a good impression during training camp, showing more speediness than most critics expected of him coming out of college.
Undrafted rookie running back Ralph Webb also made a good first impression with both fans and coaches. Wearing his newly-assigned No. 22 jersey, Webb had 14 carries for 46 yards, including touchdowns of 8 and 1 yard, to add a total of 16 points to the board. But even more importantly than that, he earned early praise from Belichick in regard to how hard he had to run and the pad level technique to showed, according to USAToday’s Patriotswire.
Return of Mintron
No one was happier to be back on the field (for now at least) than Julian Edelman in his first “game” since missing the entire 2017 season with a knee injury. The Pats are still treating their prize receiver cautiously however, as Edels wasn’t targeted by Hoyer once. “It was fun ... The nerves were juiced and I was just excited to get out there and play football,” Minitron told the media afterwards.
He may have been low on stats by the end of the night, but Jules won the MVP for best Instagram post to kick off preseason.