The Washington Football Team travelled to Gillette Stadium to take on Cam Newton and the New England Patriots for their first preseason game and was defeated in a 22-13 loss. Here are five takeaways from the first preseason matchup.
1. Chase Young is still a dude.
It might sound like an insane crossover movie, but Superman got an up-close introduction with the Predator.
Chase Young did not take long to show that he's picked up right where he left off at the end of his Defensive Rookie of the Year season. Cam Newton and the Patriots were facing a 3rd-and-8 at their own 22 yard line when Young enveloped the former No. 1 overall pick. The play initially looked like a sack that resulted in a fumble, but it was eventually ruled as an incomplete pass.
Young's night ended about halfway through the first quarter, but he made it clear that he's still a terror for offensive tackles. He routinely won his battles against James Wynn and put the pressure on Newton. If someone needed evidence that Young is still one of the most dominant young edge rushers in the game for some reason, they have it after tonight.
2. Fitzpatrick's connections with top pass-catchers is real.
It turns out it was just as effective.
Fitzpatrick's first pass of the day, which came on a 2nd-and-7, was a 22-yard strike to McLaurin down the middle of the defense. The next had a much higher degree of difficulty; Fitzpatrick gave just enough touch for Thomas to make an over-the-shoulder grab with a defender draped over him to convert a 3rd-and-10 for a 24-yard completion.
As for Humphries, Rivera said his and Fitzpatrick's chemistry was most apparent on intermediate throws, and sure enough, Humphries knew where Fitzpatrick needed him to be to convert a 3rd-and-5 with a six-yard reception.
Fitzpatrick finished his night 5-of-8 for 58 yards. Even though neither of his drives ended in points, there was a lot to like about the veteran under center.
3. The secondary is still very competitive.
The secondary has been one of the most competitive groups throughout camp. It doesn't look like that is going to change anytime soon.
Whether it was one of the better performing cornerbacks over the past month like Benjamin St-Juste or players like Torry McTyer fighting for a roster spot, Washington's defensive backs were making plays. One of the best was from McTyer, who has been making a strong surge in practice over the past week, when he broke up a pass to the end zone.
St-Juste, a player whose physical style has been one of his biggest strengths, was able to show that off with solid man coverage against Kendrick Bourne, which resulted in an incomplete pass.
The secondary had a solid outing against Newton, Mac Jones and the rest of the Patriots' quarterbacks, as they combined for 141 yards. It's a group expected to have some tough decisions during roster cuts, and performances like that won't make things any easier.
4. The offensive line has improved.
Washington allowed 50 sacks last season. It was tied for second-most in the league, and those numbers can't continue if the offense aspires to be more explosive.
And for what preseason action is worth, Washington's offensive line only allowed two sacks all night, which came in the second quarter with Taylor Heinicke in at quarterback and Steven Montez in the third quarter.
There were some pressures throughout the night, but for the more part, Fitzpatrick and Heinicke had a clean pocket. Sam Cosmi, who has been the starting right tackle throughout camp, was one of the most notable standouts, as he consistently locked down his defender, even when adjusting to Heinicke's adlib scrambling style.
Granted, defenses aren't going to throw any complex rushes at Washington in the preseason, but for an offensive line that is looking to show improvement, it's a step in the right direction.
5. Heinicke caps off a solid night.
With Fitzpatrick's night done after two drives, Heinicke directed the offense for the rest of the first half. It was a bit of an up and down start -- he had two completions, followed by an incompletion and a sack on his next two attempts -- but after the seven-yard loss, Heinicke looked strong in the pocket.
Heinicke responded to the sack with a 19-yard completion to John Bates. On the following drive, he hit Steven Sims for 18 yards. That was part of a 12-play, 64-yard drive that featured a healthy dose of Jaret Patterson, who led the team in rushing and passing with 70 total yards. With eight seconds left in the half, Peyton Barber ran in the one-yard score for a 7-6 lead.
Heinicke finished the night 9-of-15 for 86 yards. There were times when he showed that he was still the player that helped Washington nearly bear the Buccaneers, and it adds credence to Rivera's confidence in both signal-callers.