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Observation deck: New England Patriots

8/8/2014

LANDOVER, Md. -- One should always be cautious of reading too much into a preseason game, especially one in which a team rested as many top players as the New England Patriots did in their loss to the Washington Redskins on Thursday night.

So let's just stick to the basic fundamentals of football: If you don't block, you usually don't win.

Patriots followers need no reminder of this, as last season's AFC Championship Game was the most recent reminder of what happens when the offensive line doesn't hold up its end of the bargain. Super Bowl XLII against the New York Giants was another.

That was the top takeaway from Thursday's Patriots-Redskins preseason opener. The Patriots' offensive line, in transition with a new coach and personnel questions at center and right guard, was a disappointment. It's hard to move the ball and score points when that's the case, especially when two of the notable miscues come from one of the best players, left tackle Nate Solder.

There were breakdowns across the front in basic, no-scheme, one-on-one situations, which will shine a brighter spotlight on what is happening up front in the days to come.

Here are some other thoughts on the Patriots' first game of the year:

  • Second-year defensive tackle Chris Jones left the game in the second quarter after injuring his left ankle. He needed help walking off the field and then slowly walked to the locker room under his own power. The Patriots' depth along the defensive line is already thinned after Sealver Siliga injured his left hand on Tuesday. It is unclear how long Siliga will be out.

  • The Patriots rested several key players, a group including quarterback Tom Brady, receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, left guard Logan Mankins, defensive ends Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones, linebackers Jerod Mayo, Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower, cornerback Darrelle Revis and safety Devin McCourty. Here were the starting lineups on offense and defense.

  • One storyline entering the game was how the NFL's point of emphasis on defensive holding and illegal contact might affect the physical play of cornerback Brandon Browner. On cue, Browner picked up one penalty in the first half. In the second half, Logan Ryan was among the offenders.

  • Quarterback Ryan Mallett lost the battle of the backup quarterbacks to Washington's Kirk Cousins, but penalties negated a couple of nice plays and Mallett was under pressure throughout. The feeling from here is that the offensive inefficiency was more about losing one-on-one battles up front than on Mallett himself. Mallett played the first half and was sporadic with his accuracy before giving way to Jimmy Garoppolo, who in his debut outperformed Mallett with a quick release, long-ball touch, and decisiveness.

  • While the Patriots lost battles along the offensive line, they didn't win many defensively either. This carried over a theme from joint practices earlier in the week. The Patriots, as previously noted, lost along the line of scrimmage throughout the week in one-on-one situations.