Questions about the New England Patriots offense, anyone?
Friday's preseason win over the Philadelphia Eagles was the kind of dominance we've seen from the Patriots for years, but with none of the same players.
Same Patriots flavor, new Patriots look.
Of course, there's the caveat that this is a preseason game, but for 16 total plays on two drives (six plays on the first drive, 10 on the second), the first-team offense had its way with the Eagles defense. The Patriots showed incredible balance in doing so; the first drive was six runs, and the second drive was eight passes and two runs, bringing the play count on the first two drives to an even 8-8.
There were plenty of young players getting a chance to build off of strong practices in a game situation.
Quarterback Tom Brady was masterful on the second series, going 7-of-8 (87.5 percent) for 65 yards (8.1 YPA) and the touchdown pass. Any doubts as to whether he would click with his new receivers were put to bed fairly early.
Specifically, wide receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins showed their chemistry with Brady and all the physical talent we haven't seen from a Patriots receiver in years—exactly what we've seen from them throughout training camp. Each used his big frame to make a tough catch on the outside. Dobson's catch came with two defenders draped on him.
Thompkins continued to build on his strong camp, with four receptions for 23 yards. It wasn't a perfect night for Dobson, who had a drop to go with his two receptions, but some rough patches are to be expected with such a young group.
On that note, with all the changes at the skill positions, many were expecting the running attack to be a bigger part of the game plan this coming season. The Patriots will be in good shape, if that's the case.
They picked up 248 yards on 31 carries (8 YPA) and three touchdowns on the night, but the first unit accounted for 95 yards on eight carries (11.9 YPA) and Stevan Ridley's touchdown.
Running back Shane Vereen was the recipient of Brady's touchdown pass, a 13-yard over-the-shoulder reception in the back corner of the end zone. It was the type of catch some wide receivers can't make, and Vereen made it look almost routine. He split out wide on a few plays and could develop into a big weapon for the Patriots offense this year.
Ridley looked red-hot on the opening two series with five carries for 82 yards, and he should continue to be the "bell cow" for the offense. LeGarrette Blount stole the show with several impressive runs, including his 51-yard touchdown run in which he cut all the way back across the field.
There's been a lot of attention on tight end Zach Sudfeld for his role in replacing injured tight end Rob Gronkowski, and he was a part of the game plan from the opening play as a run-blocker in the 12 personnel package. He caught a short pass from backup quarterback Ryan Mallett and turned it into a 22-yard gain; he also contributed a nice downfield block on Blount's 51-yard Spinaroonie-style touchdown run.
There will be doubts stemming from the limited sample size, the element of surprise in not having seen these players on film, and the simple fact that the Eagles were not a very good defense last year and are changing schemes this year.
Questions of that nature will remain about the entire offense until we see performances like this in games that actually matter.
All in all, it was a very encouraging start for a unit that was facing a lot of questions and was under a lot of scrutiny all offseason long.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases.
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