Film review of the first quarter of the Patriots’ 23-6 loss to the Redskins in the preseason opener:
1. The Patriots opened the game with Sebastian Vollmer as a sixth offensive lineman/eligible tight end, which reflected their desire to work on a few things in the running game. Vollmer aligned next to left tackle Nate Solder, and the Patriots attempted to run to that side, with Solder making a kickout block and Vollmer blocking down the line of scrimmage with left guard Jordan Devey and center Dan Connolly pulling left. There were a lot of moving parts and the timing and synergy was off as Stevan Ridley was stopped on a 2-yard run. That’s why it’s preseason; this is the time to work on those blocking schemes.
2. Quarterback Ryan Mallett did an excellent job to feel backside pressure on the initial third-and-8, stepping up to avoid Brian Orakpo -- who blistered left tackle Nate Solder with a speed rush -- and hitting Brandon LaFell with an on-the-run throw for the first down. The play, of course, was negated by a holding penalty on Solder. The Patriots called on a four-receiver package and naturally sent all four into pass routes, while the Redskins rushed just four and dropped seven into coverage. The Patriots’ inability to protect Mallett against a standard four-man rush tilted the downfield numbers in favor of Washington, but Mallett still made the play (just as he did on a third-and-10 conversion later in the quarter to Josh Boyce). That’s one reason we weren’t ready to blast his performance immediately after the game. It wasn’t all bad.
3. In the first quarter, Mallett dropped back to pass seven times. He was under pressure on three of them and didn’t appear to have an open target on a fourth so he tucked the ball and ran. Of the three times he wasn’t pressured and had an open target, his only mistake was skipping a throw to receiver Brandon LaFell, which was one of his worst throws of the game.
4. While left tackle Solder gave up the sack to Orakpo on second-and-10 on the Patriots’ second drive, right tackle Vollmer was just as responsible. Ryan Kerrigan’s speed rush and good usage of his hands (to knock away Vollmer's hands) forced Mallett to step up into the pocket where Orapko was waiting.
5. Consistency is the key for players like second-year defensive end Michael Buchanan, and he rode a little bit of a roller-coaster in this game with some ups and some downs. He flashed on second-and-3 with a good power rush on talented left tackle Trent Williams, rocking him out of his stance to pressure Robert Griffin III from the blindside. But on the next play – a third-and-1 – he seemed to be guessing instead of playing with more patience and technique and was easily blocked down by tight end Jordan Reed to open the hole that Alfred Morris ran through for an easy first down. Buchanan also had trouble shedding a block on a run play to his side on the ensuing first-down play.
6. In contrast, there was a nice effort by third-year outside linebacker Darius Fleming to set the edge on a first-and-10 run that went for no gain and contributed to the defense’s initial red-zone stop. Fleming got his hands into tight end Logan Paulsen, drove him back, and the run to that side was effectively stopped. One downer for Fleming: It looked like he got sucked in on play-action, allowing running back Darrel Young an easy 17-yard catch-and-run on the Redskins' second drive.
7. Thought Buchanan got a bit of a raw deal on his 15-yard personal foul penalty. Paulsen had grabbed his jersey and ripped him to the ground, but the official only saw the end of the play, when Buchanan’s hand slid up into Paulsen’s facemask (it wasn't there by accident as much as retaliation).
8. Undrafted cornerback Malcolm Butler was the other significant contributor to stopping Washington’s first drive. After a near interception when he jumped a short route to the right side, he played receiver Aldrick Robinson’s stop-and-go route to the right corner of the end zone to near perfection from a technique standpoint. Of all the players on the roster who helped themselves in this game, Butler -- who showed three times in coverage in the first quarter -- is close to the top of the list.
9. Sixth-round draft choice Zach Moore is raw defensive end with unusual physical traits, and his power rush on third-round draft choice Morgan Moses was a flash play (second-and-15). Moore played at Concordia. Moses played at Virginia. They’re both at the same level now, and Moore showed he can hang a bit with the big-school guys.