Friday, August 19, 2016

AJ Derby is up, Justin Coleman is down in Patriots' win

AJ Derby caught six passes for 71 yards and a touchdown against the Bears. AP Photo/Charles Krupa

By Mike Reiss

August 18, 2016

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots beat the Chicago Bears 23-22 Thursday night in both teams' second preseason game. On first glance, without film review, here's who was up and who was down:

RB LeGarrette Blount: Playing 16 snaps, he finished with 11 carries for 69 yards (6.3-yard average) and one touchdown as he ran with a purpose on a night the Patriots made a concerted effort to run with a lead fullback and/or extra blocking tight end. If he was being challenged by Tyler Gaffney for the top role, Blount showed Thursday that he is going to be hard to beat.

TE AJ Derby: The 2015 sixth-round draft choice out of Arkansas totaled six catches for 71 yards and one touchdown as he put on a decisive charge in the competition for the No. 3 role behind Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett. The touchdown, a 16-yard grab in the end zone from Jimmy Garoppolo, capped the Patriots' most impressive drive of the night, at the end of the second quarter. Derby's 26-yard catch up the left sideline from Jacoby Brissett in the third quarter also was impressive.

Garoppolo: In a confidence-building performance, he took a step forward from the preseason opener, finishing 16-of-21 for 181 yards and one touchdown, with no interceptions. He wasn't sacked, a result of improved pass protection but also of his ability to shuffle his feet in the pocket to extend the play while going through his progressions. His best work came at the end of the second quarter in the two-minute offense, leading a seven-play, 57-yard touchdown drive.

RB Brandon Bolden: He fumbled at the Bears' 3-yard line early in the second quarter for the team's only turnover. Bolden needed to switch the football to his outside hand, and cornerback Tracy Porter jarred it free and recovered.

CB Justin Coleman: Starting in place of Logan Ryan (who is not yet cleared for full contact), he was in coverage on two early catches by Alshon Jeffery (29 yards, 12 yards) and then picked up a defensive-holding penalty on the next drive that negated a third-down stop.

First-unit defense: Instead of picking a specific player, this was a group effort. When a Bears offense that didn't score in its preseason opener against Denver runs 21 plays in the first quarter to open up an 11-0 lead, that's not the type of start the unit it looking for. Two highlights for the defense were the play of under-the-radar second-year defensive tackle Anthony Johnson and top draft choice Cyrus Jones' second-quarter interception.

A.J. Derby continues to shine in backup tight end competition

A.J. Derby was outstanding against the Chicago Bears.

By Mark Daniels

August 19, 2016

FOXBORO – A.J. Derby’s flashed solid hands this summer and made a nice grab in last week’s game against New Orleans, but on Thursday night he took it to a different level.

The 2014 sixth-round pick led the Patriots with six receptions, 71 receiving yards and a touchdown against the Chicago Bears.

“I’m just trying to get better every day, so I’ve got to watch the film and see how I did,” Derby said.

Derby didn’t get a chance to showcase his abilities last summer as he got placed on the injured reserve early in camp on Aug. 5. But the former quarterback turned tight end in college has a legitimate chance to make the Patriots 53-man roster as the team’s third tight end behind Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett.

That was evident when Jimmy Garoppolo kept feeding him during the 2-minute drill to end the first half and then in the third quarter when he made a highlight-reel 26-yard catch from Jacoby Brissett along the sideline.

Derby, who already sounds like a Patriot, gave all the credit for his big catch to his quarterback.

“Jacoby made a good check on the line,” Derby said. “He made a really good throw and the offensive line did a really good job giving him time to get the throw off.”

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