The New England Patriots are without question one of the most intriguing teams to watch this preseason. There are a lot of things that the Patriots must figure out before the start of the 2016 NFL season.
Tom Brady is set to serve a four-game suspension for his role in the "Deflategate" situation, as USA Today reported. He is hoping that the team will be just fine without him, although there might be a little hole for him to dig his team out of. Add in the fact that the team didn't make many major offseason additions and there is no telling who will step up.
New England played their first preseason game of the year last night against the New Orleans Saints. Bill Belichick and his squad were able to knock the Saints off by a final score of 34-22. It wasn't a pretty game, but the preseason isn't supposed to be a finished product.
It was obvious that the team was preparing for their early tenure without Brady. There were positive signs and there was also proof that the Patriots will have a lot of work to do over the next three preseason games.
All of that being said, what five takeaways can be seen from the Patriots' first preseason action?
Jimmy Garoppolo Is Good, But Not Great
Looking at the first four weeks of the regular season, the Patriots will need backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to step up in a big way. He completed 11 of his 18 pass attempts for 168 yards, no touchdowns, and no interceptions in the game, according to ESPN statistics. Garoppolo is a solid player, but he will have to play above his potential in order to get New England off to a fast start.
New England Will Be Just Fine at the Running Back Position
One of the questions surrounding the Patriots has been who will end up stepping up at the running back position. Tyler Gaffney finished with nine rushes for 64 yards and a touchdown, while LeGarrette Blount also rumbled into the end zone. Outside of those two, there were two other running backs capable of playing a big role for the Patriots.
The Pass Rush Could Still Use Improvement
Even though the starters didn't play too terribly much, the Patriots still need to put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. That was an issue for them last year and they recorded just two sacks against the Saints. It wasn't a terrible game from a pass rushing perspective, but they could certainly improve.
Defensive Playmaking Is Capable of Being Top-Notch
New England's offense will be just fine when Brady returns, but they need their defense to take a step forward. They were able to force four turnovers against the Saints, which was a big step for them. If they can keep that kind of top-notch defensive playmaking, they are going to be very dangerous this season.
Martellus Bennett Will Be a Perfect Security Blanket
It was obvious in the short time that Martellus Bennett was in the game that he will be a perfect security blanket. He will be the No. 2 tight end alongside Rob Gronkowski. Brady and Garoppolo will both utilize him early and often each week, and he will be a major key to their offensive success.
Even though last night's game was just the first week of the NFL preseason, the Patriots learned quite a bit about their team. They know what they need to work on the most. New England certainly appears to have every piece in place to be a serious contender once again this season.
Do you think the New England Patriots are serious Super Bowl contenders this season? What were your thoughts on their first preseason game? Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below!
[Photo by Winslow Townson/AP Images]