The Patriots opened up the preseason with a 23-13 win in Cincinnati last night
. 15 players didn't even make the trip, including defensive linemen Richard Seymour and Ty Warren, second-year running back Cedric Cobbs, wide receiver P.K. Sam, or tight end Ben Watson. Add in the fact that neither Tom Brady nor Doug Flutie played in the game, and there were a lot of fresh faces in those Patriots uniforms last night.
The backup QB battle was the focus on the offensive side of the ball. Rohan Davey started, then Matt Cassel relieved him late in the first half for an extended two-minute drill. Davey is a four-year veteran with NFL Europe (MVP) experience, but Cassel outplayed him last night. Obviously, Davey played against better defensive talent, as the Bengals had pulled most of their regulars by the time Cassel entered the game. But Davey also had Corey Dillion for a few carries, and the top Patriots receivers, while Cassel was handing off to Patrick Pass and throwing to Jason Anderson.
Davey just doesn't seem as polished as Cassel. Cassel nearly had two passes intercepted on his first drive, but he kept firing, and threw the only New England TD pass of the night. One of the knocks on Cassel is that he tends to fold under pressure, which is why he's always been a better practice player. He did scramble a lot last night, though with backup offensive linemen in the game it is hard to tell how good the protection really was. Both QBs overthrew some short passes, so accuracy is an issue for both.
This competition could go down to the wire.