NASHVILLE — Chase Winovich has spent the majority of the summer working with the second-team defense, a standard starting point for any rookie.

That could be changing in a hurry.

Winovich’s near-perfect preseason continued with an utterly dominant performance in the Patriots’ 22-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Saturday.

The third-round pick out of Michigan wrecked a handful of plays in the second quarter. He came off the left edge to blow up running back Jeremy McNichols for a 3-yard loss. On the same drive, Winovich beat  tackle Tyler Marz to the inside and pressured quarterback Ryan Tannehill into a rushed throw and an incompletion. Later in the series, Winovich blasted around tight end Parker Hesse for a near-sack; Tannehill barely got the ball out before hitting the ground.

And, finally, Winovich ended a late first-half Titans drive with a sack. Marz was flagged for holding on the play, a maneuver that did little to slow down the Patriots’ stud rookie.

In the third quarter, Winovich rushed from the right edge, kept sprinting as quarterback Logan Woodside scrambled to the opposite sideline, and tracked him down for no gain.

“Chase is a high-motor player,” said Patriots Coach Bill Belichick. “He plays hard. He’s very good in pursuit. You see it in the kicking game, see it on defense.”

Winovich was the standout performer, but it was a busy night for several Patriots rookies.

And it was yet another big-time effort from receiver Jakobi Meyers.

The undrafted rookie followed up a six-reception, 69-yard performance against the Lions with six catches for 82 yards versus the Titans.

The guy’s a player. There’s no way he isn’t on the 53-man roster to begin the season.

A smooth route-runner who oftentimes looks like an established veteran, Meyers put in “a lot of long nights” studying the playbook when he first arrived in New England. He’s seeing it pay off.

“A lot of forcing myself to stay up, a lot of flash cards,” Meyers said. “A lot of being yelled at. A lot of mistakes. I’ve learned the easy way and the hard way.”

As for the rest of the rookies?

After sitting out the preseason opener, running back Damien Harris saw extended work. Harris, a third-round pick out of Alabama, isn’t a dynamic athlete, but he’s physical and decisive and appears to run with good vision. On the final play of the first quarter, Harris took a handoff up the middle and instinctively bounced outside. He came within inches of scoring, but was dragged down by cornerback Tye Smith.

Harris also showed good hands, diving to make a somewhat difficult catch on a short curl route as he split out wide. He finished with 80 yards on 14 carries and four catches for 23 yards.

Cornerback Joejuan Williams, a second-round pick, broke up a pass on the first drive and drew a holding penalty.

Defensive end Byron Cowart, a fifth-round selection, got the start on the defensive line alongside Deatrich Wise and Danny Shelton. Cowart had a sack on the opening drive.

Quarterback Jarrett Stidham turned in another encouraging performance. He led an extremely impressive 99-yard touchdown drive, capped by a beautiful back-shoulder throw to Damoun Patterson for a game-winning 23-yard touchdown with 4:12 remaining. Stidham completed all seven passes on the drive.

“I think Stidham has a good arm,” Belichick said. “I think he throws the ball accurately. I think he has shown that all the way through from Baylor to Auburn to his pro day and his spring workouts.”

Earlier in the night, Stidham was lucky to avoid interceptions on some risky throws. He was nearly picked off in the end zone as he targeted tight end Eric Saubert on an out route. Later, Stidham stared down running back Nick Brossette on a hitch and Smith jumped the route and nearly had a pick-six. He missed the ball, though, and Brossette ended up gaining 18 yards.

“I got pretty lucky there a couple times,” Stidham said. “I trust my guys to go make those plays, and sure enough they did. I don’t need to put the ball in too much danger, so I’ve got to work on that, but overall I thought we did a good job.”

Stidham’s first snap of the game turned into a safety and two points for the Titans. Tight end Lance Kendricks was flagged for holding in the end zone.

There were some impressive moments from Stidham before the 99-yard drive. He scrambled for a first down on third-and-11. He extended a play deep in Titans territory, rolling right and creating extra time for his receivers (Titans defensive back Joshua Kalu was eventually called for a defensive holding penalty, giving the Patriots a fresh set of downs). Stidham finished 14 of 19 for 193 yards and one touchdown.

New England’s 2019 draft class looks to be as promising as any it’s had in recent years.

“It’s incredible, I’m just proud of those guys,” Meyers said of his fellow rookies. “I’ve seen the work they’ve put in since they’ve been here. I’ve heard about the work they put in in college. It’s nice to see it coming to fruition.”

Naturally, Belichick wasn’t quite ready for the coronation of his 2019 draft class.

“They’ve worked hard, they’ve tried hard, and they’ve got a long way to go,” Belichick said. “They’re working at it and I respect that. They’ve improved, and that’s a good thing.”


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