In the preseason finale for both teams, the Giants edged the Patriots 16-13 Thursday night at MetLife Stadium.
Jimmy Garoppolo got the start at quarterback for the Patriots, and went 22-for-42 for 284 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. New England also got three catches for 57 yards and a touchdown from Aaron Dobson, while James White had 61 yards from scrimmage (29 rushing, 32 receiving) and Kenbrell Thompkins had five catches for 46 yards.
On the other side of the ball, the Giants started their regulars, with quarterback Eli Manning in the game for two series — he went 1-for-4 for zero yards.
The Patriots will open the regular season a week from Sunday against the Dolphins in Miami.
Here are 10 things we learned about the Patriots Thursday night:
There was some potential clarification on the status of some of the veterans who might have been on the bubble.
It’s important to notice who played and who didn’t, because we know that if you pull a DNP-CD in the final preseason game of the summer, you have a good chance of making it through the final round of cuts. Armed with that knowledge, the fact that Brandon Bolden, Stevan Ridley, Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly were some of the regulars who didn’t play speaks well when it comes to them making the roster. Not that there’s been any debate about the rest, but it is worth mentioning that others who did not play included Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett, Darrelle Revis, Julian Edelman, Vince Wilfork, Rob Ninkovich, Devin McCourty, Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower, Rob Gronkowski, Michael Hoomanawanui, Sebastian Vollmer, Chris Jones and Sealver Siliga
Jimmy Garoppolo looked competitive against a No. 1 defense.
Garoppolo’s first two drives stalled out, as New England failed to cross midfield on both occasions against the New York starters. The third drive ended with a pick by New York’s Zack Bowman on a play where there was a clear miscommunication between the quarterback and wide receiver Josh Boyce. However, he and the rest of the offense broke through with a very nice sequence on New England’s fourth drive, which was topped off by a nice deep ball from the quarterback to Aaron Dobson, a 33-yard pass play on a go route that made it 7-3 early in the second quarter. However, his best work of the night probably came at the end of the half in the sort of situational work that Bill Belichick craves — with 3:31 left in the second quarter, he engineered a series that got New England to the Giants’ 19-yard line, and ended with a field goal with 18 seconds left. It was a steady, consistent sequence for Garoppolo and the offense, one that ended with them putting points on the board.
Rookies Malcolm Butler and James White appear to have done enough to ensure a roster spot.
Butler got the start again Thursday against the Giants, and again, he was extremely competitive over the course of the evening. From this viewpoint, the rookie out of West Alabama has done enough to earn that last cornerback spot on the roster. His situation might get a little dicey when Brandon Browner returns from his suspension after the first month of the season, but as it stands right now, he’s made it. In addition, while he isn’t exactly a bull between the tackles, James White has displayed enough (both in special teams and on offense) to land a spot on the final 53 as well.
The Patriots best option at strong safety might be a cornerback.
Over the course of the summer, a few Patriots corners appeared to get a lot of work in in modified safety-type of roles. We saw it from Kyle Arrington in practices and previous preseason games, and on Thursday against the Giants, Alfonzo Dennard started and filled the spot, working as a safety/slot cornerback. It was an interesting look, and something worth keeping an eye on during the regular season. It increases positional versatility, and allows the Patriots to offer some different looks.
There are still some questions about the depth chart at wide receiver.
The Patriots gave a lot of different receivers run on Thursday, with Josh Boyce getting a lot of work. The pass catcher out of TCU, considered to be a prime bubble candidate, had some good moments (he hooked up with Garoppolo on a nice slant route early in the first half), but there was also some not-so-good (he appeared to be the one at fault for the Garoppolo pick later in the first half). He played late in the game, and ended with two catches for 26 yards. The receiver who did the most to help himself was second-year man Aaron Dobson — in his first game action of the summer, the Marshall product finished with three receptions for a team-high 57 yards and a touchdown, a really nice scoring strike from Garoppolo.
The Patriots still don’t have a regular kick returner.
New England went through the preseason without finding a singular individual who could seize the kick returning job. Boyce was the choice to get the bulk of the reps on Thursday, and ended with one return for 21 yards. As we’ve said on several occasions, New England settled on LeGarrette Blount last year after just one kick return in the preseason, so maybe there’s a candidate who has yet to emerge. But at this point, it appears that Boyce, Matthew Slater and Shane Vereen might have the best shot at the job, with Roy Finch and James White as outside possibilities.
There are still personnel questions about the interior of the offensive line.
Most of the starters ended up sitting, but it was a good chance to see some youngsters get some time, including center Bryan Stork, who saw his first game action of the summer, as well as draft picks Jon Halapio (at guard) and Cameron Fleming (at tackle). Preseason iron man Jordan Devey and holdover Josh Kline also got plenty of run again (Kline played deep into the fourth quarter at left guard), and will likely figure into the mix in some form or fashion once the regular season rolls around. While Stork, Devey, Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly and Marcus Cannon all figure to be part of the personnel combos along the interior, in terms of trying to figure out who might have the inside track at any one of those three interior offensive line jobs, it’s still a question mark.
Tim Wright is going to play this year. A lot.
Wright — who’s a tight end in name only — jumped into the deep end of the pool and started to swim. After only a couple of days in New England, he got the call to start, and was an active part of the offense over a sizable portion of the night. He lined up at multiple spots, and didn’t appear too overwhelmed in his first preseason action with the Patriots, finishing with four catches for 43 yards while playing deep into the contest. At first glance, there appears to be some offensive redundancy when it comes to Wright and wide receiver Brandon LaFell — both are longish targets who have the versatility needed to line up at multiple spots. However, it appears that LaFell is a better blocker than Wright. It’ll be interesting to see how it all shakes out going forward.
Brandon Browner and Brian Tyms played deep into the game, but that’s not that big a deal.
Traditionally, the sight of a veteran like Browner playing deep into the second half who spark comparisons to other vets who played significant snaps in the preseason finale, only to be a out of a job a week later. (In the past, it happened to Adrian Wilson and John Lynch.) But given the fact that Browner will not be able to play in the first four games of the season because of a suspension, his playing time Thursday night not a concern, at least from this viewpoint. In addition, wide receiver Brian Tyms is also in the same position, as he will miss the first four games (if he makes the squad) due to a PED violation for testing positive for Adderall. It appeared that they were simply trying to get him as many snaps as possible before he gets shut down for a stretch. (One other note about starters playing deep into Thursday’s game — Thompkins was in the game in the fourth quarter, but that was likely for logistical reasons, as with so many receivers not playing, they needed his presence out there for logistical reasons.)
They finished the preseason in relatively decent health.
In the first half, linebacker James Morris left with a knee injury. In the second half, defensive end Michael Buchanan suffered what appeared to be a right ankle issue. (Both were announced as questionable to return, but were held out down the stretch.) Meanwhile, it appears that defensive linemen Sealver Siliga and Chris Jones are getting closer to a full-time return. Considering the fact that there are several other elite-level teams who have struggled with injury over the course of the summer, the Patriots have to consider themselves fortunate when it comes to health.