As we approached the final week of the pre-season, this game was for many, a last shot at staking their claim for a roster spot. Some impressed, while others did not. Overall, still a strong outing for the Patriots despite falling to the Giants (and them claiming yet another undefeated streak from New England) by a score of 17 to nine.
Tom Brady not only started this game (the back-up quarterback needs love too) but played the entire half. He struggled on his first drive, finishing one for four with negative four (yes, negative four) yards. He did finish better on his second drive, going four for seven with 36 yards. Brady would finish the night going 16 for 26 for 166 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He played longer than most expected, but came out of the game unscathed, so that can be considered a victory.
Jacoby Brissett had a decent game but nothing spectacular. He finished with 152 yards on 13 of 21 passing while gaining 16 yards rushing on two attempts. Brissett seemed to have to move outside the pocket a lot as he dealt with pressure for many of his snaps but is more than capable of being mobile. He’ll open up the season as the team’s back-up quarterback to Jimmy Garoppolo as Brady missed the first four games of the season.
As for the running backs, it was the D.J. Foster show. He finished with 22 yards on nine carries but had nine receptions for 110 yards. He was highly efficient and dynamic in the receiving game, looking crisp in the open field as he constantly was adding more yards after the catch. While he did have a costly fumble in the first half, he bounced back and did well to recover from it. Tyler Gaffney had six carries for 22 yards but left with a lower leg injury. So if Gaffney has any sort of a serious injury, Foster may have showed up at the right time for a spot on the 53 man roster.
Another competition on offense was between Clay Harbor and A.J. Derby for the number three tight end position. Derby finished with five receptions on seven targets for 51 yards while Harbor did not a target at all. Derby has been doing very well for himself in the receiving game and may have solidified the spot for himself with another solid performance tonight. Plus, while he is practice squad eligible, Derby most likely wouldn’t clear waivers in order for him to be placed on the practice squad. It’s still not official but the edge appears to go to Derby.
The offensive line to begin the game looked to be what we will expect as the starting offensive line with Nate Solder at left tackle, Joe Thuney at left guard, David Andrews at center, Josh Kline at right guard and Marcus Cannon at right tackle. The right guard position is still up for grabs between Kline, Ted Karras, Chris Barker, Shaq Mason and Jonathan Cooper. For at least week one, Kline appears to have the edge due to his solid play in 2015 along with Mason and Cooper still recovering from injuries. Solder left the game with what appeared to be a leg injury but was seen walking around the sidelines afterwards with little to no issues, so he should be OK from the looks of it.
Moving on to the defensive side of the ball, the Patriots looked solid yet again. But the player who stood out was the new acquisition to the team, Barkevious Mingo. Acquired by the Browns for a fifth round pick a little bit more than a week ago, Mingo came out and made a big statement. He finished with five tackles, one tackle for a loss, two quarterback hits and two forced fumbles while constantly disrupting plays. His speed allowed for him to be in the backfield and at the line of scrimmage quicker than the plays could develop for the Giants tonight. While he may not have a solidified role yet, Mingo showed he is ready to make an impact for the Patriots in 2016.
Cre’Von LeBlanc, who is fighting for a roster spot as one of the last cornerbacks on the roster, missed this game due to a hip injury. Jonathan Jones did not see much action in this game either as him and LeBlanc are both the front-runners for the fifth cornerback spot on the team. As of right now, the edge appears to be going to Jones because of his consistent solid play. LeBlanc may still have a shot, but his hip injury could be serious enough (pure speculation) that it could land him on the injured reserve.
After Terrance Knighton’s release a few days ago, the Patriots interior defensive line still has plenty of solid depth to work with. Someone whose preseason performance alone could’ve won him a roster spot in Anthony Johnson. He finished with one tackle, a combined sack with Geneo Grissom, one quarterback hit and one fumble recovery. As someone who is smaller and quicker than the other big-bodied interior defensive lineman the Patriots have, his skill-set seems to be working well with the team thus far. Not only could he have won a roster spot, but also a large role on this team as well.
Overall, it was a strong showing for the Patriots. Their front seven and secondary both delivered again while the offense has some very good skill players mixed in with some shaky offensive line performance. Now, many players wait to find out if they make the final roster as they must be cut down to 53 players by Saturday at 4PM eastern standard time. Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@DMooreNFL) along with ESPN New Hampshire (@ESPNNH) as we will be covering roster moves for the team between now and then.