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Analysis: Last chance to impress
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FOXBOROUGH – Only one thing matters in preseason game number four, and it certainly isn’t the final score. For anyone who plays in this game, it’s about doing enough to impress the coaches that you deserve to remain on the squad.
The NFL now has just one cut-down date, and it comes on Saturday. So, while the players who are assured of making the cut were mostly held out of tonight’s contest, those who took part had one last chance to prove themselves.
From our vantage point upstairs, here’s how their causes were either helped or hurt based on what unfolded Thursday night. Read
QB Jacoby Brissett
Some observers believe Brissett is on the bubble, which is somewhat understandable. New England frequently carries just two quarterbacks on its active roster. However, I contend that Brissett is safe because the Patriots will again keep three QBs.
But if Brissett is on thin ice, he managed to put forth perhaps his best effort yet as a Patriot.
With the exception of a bad pick-six in the first quarter, the second-year passer made good decisions with the football most of the night, looked smooth evading pressure in the pocket, threw four touchdown passes, and ran for a fifth.
Best yet, he exhibited composure leading his team to what appeared to be a dramatic come-from-behind victory on New England’s final drive (the Giants eventually kicked a game-winning field goal).
“That was fun. It makes you feel like a kid again,” a smiling Brissett told reporters. “It’s hard to explain the words. You know, you wish the results were different, but that was fun.”
The first strike, to rookie WR Cody Hollister on opening drive, was a laser. Brissett’s second went to rookie WR Austin Carr in the second quarter. The third, to Devin Lucien in the third quarter, was perhaps his best of the night – an athletic, falling-backward lob to the back corner of the end zone.
“We knew the pressure was coming,” Brissett recalled. “Lucien made a great play, [the offensive line] giving me enough time to get the ball off, so I think it was just all a credit to those guys on that one.”
Brissett’s passes were mostly on target and he showed good touch on another deep ball to Lucien in the fourth quarter.
To cap things off, Brissett showed off his mobility when he nimbly evaded a Giants defender en route to the end zone late in the fourth quarter, before firing a fourth touchdown pass to rookie TE Jacob Hollister just prior to the 2-minute warning.
“That was a great opportunity,” Brissett remarked, “for all of us to go out there one last time in preseason and just make the most of our opportunity… I think we played a good game, complementary – offense, defense and special teams – and, like I said, that was a bunch of fun.”
The thinking with Brissett’s staying on the 53 might be more long-term than short, but he likely stays right where he is, especially after his effort on Thursday night.
RB D.J. Foster
The second-year ball carrier is more than just a back. He can also play slot receiver and was the primary kickoff returner all night, a role he’s performed previously this summer and last. He has experience returning punts with the Patriots as well.
Nothing he did against the Giants was eye-popping, but his “more-you-can-do” skill set is the kind of commodity coveted by Bill Belichick and his coaching staff.
“We prepared hard for those guys we played out there,” Foster said afterward. “We put a lot into this. The coaches did a good job making sure our mind was right. It was fun. An exciting game. Obviously, we didn’t get the outcome, but it was fun to go out there and compete.”
As for his mindset heading into cut-down weekend?
“Just enjoy every second,” he responded. “Hang out with my family, my dog, my teammates, and just enjoy life. Whatever’s in store, it’s in God’s hands.”
WR Devin Lucien
Ending the preseason the way he began training camp, Lucien put in a strong showing. He finished as the game’s top receiver, hauling in five passes for 96 yards, plus a score.
“I thought it went OK,” he said of the night he had versus New York. “It’s that time of the season where you start to figure out the reality of the situation, you know. They pushed back the cut date, so, you get lost in thinking you’re going to be here the whole time, but you just don’t know. I hope I was able to put on a good performance this late game.
“A lot went into this game, this preparation. I was able to have a good game [because] Jacoby put the ball there, the [offensive] line did a great job blocking. A lot went into my having the game I had. So, hats off to those guys. I hope they make the team as much as I do.”
After spending 2016 on the practice squad, Lucien made a huge leap this summer and can only hope now that he’ll hang on, one way or another.
“I hope [the coaches] see someone who improved throughout camp,” Lucien added. “I was able to put together some good practices. It just didn’t really click in the [other preseason] games for me, for whatever reason. I’m just happy I was able to do my role [tonight].”
Rookie WR Austin Carr
Three grabs, including his second touchdown of the preseason, in quarter number two. He is still a long-shot at best, given that the numbers are against him at the wide receiver position, but give Carr credit. He has done everything possible with his on-field chances to show he might be worthy of a practice squad gig, if nothing else.
The Patriots are in need of pass rushers. Grissom provided a first-quarter sack and a second-quarter pressure that led to a second sack. Thereafter, he was quiet, but he managed to do more on defense than he has over the past two seasons combined.
Rookie offensive tackle Conor McDermott
Although he drew a third-quarter holding penalty and didn’t stand out one way or another the rest of the preseason, the fourth and final member of New England’s 2017 draft class may have found a way onto the final 53-man roster.
With fellow draft choice Tony Garcia having been on the shelf for an extended period with an undisclosed injury, McDermott has benefitted in the form of extra practice and game reps that he otherwise may have had to split with Garcia. Plus, he can double as a backup long snapper. McDermott’s versatility and availability may have won him a job. Read
CB/returner Cyrus Jones
Just when it looked like he’d secured a roster spot as New England’s primary punt and kickoff returner, the second-year cornerback suffered a serious right knee injury in the middle of the second quarter. He had to be helped off the field by two members of the team’s medical staff.
If the injury is as severe as it initially appeared, Jones could be out for the year… which could open up a roster spot for a return specialist like, say, the aforementioned Foster.
LB Trevor Bates
Burned in 1-on-1 coverage on New York’s first touchdown of the night, Bates also struggled in open-field tackling opportunities, taking bad angles at times and getting “caught up in the wash” near the line of scrimmage. A practice squad member last season, that might be his only redemption in 2017.
LB Jonathan Freeny
A veteran of his experience in the NFL playing virtually wire-to-wire? Not a promising sign. He also looked slow and non-responsive on too many plays.
OL Jamil Douglas
In a battle for perhaps just one vacant o-line spot, his only memorable play was a surrendered a sack on New England’s third possession.