Foxborough, Mass. – During the week leading up to the fourth and final preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, New England head coach Bill Belichick promised plenty of playing time for backup quarterback Rohan Davey. He didn't disappoint on his promise.
In an effort to get an extended look at Davey, Belichick and the coaching staff played the second unit offense well into the fourth quarter of the 31-0 loss to the Jaguars. Davey, who played in the first two preseason contests before sitting out last week's game against Carolina, was generally unremarkable Thursday. He suffered through a slow start and was inconsistent on many throws, completing 13-of-25 passes for 104 yards and two interceptions.
Belichick said following the game that Davey would remain the backup quarterback heading into the regular season.
"I think Rohan has made progress through the preseason," Belichick said. "I think he still has a ways to go. But again, I thought he did a lot of good things out there tonight. He showed he could manage the game, you know, he hung in there under some pressure. We need to move the ball better and score better. Some of it is pointing at him, some of it is pointing at a lot of the people in there as well."
The Patriots offense, comprised mostly of second-team players, did little with Davey at the helm and was shut out on the scoreboard as well. In seven first-half series, the offense went three-and-out on three occasions, gaining 147 total yards (53 on the final drive alone) in the half with eight first downs. Davey finished the half 10-of-19 passing for 85 yards and two interceptions for a 25.0 quarterback rating.
Davey was at his best in the two-minute offense on the final drive of the first half. He started the drive with consecutive 15-yard completions to Chas Gessner and Benjamin Watson. After a six-yard run, he was late on a pass and missed a wide-open Watson. He then found Gessner for a five-yard gain and a first down, followed by runs of nine and three yards. On first-and-10 on Jacksonville's 34-yard line, Davey threw his first deep ball of the game but was intercepted by Juran Bolden in the end zone. Davey, looking for Bethel Johnson on the play, underthrew the ball which was intercepted on a jump ball between the two players.
The night didn't end well for Davey either. On his only pass attempt of the fourth quarter, Davey was hit from behind by Lionel Barnes as he dropped back to pass and fumbled for his third turnover of the game. Davey finally gave way to third quarterback Kliff Kingsbury with just over two minutes remaining in the game.
In what was very much of a surprise, Belichick decided to hold both starting units out of Thursday's preseason finale. Davey started at quarterback for the Patriots, joined by running backs Mike Cloud and Malaefou Mackenzie, tight end Benjamin Watson and Gessner and Johnson at wide receiver. The offensive line consisted of tackles Adrian Klemm and Brandon Gorin, guards Bob Hallen and Stephen Neal, and Gene Mruczkowski at center.
What appeared to be the second unit also started on defense. Vince Wilfork, Ethan Kelley and Marquise Hill started along the defensive line. Justin Kerpeikis, Dan Klecko, Grant Steen and Tully Banta-Cain made the start at linebacker, with Randall Gay and Earthwind Moreland at cornerback and Dexter Reid and Shawn Mayer at safety.
Due to the new lineups, 18 of the Patriots 22 starters earned the starting assignement for the first time this preseason. Only Klemm, Gorin and Watson on offense and Klecko at linebacker on defense had made a start during the 2004 preseason. The rookie class, in particular, gained some valuable experience as six rookies – including five on defense – drew starting nods.
View From the Press Box
Several players who entered Thursday's game hoping to either make a name for themselves, or at the very least cement their current positions, had solid performances. Cloud was first and foremost on that list. He rushed 19 times for a game-high 93 yards against the Jaguars, displaying good vision and the ability to run in between the tackles. With Corey Dillon and Kevin Faulk both being held out, Cloud was used almost exclusively early into the fourth quarter.
On defense, outside linebacker Kurpeikis, inside linebacker Klecko, Gay and Reid were among those to turn in noticeably solid performances. Kurpeikis, thought to be in a battle for a final roster spot, finished with 11 tackles – including five solo – making several nice plays against the run and the pass. During a Jacksonville drive in the second quarter, Kurpeikis stopped running back David Allen for a two yard loss on a pitch to his side, and three plays later tipped a pass before nailing quarterback David Gerrard. Gay finished with five tackles for the Patriots and also made several nice plays against the run. On Jacksonville's first possession of the game, he broke up a deep pass from Byron Leftwich to Reggie Williams in one-on-one coverage. Klecko spent the majority of the game at inside linebacker but also rushed some from defensive end, finishing with four tackles. Reid had six tackles and a pass defended.
Wilfork on the End
First round draft Wilfork, normally a nose tackle in the Patriots 3-4 scheme, saw action at defensive end for the second consecutive game. Wilfork beat Jacksonville starting offensive tackle Maurice Williams on one play, forcing Byron Leftwich into throwing the ball away. He also played well against the run, chasing down ballcarriers from behind on more than one occasion and getting penetration on another play to stop Jacksonville's David Allen for no gain. Belichick said during the week leading up to the game that Wilfork was a candidate to play end because of his experience as a 4-3 defensive tackle during college at Miami, which has similar responsibilities to an end in the Patriots defense.
One bright spot for the Patriots was the lack of penalties after a sloppy effort against Carolina. The Patriots were called for no penalties against the Jaguars, after being whistled 15 times for a total of 128 yards the previous week.
A First for Belichick
Thursday's loss was a first of sorts for Belichick. The loss dropped the Patriots to 1-3 during the 2004 preseason, Belichick's first losing preseason in 10 seasons as a head coach. Belichick is 25-16 overall in the preseason, including a 14-7 mark as the Patriots head coach.
Jacksonville out-gained the Patriots 451 to 222 in total yards. … Veteran linebacker Don Davis saw action at safety during much of the second half. He finished with seven tackles. … The Patriots defense caused four Jacksonville fumbles, all of which were recovered by the offense. … Cornerback Earthwind Moreland finished with four tackles, including a six-yard sack of Leftwich and a forced fumble on a cornerback blitz in the first quarter. … Linebacker Tully Banta-Cain also registered a sack. … Seven different receivers caught passes for New England, led by Johnson with two receptions for 40 yards and Watson with two grabs for 37 yards. … Josh Miller punted seven times for 307 yards, a 43.9-yard per punt average.