Tom Brady got the somewhat surprising start to the Patriots preseason opener Thursday night at Gillette Stadium against the Packers.
No. 12 played a pair of series and completed a single throw after getting a rousing round of applause from the home crowd.
But in a strange twist that comes thanks to the unique situation surrounding the Patriots quarterback position this summer heading toward uncertain September, backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo may have been more notable passer for New England.
The second-year backup had his ups and downs throughout the 22-11 loss to Green Bay. Garoppolo finished completing 20-of-30 passes for 159 yards with no touchdowns and one interception for a 65.8 passer rating.
Some of Garoppolo's downs could be directly attributed to the protection he received, getting sacked seven times behind an inexperienced group of linemen and not a single returning starter.
Garoppolo was just 5-of-15 in the first half, but seemed to get in a bit of rhythm in the second, at one point completing nine straight passes. He took advantage of his short options and got the ball out in a more timely manner.
But Garoppolo also had his struggles, including a number of seemingly inaccurate or underthrown deep balls as he tried at various times to connect with Josh Boyce. He even mentioned his own deep-ball struggles in his postgame press conference.
Overall it was a learning experience for Garoppolo like it was for many of the players on the field for both teams. There are some things to build on, especially in the second half, and plenty that needs to be corrected.
That was true for the backup quarterback. That was true for most of the players on the field.
If you didn't know there was plenty of work to be done, just go back and watch Bill Belichick's postgame press conference for his take on his team not doing anything well enough on offense, defense or special teams.
Check out a selection of the best images from the Patriots preseason game against the Green Bay Packers at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, August 13, 2015.
James White – The second-year running back is very much in the running for the role of passing back, looking to fill the void from Shane Vereen's free agent departure. He got off to a nice start with four catches for a game-high 52 yards. He had a couple sharp, playmaking cuts on screens. He only picked up 12 yards on his eight attempts, but White made a nice first appearance of the summer as he looks to have a much larger role in his sophomore campaign.
Jonas Gray – With LeGarrette Blount among the many players sidelined to injury, Gray got his chance to get some early carries. He made the most, mostly on a 55-yard touchdown run in which he burst off the right side and then pulled away for the score. Blount is the lead back in the mix for traditional carries, but Gray could have much more of a role than we saw from him down the stretch a year ago after his breakout 200-yard effort in Indy. Gray got off to a decent start behind the inexperienced line with his long run and then a two-point conversion.
Chandler Jones – Coming off an offseason in which he was limited by an unspecified injury, Jones got off to a great preseason start with a sack on the first defensive snap against Green Bay. He burst off the right edge and grabbed hold of Aaron Rodgers. If the Patriots new-look defense is going to succeed in 2015 it will need a healthy, productive Jones to be a part of the picture on that side of the ball. That first play first impression was a nice way to start the year, even just in exhibition action.
Malcolm Butler – The second-year cornerback was highly competitive and physical in his action early in the first quarter at left cornerback. Butler showed his aggressive style and never-ending confidence in his limited playing time against Rodgers and an impressive receiving corps, even though his action didn't really come against top targets Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.
Stephen Gostkowski – The newly-rich New England kicker earned his money on his first attempt of the summer with a 56-yard field goal to end the first half. Oh, he also almost put the first kickoff of the game into the fans in the new on-field Optum Club in the south end zone at Gillette Stadium. Gostkowski, working with a new long snapper, appears to be in midseason form already this August.
Josh Boyce – The third-year receiver has had a nice summer on the practice field. Unfortunately for him and his bid to rekindle his career in New England that didn't translate to the preseason game field. Boyce had a bad drop on an early would-be reception from Brady, which is never a good way to get in the quarterback's good graces. Boyce then missed out on a lot of chances on deep balls from Garoppolo. The former TCU star is supposed to be a speed burner, but he just never really seems to find that extra gear when it's needed on the field. Boyce was targeted 11 times and only had two catches. Not good. He did have a couple nice returns but it wasn't a great night for Boyce when injuries to the likes of Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell, Aaron Dobson and Brian Tyms gave him extra chances to shine.
Logan Ryan – The third-year corner should be in the mix for the starting right corner job opposite Butler. He was among the many guys getting chances in the secondary throughout the game. But he didn't play very well. He got burnt by Jeff Janis for a 25-yard touchdown. Ryan needs to play better at the line to give himself a chance as the play extends. Ryan was an extra corner in the veteran-heavy backfield last fall. Now more might be expected of him. For one night, he didn't look ready for the increased expectations in what will be an ongoing battle for a role on the new-look defense.
Chris Barker – Barker has been forced to shift outside to the left tackle spot from his usual guard role due to injuries to Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon. He didn't handle it well as the Packers were pretty aggressive and got after the New England passers. Garoppolo was sacked seven times. Barker wasn't the only guy to struggle on the line, but he certainly was a part of the protection problems.
What did you think of the best and worst performances in the Patriots preseason opener? Additions to our list? Let us know with a comment below!