One thing is for certain: if it weren't for the need of bodies in camp, the Patriots could easily trim their current roster down to 60 players. Those featured on the back-end of the roster are at an obviously different level of caliber that those projected to make the team and it made the fourth quarter between the New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers a real slog.
But even so, some players stood out, for good and for bad. Here's a summary.
+ Running back James White stepped into the Shane Vereen role and was as good as advertised. While the hype surrounding White fell flat once he reached the field as a rookie, he's definitely developed and looks to have taken a step forward. He's not a dominant runner, but neither was Vereen- he's a shifty receiver and an able enough blocker with room to improve. He's separated himself from the pack.
+ Wide receivers Brandon Gibson and Chris Harper saw expanded roles due to the injuries to Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell, Aaron Dobson, and Brian Tyms. Gibson and Harper caught everything thrown their way and it wouldn't be surprising to see Harper playing with the ones next week to see how he responds. Both Gibson and Harper are similar players and offer a skill set that the Patriots don't currently have with their wide receivers.
+ Offensive linemen Tre Jackson, Shaq Mason, and David Andrews weren't dominant, but they were beyond satisfactory. Jackson was a little slow in space, but he was strong in the phone booth. Mason was fantastic in space, but struggled in pass protection. Andrews didn't make headlines in either the positive or the negative. All three players had good first outings and should continue to build on their success.
+ Edge defender Jabaal Sheard and defensive rookies Geneo Grissom and Trey Flowers all played a considerable amount of time and all were fantastic. While Flowers went to the locker room with a potential injury (he didn't make it back to the sidelines), he was strong at the point of attack against the Packers first team offensive line, and even managed to sack Aaron Rogers. Sheard was a force and disrupted almost every snap. Grissom was used at both defensive end and tackle and he became better as he became more comfortable. Grissom looks to have a very high ceiling.
+ Cornerbacks Malcom Butler, Darryl Roberts, and Robert McClain look to be the first team secondary, especially since Tarell Brown didn't suit up. Roberts was removed from the game with a hand injury, so hopefully it wasn't serious, but Butler, Roberts, and McClain all held their own against a very potent Packers first team offense.
+ Defensive tackle tandem Dominique Easley and Malcom Brown played together for a large portion of the game and Easley looks like he's going to reach that dominant form as he was consistently the first- and most explosive- player to jump after the snap. Brown is still developing, but he did a good job of holding the point of attack and eating up blockers.
+ Linebacker Dekoda Watson was the only linebacker who was worth writing about. He was quick, decisive, and around the ball. Watson made a great first impression for a team that's still looking for their #4 linebacker.
- Wide receiver Josh Boyce had a bad day. The Patriots quarterbacks were 2/11 with an interception when throwing in his direction. Two of Tom Brady's three incompletions were to Boyce. Seven of Jimmy Garoppolo's ten incompletions were to Boyce, including one interception that went off Boyce's hands.
- Every other linebacker was also bad. Jonathan Freeny had a really rough opening drive and settled down against the Packers back-ups, but he didn't play at the level anyone would have hoped. No other linebacker did anything of notice and the Packers were picking up yards after contract and yards after the line of scrimmage far too easily.
- Safeties Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner were playing in the final minutes of the game. With second round pick Jordan Richards a roster lock, Wilson and Ebner are both competing for the same special teams/depth safety role. Wilson seems to have the inside edge, but the fact that they were playing so late in the game is not a positive for either player's standing.