Reviewing the performances of those highlighted in our “Players to Watch” preview from the New England Patriots’ preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB: It was an up and down night for Garoppolo, who finished with a 20/30 for 159 yards and an interception. He failed to connect numerous times on deep attempts with Josh Boyce, but did develop a rhythm on the short passing game in the 3rd quarter with 10 straight completion, and had a few impressive third down plays. Overall, not a great preseason debut for Garoppolo, but considering the state of his receiving corps and offensive line, it is tough to place the entirety of the blame on him.
Tre Jackson, OG and Shaq Mason, OG: The Patriots’ makeshift offensive line was a mess, at best, yesterday. Fortunately, perhaps the two best players on the line were Tre Jackson and Shaq Mason. Both helped spring Jonas Gray for his 55 yard second quarter touchdown run. Mason allowed one sack, but moved very well. Jackson showcased his strength at times, but did have a second quarter miscue that led to a sack. The ups and downs are expected, and both Jackson and Mason continue to fight for a starting job.
James White, RB: White failed to get much going as a between the tackles runner, picking up just 12 yards on eight carries. But he excelled in the passing game, showing lots of wiggle and explosiveness after the catch. He finished as the Patriots leading receiver with 52 yards on four receptions. With Jonas Gray, LeGarrette Blount, and Brandon Bolden expected to handle the majority of the early down work, this was a positive sign.
Brandon Gibson, WR: Gibson was one of three wide receivers to start the game for the Patriots – along with Danny Amendola and Josh Boyce. He finished with four catches for 29 yards, lining up in both the slot and the outside. He caught every pass thrown his way, and was the recipient of Tom Brady’s lone completion. Not a bad start, and by simply being on the field, it gives him a leg up on Aaron Dobson and Brian Tyms.
Trey Flowers, DE: Flowers was perhaps the most dynamic of all of the Patriots rookies against the Packers. Lining up at the right end spot, he abused Packers tackle David Bakhtiari on multiple occasions, and picked up a second quarter sack. He did leave the game early with an undisclosed injury, but it did not appear to be serious. The Patriots have the most edge depth that they have had in years, and Flowers could be a key part of that rotation as a rookie.
Dominique Easley, DL: Patriots fans were obviously concerned when Easley started training camp on the PUP list. But he’s back, he’s healthy, and last night, he demonstrated that explosive first step that we were all so excited about last May:
Dominique Easley first step https://t.co/bxMQXSNEKq— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) August 14, 2015
Malcolm Butler, CB: Butler started at cornerback, and received the veteran treatment, only playing at the start of the game. On the opening drive, Butler was very active despite being challenged by Aaron Rodgers, allowing just one of three passes into his area to be completed. He looks like a sure-fire starter.
Darryl Roberts, CB: Roberts started opposite Butler at cornerback, and matched up against Jordy Nelson early. It was a tough task for the rookie, being thrown into the fire much like Butler was a year ago in the preseason. He held his own, stayed competitive, and showed up in run support as well. Like Flowers, he did leave the game early with injury.
Jordan Richards, S: Richards had a solid, if not spectacular professional debut. He lined up at multiple spots, made a couple of stops, and didn’t get beat. The most telling aspect of Richards game from last night: he played over both Duron Harmon and Tavon Wilson.