Jimmy Garoppolo is the real deal.
After a questionable game against the Green Bay Packers, Jimmy Garoppolo showed that he has what it takes to succeed in the NFL. He was quick, accurate, and strong with his throws. There are definitely a couple passes he would like to have back (the interception being the main focus), but he consistently made NFL caliber throws. He was hitting the sidelines, he was attacking the seams, he was making smart decisions and taking what the Saints were giving him.
Rookie guards Shaq Mason, Tre Jackson take a step back.
There are high expectations for the Patriots rookie pair of starting guards and they definitely hit a slump in their second game. Jackson looked lethargic and wasn't able to hit his blocks consistently. Mason was bad in pass protection and wasn't his usually strong self in the run game. It's early in both of their careers, but they need to improve quickly, or else the Patriots might have to look for a veteran guard- they might not be able to afford to play behind two rookie guards that aren't playing well.
Running backs James White and Dion Lewis are fun to watch.
Both White and Lewis showed terrific skills in the open field. Lewis is definitely more explosive than White, but both share the same incredible lateral quickness. Both showed their capability as blitz protectors and both showed their value running the ball. It's unlikely that the Patriots can keep both backs on the roster for the whole season, although it's very possible that both will make it during LeGarrette Blount's week 1 suspension.
Wide receiver Chris Harper is making a case for the active roster.
Harper's health is definitely his best quality at this point in time, but he's showing enough value on both offense and special teams to warrant a roster spot. He's still a limited player- he won't be an elite receiver by any measure- but he can provide quality depth as an outside target with great hands, and offer value on most special teams units. With five of the team's top six receivers injured (Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell, Aaron Dobson, Brian Tyms, Brandon Gibson; Danny Amendola is the only healthy receiver), Harper will get his chance to shine.
Don't look too far into quarterback Tom Brady's performance.
Brady had to play against the Saints first team and while they were missing their starting secondary, the Patriots weren't really playing with their first team at all. Apart from missing their top wide receivers, Brady was also playing without his top two tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Scott Chandler, as well as his starting center in Bryan Stork. Brady's skill players mostly consisted of camp bodies. He'll play better next week.
But linebacker Jamie Collins' performance raises an eyebrow.
This was undoubtedly Collins' worst performance in a Patriots uniform, so it's a good thing it happened during the preseason. He looked uninterested on the field. He missed tackles, wasn't stout in his assignments, and looked tired. Hopefully it's just a phase. But when Collins doesn't play well, the Patriots linebacker depth certainly becomes a point of concern.
Devin McCourty at cornerback is a bad move.
Now is the time for coaches to fiddle around with possible schemes and plans to implement during the regular season, so when McCourty aligned at cornerback, it was just so the Patriots All Pro free safety could add additional potential value. Well, McCourty showed why he was moved to free safety and even the player himself hopes to stay at safety. Moving McCourty to cornerback weakens the safety position for no real reason. McCourty is not noticeably better at cornerback than any other player on the roster, and there is a considerable drop at safety from McCourty to Duron Harmon. Bill- please don't pull this move during the regular season.
The cornerbacks are still inconsistent.
Another side of the McCourty-at-Cornerback justification is that all of the Patriots other cornerbacks were very inconsistent. Malcolm Butler was great, but beyond him, Bradley Fletcher and Logan Ryan alternated getting burned with breaking up a pass. Tarell Brown and Robert McClain were quiet on the field. Darryl Roberts was inactive. No one has grabbed the second cornerback spot, but someone not-named McCourty had better grab it soon.