The New England Patriots final preseason game is a valuable measure for seeing how players are regarded by the coaching staff. Whatever players are still on the field late in the game are probably facing an uphill battle of making the team.
Here are our winners and losers.
Winner: DT Anthony Johnson
The Patriots have Malcom Brown, Alan Branch, Vincent Valentine as roster locks and there is space for a fourth, but probably not a fifth. Johnson did an outstanding job of claiming that final spot. For the third straight game, Johnson was an absolute force in the passing game, forcing the quarterback out of the pocket and wrecking plays. He’s done too much to keep him off the roster.
Loser: DT Markus Kuhn
Kuhn was playing with the last-stringers in the second half, which is not where he wants to be. After starting out strong earlier in the preseason, he showed flashes of why the Giants couldn’t wait to get him out of the building. He was getting thrown back away from the line against the New York 3rd stringers, when he should have been dominating. Not an ideal game for a player on the bubble.
Winner: TE AJ Derby
Derby cemented his position as the third tight end on the roster with some great receiving, some quality running after the catch, and some adequate blocking. Clay Harbor still has a chance of making the team since the wide receivers were mediocre, but Derby would make the roster regardless of the depth at other positions. Derby finished the day with 51 yards on 5 receptions.
Loser: OG Josh Kline
The Patriots starting right guard stayed out on the field for much of the game, even when the rest of the starters were benched. The big question is why? I don’t believe Kline’s spot is in jeopardy, but I think the implication is that Kline is keeping the starting right guard spot warm until Shaq Mason returns.
Winner: CB Cre’Von LeBlanc
LeBlanc didn’t even play, but he’s a big winner because the other cornerbacks didn’t do enough to supplant him in the depth chart. Jonathan Jones and Darryl Roberts needed to have tremendous outings to leapfrog LeBlanc and they didn’t do anything really noteworthy.
Winner: RB D.J. Foster
Foster had himself a day with 132 yards on 18 touches, although he did fumble inside the red zone. But the reaction by head coach Bill Belichick wasn’t that of anger or disgust, but of teaching and cultivation. I think Belichick sees something in Foster’s future, especially if the injury to Tyler Gaffney is considered serious.
Loser: ED Geneo Grissom
Grissom needed to have an exceptional game to avoid getting lost in the depth chart. He did not. He’s currently behind Jabaal Sheard, Chris Long, Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich, and Shea McClellin in the pecking order and, in all honesty, should be behind Rufus Johnson. Grissom looks less polished and less consistent than the others on the team. While he might ultimately have more upside, it’s hard to pass up on the other players. Will his 3rd round draft grade save him?
Winner: ED Barkevious Mingo
What more can be said about Mingo? He forced fumbles. He make tackles for loss. He played inside and outside at linebacker. He was visibly the most athletic player on the field for the final three quarters. I don’t know how the Patriots will use Mingo when Shea McClellin and Rob Ninkovich return, but I’m thrilled about the prospects of a Mingo, Dont’a Hightower, and Jamie Collins line-up.
Loser: Every player that suffered an injury
LT Nate Solder was dinged up in the first half, but it didn’t appear serious. WR Keshawn Martin, RB Tyler Gaffney, and WR Devin Lucien all suffered injuries in the middle of the second half. I’m sure I’m missing a few players here and there, too. Solder, Martin, and Gaffney were expected to make the final roster. Hopefully they will all be available, but it’s never good to see players hurt in this game.