The New England Patriots’ first preseason game of the season is in the books and the defending world champions lost it 31-24 to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Most of the Patriots' first-teamers did not see the field, so the team’s younger players had a busy night – and the results were mixed.
Let’s take a look at some of the winners and losers of today’s game.
Winner: QB Jimmy Garoppolo
After some inconsistent practices, Jimmy Garoppolo had a solid performance today. Being on the field mostly with second-stringers on both sides of the football, he looked comfortable working the pocket and made smart decisions with the football. And even though his ball placement was off at times, he had a good overall game and finished with the following stat-line: 22 of 26 for 235 yards and two touchdowns. His best work came in the second and third quarters when he went 7-for-7 on a two-minute drill late in the first half and followed up with a 3-for-3 drive early in the third. All in all, a productive day at the office for New England’s backup quarterback.
Winner: WR Austin Carr
The undrafted rookie wideout has been among the training camp standouts – and he showed up again today. Catching five passes for 44 yards and a touchdown, Carr displayed some good chemistry with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, ran some smooth routes and made a spectacular touchdown catch late in the second half. While he is still on the roster bubble, the 23-year is certainly continuing to make his case for a spot on the team.
Loser: CB Cyrus Jones
Prior to the game, we have named Cyrus Jones as the Patriots player with the most to prove during today’s game. Unfortunately, however, the former second round draft pick delivered a forgettable performance on both defense and special teams. He gave up two long touchdown passes – a 97-yarder and a 42-yarder (although the latter was more on a safety to be mentioned below) – at cornerback before being moved to safety late in the contest. He did not fare much better in the kicking game, where he had seven total returns for a mere 19 yards. While he kept getting chances, Jones was unable to make much out of them.
Winner: P Ryan Allen
The Patriots have had some inconsistencies on special teams against the Jaguars: A missed 56-yard field goal and a 41-yard punt return stand out. Ryan Allen, however, had little to do with them as the punter played a very solid game. His three kicks traveled 50, 53 and 50 yards and he showed some strong ball placement. Allen also was the one to push Jaguars punt returner Rashad Greene out of bounds during the above-mentioned 41-yard runback.
Loser: SS Jordan Richards
Just like Cyrus Jones, Jordan Richards is another former second round draft pick who appears to be fighting for his roster life. And just like Jones, Richards did not help himself with his performance against the Jaguars. He looked slow to recognize passing plays while simultaneously taking bad angles in the run game: On Jacksonville’s 79-yard touchdown run, Richards could have stopped Corey Grant but instead headed too far up the field to make an impact. The same happened on Dede Westbrook’s 42-yard touchdown catch as Richards failed to cover the deep half of the field with his eyes being glued to the backfield. In short: It was a bad performance by a player who can not afford many.
Winner: OC Ted Karras
While the Patriots’ top offensive line is set in stone, Karras helped his case to keep the top interior backup spot. He looked powerful as a run blocker and moved well in the passing game all while displaying versatility to line up at center and guard. And while he did have one bad snap on a third down play, Karras’ overall performance was solid.
Losers: DE Deatrich Wise Jr. and LB Elandon Roberts
The two defenders are bunched together for one simple reason: They both had to exit the game because of injuries. Wise Jr. received a blow to the head early in the second quarter and did not return, while Roberts – who took some questionable angles early in the game – appeared to have injured his foot late in the third. Given the depth of New England’s roster, both could lose valuable practice time in case their respective injuries keep them out for an extended period of time.
Winner: TE Jacob Hollister
New England’s most productive receiver of the day was an undrafted rookie tight end: Jacob Hollister, who finished the contest with seven catches for 116 yards – both the best statistics of the game. Displaying good route running and an ability to make tough catches, Hollister has stated his case in the battle for the third tight end spot on the team. And while he still appears to be behind James O'Shaughnessy, he is not going down without a fight – and might “secure” a practice squad spot in the process.