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Instant analysis from Patriots’ 22-20 preseason win over Giants

Observations from Sunday’s preseason finale at MetLife Stadium.

New England Patriots v New York Giants Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

After joint practices with the New York Giants behind Gillette Stadium, the New England Patriots closed out the preseason inside MetLife Stadium.

A 22-20 win would be the result for New England on Sunday night.

Here’s a glimpse through what went into it as the NFL’s 53-man roster deadline looms.

Last look under center

Through the initial August exhibitions, Cam Newton started and played a total of five series. In the finale, the incumbent Patriots quarterback started and stayed in for two. A 2-of-5 passing line was accrued.

Newton, who returned from his Covid-19 protocol-related absence on Thursday, threw for 10 yards. A dart to a diving Jakobi Meyers in the flat would be the first attempt. The next drive, a third-and-7 became an interception intended for the wide receiver deep down the seam. The well-placed ball into tight coverage was one that Giants linebacker Blake Martinez ripped away.

Mac Jones entered New England’s huddle at the 11:20 mark in the second quarter. The No. 15 overall pick out of Alabama was flagged for delay of game moments later. But Jones went 10-of-14 through the air for 156 yards versus New York. He found wideout Kristian Wilkerson on a dig route for 21 yards and tight end Devin Asiasi for 19 yards on a drag into space. Jones then hit receiver Isaiah Zuber for a touchdown from 17 yards away to begin the third frame. The pair nearly combined for another next time out on a fade. Jones was sacked on four occasions. Brian Hoyer grabbed his helmet in the fourth quarter.

Beginning the post-Michel Patriots backfield

New England’s running back room went forward after Sony Michel joined the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for capital in the sixth round of the 2022 draft and the fourth round of the 2023 draft. The Georgia product had led the team in rushing in each of his first two campaigns before taking on a complementary part last campaign next to Damien Harris.

Rookie Rhamondre Stevenson now has the green light to take on that part. The former Cerritos Falcon and Oklahoma Sooner continued to drive through it Sunday evening, gaining 23 yards on five carries, 17 yards on two catches and a chance on kickoff returns. Downhill size paired with jump-cutting footwork, Stevenson plunged in for a touchdown in the third quarter. He previously scored four touchdowns through wins versus the Washington Football Team and Philadelphia Eagles.

Brandon Bolden was not in uniform on Sunday. But captain James White made an appearance. And so did J.J. Taylor, who served as a 5-foot-6, 185-pound spark plug with 76 yards on the ground and 13 yards through the air. The 2020 undrafted arrival from Arizona touched the football 11 times on offense, even catching a pass on the same play he chipped Giants defensive lineman Leonard Williams off his cleats. Taylor got a long look at punt returner over reigning All-Pro Gunner Olszewski, as well.

Offensive tackle’s third-year roster run

Once the Big 12 Co-Offensive Lineman of the Year at West Virginia, Yodny Cajuste missed the entirety of two NFL seasons after landing in the third round back in 2019. And on his way back from stints on the non-football injury list and injured reserve, he entered organized team activities as a 25-year-old roster longshot. The outlook has shifted since then.

In the second quarter against New York, Cajuste subbed in when New England made the quarterback switch. He did so in place of starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn on a line comprised of Alex Redmond, James Ferentz, Ted Karras and Justin Herron. Cajuste later helped pave the way to a 19-7 lead as a run-blocker.

“To see him work through this — you know the guy’s really worked so hard — it’s inspiring to see,” Patriots center and captain David Andrews told reporters earlier in the week.

Uche at a different frame rate

Some linebackers move at a different frame rate on the screen. All pixels point toward the second pick in the 2020 Patriots draft class being one of them.

Josh Uche notched a sack in the summer finale on the first drive, beating Giants left tackle Andrew Thomas to take down signal-caller Daniel Jones. It went for a loss of six and forced a punt. And it kept the trend going for a hybrid who found the backfield as a one-year Michigan starter and did the same in a limited rookie sample.

Pro Football Focus charted Uche for three hurries through his first two games of the preseason. Those hurries transpired over 17 snaps in pass rush. More were added on Sunday. There’s a place on the field for speed. Even in the company of March signings Matthew Judon and Kyle Van Noy, the Patriots appear set to find it more so off the edges than off the ball. Uche would be on the field for a pocket-collapsing sack split between inside linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley and defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. And in the second quarter, he’d also be in the face of New York’s quarterback to force an interception down at the goal line.

In the secondary after the Wade trade

New England acquired rookie cornerback Shaun Wade from the Baltimore Ravens four days prior to the preseason finale in exchange for a 2022 seventh-rounder and a 2023 fifth-rounder. His debut in East Rutherford began on special teams. It continued before intermission on defense. And on the outside, where press-man technique gave way to an incompletion down the right sideline. Wade played the remainder. He was the nearest Patriot on a 43-yard touchdown catch by wideout Damion Willis with eight seconds left.

Wade had fallen to pick No. 160 overall in the spring after returning to Ohio State as a redshirt junior last fall. Abdominal surgery, turf toe and challenges moving away from a slot role were among the factors. But his stay with the Buckeyes concluded as a consensus All-American and the Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year.

The Patriots started J.C. Jackson, D’Angelo Ross, Jalen Mills, Adrian Phillips and Devin McCourty in the secondary versus the Giants. As the page turned to the second unit, Joejuan Williams, Justin Bethel, Adrian Colbert and Michael Jackson Sr. all joined Ross. The practice squad alum proceeded to intercept an errant pass in the end zone while playing safety. It’s an area to monitor with the active roster reducing from 80 by 4 p.m. ET Tuesday. Stephon Gilmore remains on physically unable to perform and neither Jonathan Jones nor Myles Bryant were in uniform.

Nordin, Folk share New England’s kicking operation

Strong to scattered performances from rookie free agent Quinn Nordin were seen through two weeks of field goals and extra points. But the third week of the preseason brought a 48-yarder in the second quarter and a 37-yarder in the fourth quarter for the Wolverine.

Nordin finished 2-of-3 on field goals after a 54-yarder sailed left with under a minute to go. He made his lone extra point in a timeshare.

Veteran kicker Nick Folk got the first field goal, converting from 41 yards out. The 2007 Pro Bowler re-signed with New England in March on a one-year contract featuring $1.225 million guaranteed.